He is not a coach, but he has served as an assistant at two schools and run his own AAU team.
He runs a scouting website, but says its main purpose is to generate publicity.
He claims he has nothing to hide, and yet expresses a strong dislike for background checks (a key reason, he says, that he no longer runs an AAU squad).
Meet Nathan Blue, one of the enigmatic figures on the city high school basketball scene. The 32-year-old from Corona, Queens, has been playing an ambiguous role for more than a decade, making plenty of friends and enemies along the way.
Some regard Blue as a key basketball insider, a friend to anyone in need of a college scholarship. Others clam up at the mention of his name, revealing a disdain for a sometimes shadowy figure who’s been accused of steering players into questionable career decisions.
The true Blue likely lies somewhere in between, occupying a realm that he himself can barely discern. One moment, he calls himself an “adviser.” The next, he provides a more nebulous description.
“I’m just a guy who floats around and makes things happen,” he says.
Since he first appeared on the high school scene in the late 1990s, Blue has made a lot happen, using his growing influence among the college ranks to help scores of players find schools.
He’s also left a handful of high school programs in tatters, and damaged his own reputation with some local coaches.
“He’s burned a lot of bridges around here,” said one PSAL coach who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He’s running out of bridges in New York City.”
Such bonds matter little, Blue says, adding that his primary objective is to assist players.
“It’s free,” he says of the advice he dispenses to any athlete who’ll listen. “I do it to help the kids. All I get is the satisfaction of seeing a kid reach his goals.”
Buried under such seeming altruism is a personal motive: If Blue consistently develops players and sends them to college, he believes he’ll eventually land a job as an NBA scout.
“It’s my dream job,” he says.
Blue has been preparing for such a role since his days at Newtown HS. Shortly after graduating in 1996, he started attending Kingsborough Community College. A few months later, he decided college wasn’t for him and called Newtown coach Pat Torney, asking if he could help coach the squad. Torney made Blue a volunteer assistant.
Newtown was a top PSAL team in the late 1990s, and Blue convinced eventual NBA forward Charlie Villanueva to attend the school. Two years later, Villanueva transferred to Blair Academy, a prep school in New Jersey, on Blue’s advice. Newtown’s dominance gradually dissipated, and Torney hasn’t spoken to Blue since.
Torney, who’s normally a gregarious personality, turns surly when asked about his former assistant.
“We kind of parted ways after (Charlie),” Torney says. “I gave him the opportunity to work as an assistant. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a couple things.”
A similar incident occurred at Forest Hills HS, Blue’s most recent stop. Blue arrived there in 2008 to work with top prospect Maurice Harkless. This past spring, on Blue’s advice, the senior-to-be announced that he will attend South Kent (Conn.) Prep in the fall, to the disappointment of Forest Hills coach Ben Chobhaphand.
Blue notes that both players made the proper move. Villanueva signed a long-term pact with the Detroit Pistons last season, and Harkless is a nationally recruited forward.
There are more Blue success stories. Afam Muojeke, for example, graduated from McClancy in 2006, attended prep school on Blue’s recommendation and is now thriving at the University of Wyoming. Queens product Rainier Rickards also attended a prep school on Blue’s advice, landed at St. Francis College and (with Blue’s help) transferred to St. Catherine College, an NAIA school in Kentucky.
“People think I only have these top kids, because that’s what everyone talks about,” Blue says. “They don’t talk about the kid with diabetes at the NAIA school (Rickards). But I’ll help anyone.”
Blue goes to great lengths to help. He ran a series of camps in 2007-08, intent on giving unheralded players a chance to generate some attention. For the past few years, he’s also run realscout.net, a blog that really has little to do with scouting. Blue, who works full-time as an administrative assistant at Verizon, says he funds these endeavors out of his own pocket.
“I want to draw attention to local kids,” he says.
Blue knows players across the spectrum of ability, and he understands the nuances of recruiting. “Division II coaches want D-I players; D-I coaches want pros,” he says.
That expertise has endeared Blue to college coaches, who are always searching for talent.
“He’s been around good players,” says one Atlantic 10 assistant. “When Nate tells me a kid is good, I’ll check him out. He’s a respected guy.”
Still, Blue seems to prefer operating on the periphery. He ran an AAU squad a few years ago and worked for a time with the Long Island Panthers. He no longer coaches, he says, because NCAA rules mandate that coaches at NCAA-certified events submit to a background check.
“I don’t like background checks,” he says, refusing to elaborate.
Blue says he has passed up a handful of collegiate assistant coaching offers. He says that’s partly because most programs won’t hire a coach without a college degree (he recently returned to school) and partly to avoid NCAA recruiting rules, which govern when and where a coach can watch or contact a high school player.
“I’d rather not have boundaries,” he says. ” . . . If I’m an NBA scout, I can go to any game, watch any player. I’m hoping with what I’m doing now, the league will say, ‘Hey, this guy knows how to find talent.’ Then, I’m in.”
Until then, Blue plans to continue to “make things happen,” as he puts it, in New York City.
“This is what I do,” he says. “Hopefully, someone’s watching.”
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