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May 11, 2010 New England Hoop News Staff
When AAU and travel basketball started becoming really popular there was a direct benefit for teams and players who competed. About 10-15 years ago, AAU basketball participation really skyrocketed, and began growing into what we see today, which is multiple teams in every town/city with a population size of more than 25k. The two major benefits of playing AAU basketball were the following:
Let's talk quickly about these two major benefits. Improvement will always be there. If someone works hard at their game, wants to improve and continues to play consistently, they will see improvement in their game. It should be noted that just playing in tournaments won't necessarily give someone the improvement level they desire. Practicing the right way, effort, and dedication to getting better need to exist as well as competition of tournaments and games. But either way, if there are more games, more touches, more shots, and more basketball experiences, improvement should exist.
The other benefit we mentioned is: Exposure. In the AAU basketball landscape, exposure and recruiting is the thing that has changed the most in the past 10 years. It used to be that college coaches could evaluate during a good portion of the summer, and select weekends in the spring and fall, in addition to the high school season. The NCAA has cut short this evaluating period to 20 days in the summer and that's it! The reasons for this warrent an entirely different article, so we'll leave it alone.
Everyone has heard the phrase, "you never know who's watching", well this applies perfectly to AAU basketball in 2010. Because college coaches cannot evaluate multiple games at a time over the course of many weekends, and they are limited to about 20 days in July, they better do their homework.
What does that mean; do their homework? It means that when a college coaches plans his July schedule at the Division I level, he is following players, rather than evaluating players, and plans his schedule accordingly. He doesn't have the luxury to not be at the games of his top rising seniors during this short window. This isn't ALWAYS the case because evaluating of other players does still occur. But, how recruiting trips and schedules are made depends largely on who they are going to follow and evaluating may occur in conjunction with following a player at the same tournament.
Since colleges aren't recruiting in the same way in 2010, what does this mean for the athletes? It means that colleges are relying on scouting services, AAU coaches, tournament directors, other college coaches and other contacts to figure out who to recruit. College coaches need to be smart about their time and budget. They have to plan to attend the tournaments based on which players they would like to see.
So, when a Division III college coach is watching your game this spring and it's not NCAA sanctioned event for Division I, don't feel like you can relax because your dream school isn't physically there. Basically, if there are people in the gyms, you should be ready to play.
Actually, the phrase "practice how you play" comes to mind. You might think these weekend AAU tournaments in April, May and June are practices for July. Well, think about the phrase "practice how you play" and also think about the phrase "you never know who is watching". They are old phrases that directly apply to AAU basketball today.
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