By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Let's make one thing abundantly clear right now when it comes to the three major shoe companies that are involved with high school basketball and run camps and/or AAU events during the July evaluation period. While all of them have said that they are going to change their landscape with respect to how they operate during the summer, there are a few things that will forever remain the same. What will never change is the fact that each shoe company is constantly trying to one-up the other in their effort to attract the top high school basketball players in the nation. It therefore means that all of them will forever be engaged in politics when it comes to selecting players for their respective camps.
We begin with an analysis of the players from Illinois that were invited to the Lebron James Skills Academy in Akron,OH, which is NIKE's signature event during the first week of the July evaluation period. Initially, the four players that were invited from Illinois were Rockton Hononegah's David Brown, Marshall's Darius Smith, Whitney Young's Marcus Jordan and Waukegan's Jereme Richmond. While these are all worthy selections, what made the choices somewhat controversial was the fact that the two players widely considered to be the top prospects in the state from the class of 2009--Warren's Brandon Paul and Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson, were not selected, which was a bit astounding seeing as though both were regarded as locks to be invited.
As it turns out, Paul ended up getting a last-minute invitation, although it certainly sounds like some strings had to be pulled in order to make it happen. The bottom line is that Paul should have been among the invitees to the Lebron James Skills Academy from the get-go, as he is the #1 player in Illinois from the 2009 class. The initial reason given for Paul's snub was that various NIKE representatives thought that he didn't play well enough at the Top 100 NBA Player's Camp in Charlottesburg, VA.
Our response to this is, "are you kidding us?" Didn't these NIKE people know that most reports from scouts and recruiting analysts who were in attendance at the NBA Player's Camp had Paul as being among the top 10 players at the event? Therefore their reasoning made no sense. We can't help but wonder if the reason that Paul wasn't included on the preliminary list of invitees was because his AAU team (Team NLP) has no shoe company affiliation, and of course NIKE needs to take care of players and AAU programs who already have NIKE contracts first and foremost.
But not to be outdone is Reebok. Among the late invitees from Illinois to the Reebok All-American Camp in Philadelphia were 6'10 class of 2010 center Meyers Leonard from Robinson and 6'1 Chris Colvin from Whitney Young. We can guarantee that the only other time any of the national "gurus" could have seen Leonard play prior to the Reebok camp was at the NIKE Hoops Jamboree in St. Louis last month. But of course that hasn't stopped them from already salivating over Leonard on account of him being one of the last invitees to the All-American Camp. One has already gone on record saying that Leonard is "a high-major lock."
Colvin's case is even more interesting. His situation is similar to Paul's in that he wasn't on the preliminary list of invitees to the Reebok All-American Camp. Ironically enough, the AAU program that Colvin has played most extensively with this spring and summer is affiliated with NIKE (Chicago Express). But wait, it gets even better. Colvin was actually listed on the roster of the 17-under Mac Irvin Fire team that participated in the Next Level Invitational just north of Milwaukee. It just so happens that the Fire is also affiliated with NIKE. Obviously, Colvin was not at the Next Level Invitational, although his father was.
Preliminary reports from reliable sources tell us that Colvin has been the best player from Illinois at the Reebok All-American Camp thus far. This should come as no surprise when one considers that Colvin is our #3 ranked player from Illinois in the class of 2009 and is much closer to #1 than most people realize. What this proves is that Colvin also should have received an invitation to either the Lebron James Skills Academy or the Reebok All-American Camp from the outset, without having to go through the political nonsense that encompasses NIKE and Reebok's respective player selections.
So when NIKE, Reebok and Adidas all say that they are conscious of the need to make summer basketball more team-oriented and focus more on skill development as opposed to simply exposure, we believe them, but yet we take it with a grain of salt. This is because their desire to clean things up is constantly overshadowed by their never-ending game of one-upmanship.