By Joe Henricksen
There will be some positive stuff in here. I promise. It may take awhile to get to some of it, but the Hoops Report WILL eventually talk about the big winners and July hits from this past month. But first ...
This is seriously the time of the year -- the beginning of August, with the July AAU calendar behind us all -- where I just want to let it rip. I mean go with a blog entry that would infuriate the masses but make me feel better. And you know what? If I were to REALLY let it rip, I think a whole bunch of people out there would agree.
If you follow politics, even somewhat, you get the idea of how I feel at the conclusion of July. If you take in too much political banter, especially during a presidential election year -- via cable television, radio talk heads, listening to political "experts" or reading national news magazines -- you begin to feel a little ill, some stomach turning exists, or you're simply disgusted by it all. Ultimately, you just have to distance yourself from it. (Just as you do with the obnoxious drunk at the party or bar, too much reality TV and the majority of female Cub fans).
Look, I understand the purpose of the club basketball scene. In some cases it allows the top players around the country to square off with one another. The EYBL formula, with so many of the top programs under the Nike umbrella playing one another several times a year, is pretty impressive. There are those moments when the ideal matchup, with loaded, talent-filled rosters, takes place. But they are far and few between -- and often take place when the players and teams are dead tired at the end of the weekend after playing six or seven games.
The July club scene also just so happens to be the time when college coaches can take in dozens of games and evaluate x-amount of prospects in one single weekend. And do it again the next weekend. ... And the next. It has its benefits.
I've always believed that when it comes to evaluating talent there must be a mix of watching them in the AAU setting -- against top players, superior athletes, etc. -- and the high school environment, where wins really matter, gyms are packed in March and the stakes are high, team defense is played, more realistic game situations are presented, players are in their comfort zone, coaches make adjustments and young players play out of their own age group.
But the watered-down events and the dozens of ho-hum teams (and that's just in Illinois!) on this AAU scene quickly bore me. First of all, every single stinking event needs to have super pool play -- PLEASE?!?!?! -- where the top teams play one another from the start. Then go put them all in what turns out to be pretty much meaningless tournament brackets and figure out who the winner is. There are too many games, too many teams, too many players, too many tournaments to care too much about results.
Hey, team names with "Elite" or "Select" or "Stars" don't always mean what they say. (By the way, even the majority of the AAU team names need an upgrade. We need more D.C. Assaults, Iowa Barnstormers ... Now THOSE are cool, creative names).
But who doesn't love a 70-27 game in the middle of July with everyone on the floor playing half-ass and the coach of the team down 43, playing with a 5-man who is a shade over 6-feet tall screaming, "YOU GUYS DON'T WANT IT ENOUGH!!!!
(I did come up with a Euro-style system for AAU/club basketball in a rant last August in this very blog. It didn't happen).
Then there is the eye-popping, head-spinning (I'll just say sickening) cash flow streaming from everyone who steps in the doorway of any AAU event in July. I talked to a high-major head coach the first weekend of July. He says, "Joe, do you realize I went to one game at three different events in the past day here in the Chicago area and paid $750?" Yes, the 'ol mandatory college coaching fee that must be paid to enter the gym, ranging anywhere from $200 to $300 per coach (Plus, in many cases, additional money for a second and third coach from the same college program).
A father drives to watch his son play one game on a Saturday in July. He brings his wife, his mother (grandma) and his high school daughter. He says to me, "They want me to pay $60 to go watch my son play one game today. ... $60 for one AAU game!" Sure, that makes sense, $15 a person for a day of summer AAU ball.
Then there is the "everyone is a Division I player" hyperbole throughout this glorious month because, you know, there are roughly 4,500 Division I college basketball players and 67,564 high school players who think they are -- or someone tells them they are. Everyone is "blowing up" in July! Everyone.
Oh, it's not just the parents, the kids, the AAU people, the media, the tweeters and the endless list of recruiting gurus. Some of you college coaches need to take some of the blame, too. Some of the offers you guys throw out there after one July day or weekend? Mercy!
Some coaching staffs simply reach in July. And it's why there is so much turnover in the coaching profession. Then there are some of you coaches that don't work real hard (Come on, you know who you are!) and have a big, gigantic magnifying glass on kids in July. You hope there has been plenty of evaluation prior to watching a kid in July, because that player's one or two performances in July are magnified like no other. And when the kid plays well that one day? It reminds me so much of the new-hot-chick-in-school syndrome back in high school. She's new and different, looks great that first day ... and then? A couple of weeks seeing her in study hall and the lunch room and, well, she's not that great.
I just think some college coaches are tricked. At these AAU events, some of them resemble the scene at the club in the movie "Hall Pass," where the character Coakley teaches the two married men a thing or two about how women can trick you into thinking they're hotter than they really are. Same with AAU. "Its an illusion," Coakley tells them. "It's when an '8' surrounds herself with less attractive women to make herself look like a '10'" These AAU kids and coaches are doing it to you, college coaches! Look through Coakley's window-boxed hands. You'll see!
Then there are the tweets. Gotta love those July tweets. There are only so many tweets you can read where someone "throws one down." Who freaking cares?!?!? That dunk better be one of epic proportions. I mean to warrant a tweet on a dunk it has to be one of those over-the-top, privates-in-your-defender's-face dunks.
Or this tweet: "Billy Jumper dropin dimes, shooting it. Made 2 3s. Mad skills. Blow'n UP! He's crazy good!" These tweets go on, endlessly through a weekend, during an entire event.
The tweet wasn't followed with another one saying: "He sucked 2 hours earlier, now doing it gainst slow, 5-9 kid & his twin brother who both destined to be cut from JV team in 4 months."
But that's July.
I promised there would be something positive at the end of the blog. Couldn't make it happen. I had planned to include a list of the biggest winners and stock risers from the July evaluation period. I lied. Sorry. Check back tomorrow. Promise I'll be more positive.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport