071110front_t607I remember looking around and seeing the best players in the county all lined up next to me on the baseline. Guys that I just read about in the newspaper getting ready to partake in the same tryout as Cornell Thomas the Junior Varsity bench player.

My friend asked me to come to a tryout with him for some basketball team, so some teammates and I decided to tryout.

To say I was not qualified was an understatement. I was exactly seven months into my basketball career, and lets just say I was light-years away from where I needed to be to make this team. This was my first experience with AAU. Little did I know that twelve years later I would be coaching it. Back in the 90’s AAU (amateur athletic union) was a lot different. There weren’t millions of teams all over the country; there were only a few teams here and there in each state.

Only the best of the best played on a team, which is a stark contrast to today where anyone with enough money to afford it can make a roster somewhere. “Coaches” have become salesmen and saleswomen recruiting kids to their program by using words like “Exposure” and “Elite”. In reality what is exposure? Is it going to “showcase” tournaments? Is it sending mass highlight tapes (direct marketing style) to hundreds of colleges across the country? Well this is where the grey line appears, because to be honest not a lot of people have even the slightest idea what the answer is.

I was talking to a good friend of mine who played Division 1 basketball and also coached it, and she brought up a great point regarding exposure. She said that just because you’re at a “showcase” doesn’t necessarily mean the school interested in is going to watch you.

In my program (Crossroads Basketball) to date we’ve had over 70 kids play college basketball, on all levels. Out of those 70 kids only four went to a Division 1 school, and five others attended a Division 2. How is this possible? We went to big “showcases”, I contacted schools, and the kids did their due diligence in the classroom.

Well think of it like going grocery shopping. Before you hop in the car one of the first things you do is make a list. One it will save you a ton of time, and two you wont have to make a second trip if you happened to forget something. The same goes for college coaches, especially on the scholarship level.

They go to “showcases” with a good idea of what they’re shopping for. 9 times out of 10 they’re following certain kids around from court to court trying to determine if there worth the 200,000-dollar scholarship they might offer. In some cases coaches and whole staffs are fired for not bringing in the right kids. At the end of the day these coaches are paid well to WIN.

Now is that not saying there might not be an impulse buy here or there? For sure there will be. A kid catches the eye of a coach that didn’t have them on their radar, and next thing you know opportunity comes knocking. But this also brings me to another point.

You have to be prepared to seize the opportunity when it comes! So even if the coach from your dream school trips and falls on the court that you happened to be playing on, are you ready to show him/her what you got? Have you been training like an animal? Practicing your weaknesses? Have you gotten better every week? This is where these “new style” AAU programs fall flat.

You can promise someone the world but you better make sure that not only you can deliver but also they can (the player) deliver when that opportunity comes. There’s a huge difference between exposure and getting exposed.

Getting exposure doesn’t guarantee you anything, but getting exposed guarantees that you wont be going to the school that just watched you. I talk to college coaches from both the men and women’s game often (Divison 1 to Division 3), and there’s one consistent to their recruiting. You have to be able to actually play!! So pass on the free sneakers and new Nike bag, and get in the gym and get better!!!