By Joe Henricksen

The pitfalls of July

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By Joe Henricksen

Although my wife would disagree as she lounges outside by the pool as I sit at a computer writing this on a sunny, 95 degree day, during what is called a "dead period" -- July 16-21 -- July has many pitfalls.

Pitfalls? Yep. Pitfalls.

Let me count the ways. Here are the Hoops Report's current July Pitfall Five.

1. The money being thrown around is absolutely absurd.
"It's sick," said a dad after paying $60 for his wife and two teen-aged kids to watch their son and brother play one AAU basketball game on one day this past July.

"Paying this -- being forced to pay this -- makes my skin crawl," a Division I head coach said after spending $225 for a booklet of rosters, player names and phone numbers. "And it costs $100 more to have my assistant here."

"Hey, at least it's $100 cheaper than two years ago," added another coach.

Yes, forced. There are some events in July that won't allow a coach -- and I don't care what coach it is -- in the building if the required $200 to $300-plus isn't paid. It is refreshing when an event (like the recent Saint Louis Summer Classic as an example) at least makes it optional for a college coach, allowing them in the event for a $10 or $15 day pass without obtaining the booklet. That's a nice change-up for coaches as opposed to spending hundreds of dollars for rosters they already have from the previous six events and tournaments they've watched in other venues.

Says another coach, "The thing about July that is most disgusting is that people are making a living off this [stuff]."

And coaches do this ... event after event after event throughout the 20 days of the July evaluation period, with packet totals spent over the course of the month in the thousands of dollars for one school. Now there are some well spent tax dollars and booster money from our state institutions of higher learning.

The poor Division II, Division III and NAIA college coaching staffs, with very limited budgets, are often forced to skip an event here or there, or not bring an assistant with them, because it eats too much into their basketball and recruiting budgets.

This is one of the best-kept dirty secrets in the basketball world that no one even talks about because it's not in the mainstream media or even in mainstream society. Aside from a few college coaches spewing off about it in recent years (and the prices actually coming down just a little), it just goes on and on. It's as dirty as Dr. Troy on an old episode of Nip/Tuck. Really, it's just basketball geeks and junkies (like myself), college coaches and AAU people who are even aware of it. Try telling all this to the common man in America with no attachment or connection to this basketball underworld and it's mind-blowing to them.

"Let me get this straight, Joe," they ask. "Colleges are forced to pay admission to a basketball tournament to watch AAU teams for a few days, upwards of $200 or $300 just to get a roster and watch them play? And 200 or so colleges pay this for totals of $40,000 or $50,000? And they do this over and over and over?"

Yep.

Again, the money being spent -- by everyone involved -- is appalling. Players, coaches, teams, parents ... It's ludicrous. We're talking plane trips across the country, multiple nights in hotels, gas and meal money, uniform money, multiple shoes, $500 tournament entry fees, major dollars from shoe companies spent on team sponsorships, uniforms and tournament entry fees, $15 for a fan to watch high school kids play summer basketball, college coaches paying $275 and more for a booklet of names and phone numbers. It's endless.

And, yes, it's stupid.

Screw it! The Hoops Report is getting on this gravy train and running an event next year. Done.

2. The recruiting and evaluation calendar is messed up.
The evaluation calendar is severely flawed. The magnifying glass used during 20 days in July is unfortunate for everyone involved. Fortunately, that calendar, according to everyone in the business, is about to change next year. That's a good thing. Hopefully it's not a subtle change.

The final three or four days of the July evaluation period can be dangerous. The players -- and the evaluators and coaches watching them -- are tired and disinterested for the most part. By this point, it's become a babysitting ritual. "Lets show up to the prospect's final few games to show our interest."

This is how we are supposed to get our best evaluation on players? When many of these players are exhausted and fatigued? Players today are stretched thin, partly because the high school program requires so much of them during June, which is now the only time given to the high school coach due to AAU. Then July hits with a flurry of events, sometimes playing seven games in three or four days and following that up with travel and another event that asks for six or seven games in three or four days.

The evaluation calendar needs to be stretched out. Players change. These kids improve, get worse. They mature, find better AAU fits, level off, plateau, add a jump shot, add two inches, get injured. But the biggest evaluation tool is a 20-day window in July? That's not a severe pitfall?

There are so many other options as opposed to just focusing on a 20-day period over the course of one month -- again, a small window in the development of a teen-aged basketball prospect. For starters ....

• Knock five or so days off the July period. Eliminate the two 10-day periods and go with two seven-day stretches instead.

• Add a couple of "live" evaluation weekends in the spring. The club teams are playing several weekends in the spring anyway. Why not let the college coaches get back to watching them in April for a couple of weekends?

• Move up official visits. Right now official visits can be made in the fall of a prospect's senior year. Move that date up to April of a prospect's junior year, thus players can officially visit anywhere from April to October. And with that, allow coaches to watch them workout and play while on campus. What a valuable and controlled recruiting tool that would be.

• Why not have a designated weekend in June for college coaches to watch high school shootouts? "I would love to see prospects a little more with their high school team and in that controlled setting, with real coaching, when plays are called, real reaction to game-like situations," said one college coach.

There needs to be a better fix.

3. Twitter is running rampant.
Full disclosure here ... I do not twitter (probably will sooner than later out of necessity) or follow any one single twitter account out there. For whatever reason, never felt the need. But twitter has gone bonkers. And now it's impossible not to see or hear about tweets, whether it's sent to you, reported to you, emailed to you, texted to you, told to you or its found on a website.

If there are people out there who think following pro athletes and Hollywood celebrities via twitter is ridiculous, try telling those same people there is an obsession following teen-aged tweets from high school basketball players! And not only caring about what is said, but re-tweeting what they say as if it is important or of interest in their own daily life!

I can hardly wait until people follow high school players throughout their school day this fall and winter. ... "Just finished biology test. I might ask Molly out during lunch. She be looking real good. Practice in 4 hours!" ... Ugghhhhhh! Serious? Who cares?!?!?! (No, I'm not a 75-year-old).

(And a cautionary note to you players out there. Please watch what you're tweeting. A teenager tweeting what he is doing from hour to hour is only asking for trouble. You're not making millions like pro athletes who can afford the dumb-#%! tweets they send out and the ramifications from those tweets.)

And how about the 4,245 media/talent/internet evaluators -- just in Illinois -- (yes, made-up number but it sure does feel that way) tweeting throughout July?

There are more tweets being sent out this July in the high school basketball world than ever. It's taken on a life of its own. "Johnny Rimrattler is BLOWING UP!!!" ... "Tim Jumper just made 3 shots IN A ROW! I like his shoes!" .... "Virginia Tech, SMU, Boise State, Fordham, Georgetown and Coe College watching D.J. Ballhawk" (Hmmm, or maybe another player on D.J.'s team, perhaps?) ... "Michael Ondablock just tied his right shoe while making eye contact with the Syracuse assistant. He may have winked. I don't know. Will ask after game if it was a wink." ... "Did I mention Johnny Rimrattler is BLOWING UP?!?!?!!!" ... "Tim Stretchadee is sooooo long. Not sure if he can play. But he long!" ... "The recruitment of BooBoo Wingman is taking off, GOING THRU ROOF!"

(On another note, the phrases "blowing up" and a player's recruitment "going through the roof" or "soaring" as it pertains to high school basketball prospects needs to be replaced. Why the need for a thesaurus here? Because with twitter, the internet, dads and moms, AAU coaches and the 4,245 media/talent/internet evaluators EVERYONE is "blowing up" and EVERYONE's recruitment is "soaring." It's getting hard to decipher reality from fiction with all the "blowing up" and "soaring" that's going on these days. And when exactly is that "blowing up" breaking point?)

4. Evaluating vs. Recruiting in July.
We used to talk and write just about the offers players received. Cool. Solid, interesting recruiting news, for sure.

Then it became necessary to compile a list of schools that are recruiting a prospect, whether there was an offer given or not. OK, fair enough.

Now it's become a must that anyone and everyone writes/tweets/talks about what college coach was simply watching a player. Stupid. And another pitfall. Here's why.

Hey, that's what college coaches do -- they watch, they evaluate. Certainly doesn't mean coaches are interested or even like every player they watch. It's a process, but it leads to soooo much mis-information for fans and the kids that are playing (and their parents) after they hear or read that a particular school or coach was seen taking in their game. They get that perception in their head, especially with younger players, and it's tough to break away from it when reality sets in.

Many times the recruitment of a prospect is stretched out so long because they continue to think the schools that were mentioned with them -- often inaccurately -- are and will be "recruiting" them. But in reality those coaches and programs were just doing their homework.

It's July. Coaches are in a gym all day. They're going to watch someone -- even if it's not a particular player they are recruiting.

No, they're not recruiting you, kid. They watched you. And guess what? You're not good enough. And it doesn't matter if you read it somewhere that says you are or that this school and that school are interested in you.

Do you know how many times a player has been mentioned on a website, message board or blog as being closely watched or even recruited by a certain college when that coach or program has zero interest in the kid that was being reported on? It's provided plenty of chuckles with college coaches when the reports aren't close to reality. And who loses in that situation? The kids, the parents and the right level of basketball program that should be recruiting him. DBTH!

5. July isn't fair to the coaches or players.
We can write about the feel-good stories and opportunities July provides, with hundreds of players being found and scholarship offers being earned. But there is a reason we have averaged 300-plus transfers a year (over 400 this year) the past several years. The aforementioned evaluation calendar in pitfall No. 2 on this list is a big culprit. July's "over-evaluation" is a large factor in the disgruntled player leaving or a coaching staff giving a little push out the door once the player is on campus and all parties realize the player doesn't belong.

The microscope in July is so intense, so cut-throat now, that more and more mistakes are made. And it's no fault of the coaching staff, due to the fact the window of true evaluation is so small. As mentioned before, coaches need to see these players in different scenarios, not just a 20-day gauntlet in July.

Coaches can get out during the season to see players with their high school teams, but it's awfully difficult, especially for college programs not geographically located near a recruiting hotbed (i.e. Iowa State, North Dakota State, etc.). Plus, college coaches are so busy with their own seasons and focused on their own team during the winter. It's difficult to schedule travel time and to see a whole lot of prospects from December to March.

The spring and fall evaluations, where college coaches go to the high school to see kids work out with the high school team, are mostly worthless evaluations. They are there to show their interest, see some young kids, work up a sweat in an open gym and build relationships with the high school coaches and a player's handler.

So that leaves us with July. Those 20 make-or-break days where players are often on makeshift teams, sometimes uncomfortable or out of position and playing AAU-style basketball.

There are players who just might go through a week-long slump -- or even a two-day downer. Sometimes that's enough for some coaches, who may be getting their first glance at the player, to move on. Remember, there isn't much time to waste in July and there are a whole lot of players to see.

Maybe the player's fit on that particular AAU team is bad. Maybe an AAU teammate gets all the shots. Maybe the kid is lugging around with a nagging injury for a week. And during those last few days of July, maybe the kid is just done, completely spent, the shell of himself after playing 60 games with his high school team in June and multiple AAU tournaments in July.

No, there is no chance of a mis-evaluation in those circumstances is there? Ha!

And then the opposite happens. A kid plays out of his mind for a couple of days, goes on a basketball scoring binge, flourishes in an AAU setting (but couldn't react to a team defense or a called play by a coach if it was in a different setting). But coaches get excited, sometimes ecstatic, and feel they found a sleeper and pull the trigger and offer the player. Oops.

There are definitely times where the Hoops Report sits back, especially those first few days of July, and giggles at the immediate love affair there is over a few players. Just as there are times when the Hoops Report has watched a player play so well the previous few months (with no college coaches watching) but struggles at an event in July and his stock fades.

There are just so many different scenarios that can happen that impact the level of recruitment a player receives based on those 20 days in July.

Here is yet another example: A player is a low-major prospect at best, suddenly a mid-major plus offers based on two fantastic days of play and everyone else starts scrambling to find the kid and make sure their first evaluation wasn't a mistake. In reality, the mid-major plus school is wrong, but it's a snowball effect regardless and the kid is sitting there with offers no one dreamed he would get. And 18 months later the kid is transferring.

So there you have it. The pitfalls of July. Glad August is here. We need a break. Time to join the wife and jump in that pool.

Next? How to make the AAU/Club basketball scene better (more tolerable?) next year.

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32 Comments

Some great points here Joe. 1) Not everyone can be a "rising sophomore". 2) Those running tourneys and charging 200 bucks for rosters that contains information any real coach gets by doing his own work are probably the same ones that see themselves as THE conduit between the kid and the college. I've seen these guys talking about how they are getting kids into college. Unfortunately, I think most of them have deluded themselves into believing that is reality.

I wake up Sunday morning and get my laughs from this blog today. Hahahaha. This stuff right here is priceless! Keep up this stuff Joe and keep speaking the truth!!!!

So true people!!!!!!!!!! Why can't someone come in and regulate these prices of events? Both for coaches and fans. I can get into a White Sox game for certain seats cheaper than to see my son play in a AAU game that is ugly to watch.

Joe,

At what point does AAU, HS and/or school-aged players lose amateur status?

Secondly, in your opinion, are the AAU coaches and events exploiting the kids?

You couldn't be more dead-on here, Joe. While the AAU scene is obviously very important when it comes to the exposure of a kid, I just walk away from the entire experience feeling like I need a shower to get the slime off. Many, if not most, AAU affiliates are used car salesmen. I know high schoolers who get cut from their high school teams, yet they can say they play AAU. You know what they say, "if the check clears..." Kudos, Joe, for calling a spade a spade when it comes to exposing the underbelly of the AAU con men.

Joe,
You are so right--and I loved the Dr. Troy and Nip/Tuck line. Something needs to change, but I'm not sure how or if it ever will.

Joe, i'm glad someone finally stepped up to write about this. I'm still a big beleiver that if a kid can play college ball, colleges will find him if he plays AAU or not. the prices these people charge for getting into these games is NUTS!! but you know if people stop paying these crazy prices and leave these tour. sponsors with an empty gym, things will change. Ive seen kids play AAU ball all through grade school and high school, and still get NO SCHOLARSHIP!! It's all burnout on the kids today. THANKS AGAIN JOE for putting this up for discussion. AAU overall is TERRIBLE FOR HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL.

Joe: I am one of those people you are writing about. I'm a dad who has just spent the last two years spending a ton of money on AAU basketball for my son. I have traveled from tournament to tournament, most of which have been bad, watching game after game. I'm tired and haven't even played a game. And I don't even want to know the thousands of dollars I have spent these last two years. My son is ok, maybe a small college player at best, but the saddest part in all of this is just the corner you are backed into when it comes to this stuff. Now when it comes to April, May and July, you are forced to do this because this is what kids do now. They can't go out and play on their own, with their high school teammates anymore because they are all on some AAU team. And you join an aau team and the coach acts as if it's the NBA playoffs or high stakes college, hardly making it fun and the forced time commitment and travel makes it tough on a kid and a family. I guess it is what it is.

If you were to do pitfall number 6 it would have to be "aau coaches are clowns who really think they are important." Even when you talk about the best of the bunch -- in this case the tallest midget -- they believe they really are mastermind coaches who have kids that are better than they really are. Bad, bad culture.

The NCAA stopped allowing coaches to evaluate in the spring a couple of years ago. But there are still as many tournaments in April and May, maybe more, than ever before. There are too many tournaments. But you know why? $$$$$$!!!!!! Tournament organizers gotta make their living. And as long as we have as many AAU teams that aren't very good and will pay, the more tournaments we will have. But I wasn't aware of the cost to college coaches! Wow! That's sick. A monopoly if I've ever heard of one. Coaches only get 20 days to watch in July. Organizers know the coaches HAVE to watch so they charge them a boatload just to get in the gym. Sad.

Hey, Broke and tired! I'm with you. Also, the coaches are in it for themselves. if they were in it for the kids they wouldn't charge as much as they do, they would play all kids at least at some point during the game, and they wouldn't care about wins or losses. The pressure on the kids is immense.

In addition, its interesting the D1 coaches can't watch kids until the July period, yet I see these D1s making offers to kids before July starts. It's obvious they aren't making offers based on the high school season. It's silly. Let the coaches watch whenever they want.

Back to Broke and Tired: The best thing about AAU season is when it's over. My son is tired of it and so am I. All the kids try so hard to impress that it becomes a "who-ever has the ball first past half court fires up a shot" game. The kids that usually get the scholarships are the ones that shoot the most, sadly enough, or the ones whose dads played college ball. There is an occassional gem found, but very few and far in between. AAU is just a way for someone to make money.

This from a dad whose lived in it for years, but stayed in it for fear his son wouldn't get exposure. Thank god it's over.

Your Quote: "Maybe the player's fit on that particular AAU team is bad. Maybe an AAU teammate gets all the shots. Maybe the kid is lugging around with a nagging injury for a week. And during those last few days of July, maybe the kid is just done, completely spent, the shell of himself after playing 60 games with his high school team in June and multiple AAU tournaments in July."

As a dad having gone through most of the above in the past 2 years, all so true. I personally wish AAU didn't exist and they could watch kids 24/7 if they want so a true evaluation could be made. It's VERY frustrating for both players and parents. Joe, you said it all. Great article. I too am glad the AAU money making machine is over.

For anyone interested in this kind of info, read "Play Their Hearts Out" by George Dohrmann. You'll need a shower after reading this multi-year accounting of a SoCal AAU program.

Great Write Up!

My son is a very respected player at his level and ended up playing on the wrong team with a kid that put up tons of a shots a game and left few for others. You sure hit that one on the head. I actually wish he hadn't played AAU because it sure didn't benefit anyone other than the money makers. The coach didn't care as all he wanted to do is win. Hopefully few others experienced this type of AAU season because it is disheartening. Here I thought he was going to play for a "team". Ouch!

Joe, Right -on. My son just finished Nationals in Orlando and everything you laid out is 100% accurate. I really like your idea about extending the evaluation period. June makes sense with a Coach being able to visit some shootouts and April or May with some AAU tourneys would allow these Coaches to better evaluate a player. Open gyms really don't allow the Coach to see the player competing against elite players or other starters from another High School. There are a lot of Fall High school leagues now like JG and Full Package. Are college Coaches allowed to watch or evaluate a player at a Fall league game?

The AAU coaches are so full of themselves. Yea, even the ones who are considered "good"!!! College coaches kiss their ass because they have to. I have several friends in college coaching business. They laugh at these guys. And what these aau people tell parents and their kids/players when they join their club program or team, especially when they are young is just so stupid and unrealistic most of the time.

Thanks Hoops Report for telling it like it is when it comes to summer high school hoops. This is where to come to get real. The whole thing disgusts me and others and like you said, so few people really are even aware of it. So all the greedy people making money off kids just fly under the radar. Give me a break! Like none of these kids would be found! But there is no one to even monitor it. And ask a college coach about paying these event people that kind of money. It's not coming out of their pocket so they don't care that much but they still know it's ridiculous. And Joe is right about the small college coaches not being able to afford going to some events. How is that possibly a good thing in any way for the game?

Say it ain't so Joe! You mean to tell me every single player didn't have a great July!?!?! With what you read out there everyone is Division I and every players recruiting is soaring! These kids get written about sometimes by people and I watch them and wonder what exactly is it these guys are watching!?!?!? Thanks Joe for all you do for the sport. About one of the only realistic people out there!

Everyone is right with all there comments but let's really break it down without these aau tournaments there would be nothing to write about with high school basketball in the summer. Now if the high school extended summer basketball tournaments there wouldn't be a problem. Every parent knows how July works its not going to change unless people just stop going, but the same parents who complain now are gonna be the same parents paying until there sons senior year of ball. Let's face it,all someone has to do is throw a Huge tournament next year in July and just type up packets for college coaches and pass them out for free and u might get every school to attend. All the big schools come on,all the money they throw at players I don't feel bad charging them there crooks. The tournament directors will never change the price because us parents will pay the money regardless. The problem would be solved if we just extended high school tournaments until July.

Another Hoops Report with some good humored sarcasm to give me a laugh, even on what is a serious and troubling issue. Thanks. The topic that is disturbing is everyone claiming and telling these kids they are better than they really are. These tweets, these websites, these aau coaches all telling how great these kids are. What do you think kids and proud parents are to believe? I appreciate this site because it's not always just rambling how good every single kid is and what schools are recruiting them.

This blog is spot on! All about $$$$ now with AAU, whether it's event people getting their cash from teams, colleges and fans. Or how about the individual training, the shooting coach, the speed coach? All for players with so little ability or chance for a scholarship. Scam, baby!

Let us please not forget the impact of the scout/scouting service on this industrial complex that is AAU basketball. They charge college coaches and universities, to my understanding, good amounts of cash to use their 'services' as well. This is another expenditure that we probably shouldn't overlook. How else does a coach in New York find out about that sixth grader who hasn't been to camp and/or blown up on the AAU scene yet? Scouting services!!

CJ, you commented that even though college coaches can't evaluate kids during April and May there are more tournaments than ever,and I agree it is done to raise money off of these kids. But the kids are playing for another reason, RANKINGS. These scouts/scouting services rank these kids and they feel compelled to play every week chasing rankings. How can we not forget that Nick Irvin was once ranked the #1 sixth grader in the country once-upon-a-time. Keep in mind, that the kids who have offers AND who've committed still play because of the ranks that come exclusively from scouts/scouting services, and these rankings are sold by these guys to coaches for profit. They are major players in this game, in fact, some of the children will tell you that they spend more time on the phone with scouting service guys than they do the actual coaches.

So please let us not exclude them when discussing the pitfalls of this culture. They are also profiteers in this game.

So what is the solution? I am in favor of extending IHSA contact days throughout the year. Let the HS coaches, most of them who are educators and better coaches, work with their programs. Limit the amount of contact days or hours in the off-season, but allow people who are generally held accountable to deal with STUDENT-athletes.

Darnell is right in one regard but one of the problems is there are so many of these so called talent evaluators and scouts. A new one pops up by the week, and so many have no clue and you are right, hound some of these kids. But the reputable ones out there who have been around doing this for years like Hendricksen and the Schmidts are valuable to college coaches in that they do provide feedback to them. And they aren't taking money from kids and their parents. But now there are all these new "scouts" and a lot of misinformation comes with and from the inexperienced.

A big help and what everyone wants is to somehow get the high school coaches back at the forefront. How that happens I don't know. But they just have a different mindset, different objectives than so many in the aau world. And they are more knowledgeable.

Tito is right. The majority of high school coaches, not all, but most, are in it for all the right reasons. They care about their players, they aren't out to gain anything from it, don't even care about all the sideshow stuff. But its too bad the landscape has changed so that the high school coach is not in the middle of things or in control as they were in the past.

When it all settles, as much as I hate aau, it serves a purpose. Take for example Neuqua in the western burbs. Their coach does exactly zero to help the players get recruited. Without AAU, unless you're a big time player and they've had a few, few kids would get scholarships for college from that school. If high school coaches would help more, aau might not be as much an issue. I still hate AAU though.

Jimmy Cleo, I don't doubt for one second that the more 'reputable' scouts are valuable to the coaches that they sell their product to. However, my perspective is ALWAYS more concerned with what is in the best interest of the kids, not the individuals who make profit off of them.

Illini, I read the book. It's very telling

I HAVE been to an AAU tournament 3 out of every 4 weekends in the spring and summer for the past 7 years. This year was annoying as hell! Hot, players tired cost was just stupid and the pressure to perform is extreme! The coaches are there for sure but if a player hits 25 one game does that mean he is ready? In hindsight my son would have played some tournament skipped some and still it is not make or break on scholarship opportunities. AAU gets a bad name. SOME of the negative they deserve but there are great AAU programs and coaches.

This may have been the best write up on prep basketball all year! Kudos!

The blowing up and twitter topics so damn funny and right on!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on July 31, 2011 7:29 AM.

Class of 2013 providing the July sizzle was the previous entry in this blog.

Summer hoops rewind is the next entry in this blog.

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