Are AAU Teams Mandatory to be Recruited?

AAU basketball tournaments are the norm during the summer months. Many competitive high school basketball players find their way onto the roster of an AAU team. These teams definitely seek out the best talent because AAU coaches want to have the cream of the crop. These teams are constantly going from place to place, leading to greater exposure for a player, as well as picking up favorable training skills and networking.

Parents of student athletes might want to know if playing for an AAU team is truly necessary to be recruited. If the ultimate goal is to play college basketball, will skipping AAU hurt your respective chances?

There isn’t a simple definitive answer to how recruitment works. It’s a complex process and many coaches utilize different methods to find the best available players. Does that mean AAU basketball tournaments aren’t hotbeds for college coaches during the summer months? Of course not. There is way too much talent on the floor.

Does that mean your student athlete will get noticed just because they participate in AAU? They may or may not. Coaches may already know the players they are checking out when they travel to these tournaments. However, they may find other great athletes by accident. Not many will have the time to watch every game with multiple going on at the same time.

Here are some reasons why AAU basketball can help and some possible alternatives to consider.

Exposure

College coaches are aware that basketball talent will be available in masses at AAU basketball tournaments. Many will go to a tournament with several blue chip kids in mind. They may also have several other potential targets they want to see in person. AAU basketball isn’t as structured as the sport during the high school season. Coaches often utilize the AAU season to talk, network, and establish ties with recruits. They can assess talent to some degree, but that isn’t the bulk of their visit. An AAU basketball tournament is always a showcase of talent, which can be good or bad depending on who you ask.

Basketball Training Skills

AAU basketball teams have a bad reputation for not practicing that often during the summer months. Former NBA player and current coach Steve Kerr believes AAU teams aren’t doing the right things. AAU teams might work on game type situations and various basketball skills training. Some NBA players and former greats don’t think that training is enough. Kobe Bryant is among those. He thinks AAU sells short on teaching kids “the fundamentals of the game.”

An AAU team either hosts tournaments or travels to other destinations to play other AAU squads. Depending on a family situation, an AAU basketball experience could be costly.

Parents might opt for other options like basketball camps. Hoop Group has been providing such camps for decades. Players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden have all participated in Hoop Group. Hoop Group offers fundamental learning lessons like ball handling and shooting camps, point guard school, and dead eye shooting factory. This might be an alternative to AAU based on skills methodology.

Networking

Networking is a valuable part of the recruiting process. Kids and parents are anxious to meet coaches and get an assessment of their talent. They want to get that pat on the back and feel good about their abilities. They want to understand if they can play college basketball. An on the spot critique can be invaluable.

What often gets lost in the shuffle is the ability to network with coaches. AAU tournaments don’t always offer the greatest atmosphere to introduce yourself to coaches. They may be watching intensely with a chart and pen. They may also be talking and spending time with various AAU coaches or the players they covet. College coaches might also be hanging out with one another and conversing as well.

It’s hard to interrupt and get that quality one on one time or even make an introduction. It’s important for young athletes to figure out a way to network before tournaments.

An alternative might be to create your own “online resume” during the summer months. Parents and student athletes may want to create a social media presence which includes highlights, statistics, and future schedules. They may also want to have a video reel available by hard copy they can deliver to the coach. That reel should consist of an edited three to four minute montage of the best plays of that player. A point guard’s video would be drastically different from a power forward’s video because they should showcase their passing ability. A center’s video would be completely different from a two guard, etc. The video needs to have the player spot shadowed throughout so coaches don’t have to guess which player they are assessing.

Overall, AAU basketball gives kids the opportunity to compete and get more potential exposure from coaches. Those wanting to improve specific basketball skills over the summer months may want to consider camps in addition to playing AAU. They’ll get more individual coaching and the opportunity to work on more fundamentals so they can excel during the next high school season. AAU will give your student athlete an amazing amount of repetition on the floor. The big question parents should be asking is will it give my child the valuable basketball fundamentals they need leading into their next school year.

#HGBuzzerBeater Classic AM Spotlight, Day 1

Division I schools La Salle University from the A10, Robert Morris from the Northeast Conference, and a multitude of Division II and III schools were in attendance to watch the morning matchup between the Crusader Nation and New York Havoc. With a trip to the winner’s bracket on the line, both teams showed some early game jitters to start.

Team Havoc jumped out to a quick 17-5 lead behind the energy and hustle of their point guard number 12, William Aybar.  Aybar set the pace of the game from the opening tip, extending the defensive pressure 94 feet and advancing the basketball by passing ahead.  Crusader Nation eventually acclimated to the frenetic pace of play, but consistently trailed double digits throughout the game’s first 10 minutes.  The Nation never looked comfortable in their half court sets, struggling to execute against the extended pressure of Havoc.  Skilled 6’8” forward Joe Delollo (#33) provided a perimeter, threat stretching the defense and opening driving lanes for Havoc’s lighting quick Aybar.  Crusader Nation eventually found a way to put up points up through second chance opportunities and fast break chances. They went on a 10-2 run and cut the lead to seven to close out the half.

The Nation continued their aggressive play to start the second half, finishing contested shots around the basket and creating and-1 opportunities.  With momentum on their side and foul situations softening up Havoc’s defensive pressure, the Nation began to convert on open jump shots. Although he showcased a soft touch around the basket and consistent face up game outside the paint, Delollo was unable to guard the perimeter on defense.  Delollo was forced to soft contest on screen and roll switches and gave up easy driving angles to Crusader Nation’s guards. Havoc trailed by two points going into the game’s final four minutes.  

The game came down to the final possession in regulation, tied at 60 with a little over eleven seconds remaining. Crusader Nation was set to take the ball out on a side out of bounds.  The ball was inbounded, and a down screen was set away from the ball in an effort to free up their team’s leading scorer for the game, number 0-Nick Parrish.  He was denied but eventually caught the ball out near half court under duress.

With three seconds remaining he stepped into a 30 foot pull-up jumper that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before swishing through the net; ending the game and advancing the Nation to the winner’s bracket.  When asked about what was going through his mind in the closing seconds, Parrish responded, “I won’t lie to you, I practice that shot a lot…a hesitation to a pull up three—so, to see it finally come to work, it’s a blessing man. It felt great”.  Parrish continued on to speak about his team’s togetherness, “I’ve played with these guys for four years now–with these guys they go out and give it a hundred percent every game. It’s more like a family than a team.  We all just play together, and play for each other”.  

Crusader Nation will look to build upon this momentum going into their next matchup.  Joe Delollo for Havoc led the team in scoring with 15 points, while Parrish finished with 12 points, 10 in the 4th quarter and the game winner.  

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 4: Souleymane Koureissi

Known as the mecca of basketball, New York City is home to a large percentage of the world’s top youth basketball talent.  In a one block radius in Harlem you’ll find one future NBA lottery pick in Mohammed Bamba, and at least two other high level Division I prospects (Jalen Carey & Anthony Nelson).  6’9” wing Souleymane Koureissi grew up in these same houses, but took a much different road to success than that of his peers.  

Souleymane, or Sal as his friends call him, was the definition of a late bloomer.  Two years ago Koureissi was three inches shorter, less skilled, and playing the Center position for his High School-Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY.  Sal was forced to watch his friends be courted by college coaches and spoiled by shoe companies, while he struggled to make a name for himself in the basketball world.  His AAU team, Castle Athletics, was not a shoe sponsored team at the time, and he was playing in a limited role for his high school.  Koureissi had no scholarship offers.  

Both of Sal’s parents immigrated to United States from the African country of Mali in search of a better life for their children and Sal seems to have adopted the same attitude of personal advancement as his parents  He was very vocal about witnessing the success of others and aspiring to have a better life than he’s had.  Growing up and seeing his peers achievements inspired Koureissi to be better–to want more.  Sal had an impressive summer on the Adidas Circuit in 2017, proving his name belongs on the short list of elite basketball players.  He now holds more than a dozen scholarship offers, including one from St. Louis University.  He is an example to younger basketball players around NYC who have yet to receive their break, that hard work makes anything achievable.  We sat down for a brief Q & A with Souleymane Koureissi, the Most Outstanding Prospect of Hoop Group Elite Camp.

 

 

We saw you play a few years ago at the gotham league when you were relatively unknown.  You’re obviously a completely different player now..so what’s the motivating factor behind you wanting to take your game to the next level?  

 

Wanting to change my family’s lives and going to school for free…hopefully making the pros some day. I want my family to have a different lifestyle.  But, honestly it’s just fun for me.  I love to play so…

 

Over the last couple of years, your mindset on the court has grown to be more determined. What drives you? Why do you play?

 

I don’t have really have a set thing to think about — but I would say I play because my older brother played it before me – he was good and he always used to beat me.  So I was just always determined to beat him.  So, I play it because I’m determined to be better than him.  

 

What made you choose to go to Iona Prep to play high school basketball?

 

Honestly? I didn’t really have a lot of options at the time.  I was going to go to a school in Washington Heights – a public school called WHEELS, and then last minute I played for an AAU team – Castle Athletics, and my coach helped me get in there.

 

How has it been for you playing there?

 

They actually recently just got a new coach, he coached the JV originally.  He’s tough, he’s gonna make us run a lot, but it will be good.  

 

Do you have any teammates who are going through the same recruiting process as you?

 

Yeah its funny, me and my teammate Josh were both unknown – now we have a competition to see who can pick up the most offers.  I think I’m up two or three right now.  

 

Who’s the best player you’ve played against at hoop group camp so far?

 

Probably Adrian Nelson.  I didn’t know who he was at first – he was strong and athletic, and it was an early morning game so it was tough.

 

Your sophomore year of high school, you had no college scholarship offers.  How has your opinion of recruiting and selecting a school changed from then to now?

 

Then I just wanted to get an offer bad.  I was seeing everyone else getting offered and I just wanted one bad.  I needed one.  But, now that I have plenty, I’m looking at the schools actually, and looking into the academic and athletic aspect and where I can fit in.  So there’s a lot more thinking that goes into it.  

 

What are you looking for in recruiting? What do you expect out of the coaches and university?

 

Definitely a good academic school first – because basketball always stops and I want to be able to get a job after college.  After that, I want to go to a school where I can play and where I’m comfortable with the coaches and basketball side of it – just a good fit.  

 

How do your parents feel about you getting scholarship offers?

 

Honestly, they’re just excited that they don’t have to pay.  I was probably going to college regardless..they’re actually proud of my grades.  This year I ended up with an 86 average. I put in a lot more work in the classroom this year.  When I try hard, usually I get good grades so-   

 

What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?

 

When I’m not playing I’m usually just hanging out with my girlfriend – chillin with my brothers, my friends – a lot of stuff.  I play a lot of 2k…I’m the best in my house though.  I’m a Cavs fan but I usually play with Toronto, but as long as I know who the player is I get buckets.  Like the Nets..they’re from brooklyn and I can’t name half the players on their roster.  

 

Do you have any siblings or family that lives with you?

So there are five people in my house other than me and my parents.  There are two sets of twins – my brother and sister are older than me, they’re twins.  Then there’s my younger brother – he’s 16.  Then there are twins under him, and they’re 9.

 

Where is your family from?

 

My family is from Mali in West Africa.  We all speak mandingo.  I always get jokes…you know the movie, I never watched it – it was some movie where the guy is like “I’m the captain now”.  [laughing] I hate that.  

 

New York City is known for its basketball talent.  How does the talent level in your area compare to others? Do the better players ever play together?

 

We have the most talented basketball block in the country.  Jalen Carey actually lives there, Mohammed Bamba lives across the street, Anthony Nelson’s also from that block – so there’s a lot of talent.  We do something called midnight madness every once in awhile.  At like 12 o’clock at night everybody just comes out to the court and plays basketball.  It’s cool.  

 

What do you think the difference is between you and somebody who is ranked in the top 50?

 

Honestly I think it’s athleticism.  I think if I was able to take my strength and athleticism to the next level I would be right there.  I think skill wise I’m there already.  

 

Favorite Rapper?

 

Right now? It’s Jay kritch.  Listen to him.  He’s from my area.  He’s gonna blow up, remember the name.  

 

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

 

Probably my dad.  He’s a hard working guy – seeing him wake up every morning and go to work.  He drives a truck – so he wakes up at 4 am everyday and comes in at like 6 – he’s a hard working guy – seeing him go to work everyday motivates me.  

 

How was it playing on the Adidas circuit?

 

We didn’t play on it last year, so this was our team’s first year – just the amount of coaches that we’re there – the competition level was great all around.  It really helped me explode with my recruiting – I played great so that helped…I remember we had a game versus Exum Elite.  They had Emmanuel Akot I think his name was, who’s committed to Arizona and some 7’2” kid. They had a good team.  We ended up losing, but it was a good game for me.  

 

You grew up in an area in Harlem, the Foster Buildings, that had so much basketball talent. Growing up with these guys, seeing them grow and seeing yourself grow, what sets you apart from everyone else who’s not in your position?

 

I think I was kind of a late bloomer.  As far as them, they’ve always been pretty good, but for me I just started getting offers so yeah – but it’s been really competitive.

 

What advice would you give to someone else who’s also a late bloomer and is in the same position you were in a couple years ago; undiscovered, with no college offers?

 

Just to keep working.  You can’t hide talent – so if you keep working and keep putting in work day in and day out you’re bound to get seen.  Trust the process.  

 

You have had a huge jump in your game over the last couple years and have had to work extremely hard to take your game to the next level.   How do you plan on taking your game up a notch again when you reach college, playing against better competition?

 

I’m going to do the same thing that got me here. Keep working.   Getting in the gym as much as I can, putting up shots as much as I can, and hopefully I can continue to improve.  

 

-Thomas Hayden

Undiscovered Vol. 3: Elite Session 1

The 2017 Hoop Group Elite camps are shaping up to have some of the most talented crops of
players we’ve seen in recent years. Kids are coming into camp with legit interest from high/mid
major Division One programs and are bound to upgrade that interest into tangible scholarship
offers.
Some guys are different though. Some guys have been patiently waiting. With not as much
college interest as deserved, they have been preparing for the moment when they get a chance
to perform in front of the coaches that need to see them. These players will wait no longer. In
the shadows until now, these Undiscovered players will impress when they get a chance to
perform in front of the coaches that need to see them.
Elite Session 1 will feature many, here is a glimpse at just a few as they move from
undiscovered to on your radar.

John Kelly – Fairfield Prep (CT)

John Kelly is a player all coaches are looking for. A lanky 6’7 that can score on all three levels
 and can guard multiple positions on the defensive end with his length and lateral
movement. It’s rare to see John making poor decisions with the ball in his hands as his
basketball IQ is extremely high. Look for John to really show out at camp this week

Luke Hicks – Cushing Academy (MA)

Luke Hicks is a well-built, 6’5 swingman that can light it up from anywhere on the floor. As lethal
as they come when shooting the ball, you can not leave him open on the perimeter. Going to do
a prep year at Cushing Academy in the winter, Hicks is a name that coaches will gladly put on
their list.

Emmanuel Umoffia – Score Academy (FL)

A legit 7’2, Emmanuel Umoffia is a force down low. Protecting the rim at a high level with a
developing post game on the offensive end, high major schools are starting to take notice. After
a dominating spring performance, he has the chance to carry over that momentum into a HUGE
summer.

Maurice Commander – Curie Metro (IL)

Maurice Commander’s last name isn’t a coincidence. When he is on the floor, he commands the
flow of the offense and ultimately the flow of the game. A true point guard with an extremely
smooth lefty stroke can make shots at a high rate off the catch and off the dribble. Not only can
he put the ball in the hoop, but he does a great job getting his teammates involved. With only a
couple of Division One offers on the table right now, Maurice is a player every high academic
program needs to take a look at.

Beau Smith – Trinity Pawling (NY)

Beau Smith is a 6’6, athletic combo guard that can really guard on the perimeter and get up and
down the floor.A capable shot maker too, he is a threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
Schools will be all over Beau after getting a glimpse of what he can do on the court at Elite 1
this week.

Adrian Nelson –  Pickerington Central (OH)

Adrian Nelson is a dark horse of 2017’s Elite 1 session. With a few low major offers on the table,
Nelson will catch the eye of everyone in the gym this week with his high flying dunks in traffic.
Check back soon for the next edition of Undiscovered!

Undiscovered Vol. 2: Elite Session 1

The 2017 Hoop Group Elite camps are shaping up to have some of the most talented crops of
players we’ve seen in recent years. Kids are coming into camp with legit interest from high/mid
major Division One programs and are bound to upgrade that interest into tangible scholarship
offers.
Some guys are different though. Some guys have been patiently waiting. With not as much
college interest as deserved, they have been preparing for the moment when they get a chance
to perform in front of the coaches that need to see them. These players will wait no longer. In
the shadows until now, these Undiscovered players will impress when they get a chance to
perform in front of the coaches that need to see them.
Elite Session 1 will feature many, here is a glimpse at just a few as they move from
undiscovered to on your radar.

Nick Timberlake – Kimball Union (NH)

Nick Timberlake is a must see for Division One coaches at camp this summer. One of the more
athletic, bouncy combo guards the camp will have to offer, Nick can not only jump with the best
of them but also put the ball in the hoop. He’s a potential mismatch nightmare every time he
laces up his sneaks and has a chance to become a household name in the next few weeks.

Brandon McGlynn – Dallastown (PA)

Brandon McGlynn has been one of the more under recruited guards in the area. A quick first
step poses a threat on the perimeter and all he needs is an inch of space for a catch-and-shoot
three. His skill set translates to the next level and college coaches are going to find that out in
the next few weeks. Injured in the spring, Brandon could be a steal waiting to happen at Elite 1.

Ronnie Silva – Bradford Christian Academy (MA)

Though only standing at 5’9, time and time again Ronnie Silva has outplayed bigger opponents
in big games. He is quicker than quick and can sink shots as soon as he crosses half court,
making him a prospect that college coaches need to pay attention to. This past spring was just
the start for Ronnie and this summer he will be as good as they come at the point guard
position.

Jacob Iwowo – Brooks School (MA)

6’4” with long arms is something all college coaches love to hear. Jacob Iwowo is athletic, plays
insanely hard, and makes an impact every time he’s on the floor. He can play above the rim,
score and defend. College coaches looking for a slashing wing with a high motor will be excited
to see Iwowo play at camp. Offers will come, sooner rather than later.

Michael Koch – Bergen Catholic (NJ)

Michael Koch is a perfect mix of skill and athleticism wrapped up into strong tall frame. Along
with being able to score the ball at a high level, he has been working hard on his decision
making and facilitating abilities with hopes of becoming a pure point guard. After a very good
spring, he has heard from many Division Two schools and is just starting to catch the eye of
Division One coaches. Whatever team Koch lands on at game will be a must watch for
scholarship schools.

Ryan Moffat – Hempfield (PA)

Ryan Moffat is the poster boy for Hoop Group: Undiscovered. A legit 6’5 with long arms, Ryan is
a skilled athlete who can really shoot it. To go with his range, he can play above the rim and
has a tough pull-up game. Undiscovered right now, but those days will be over after Elite camps
in the coming weeks.
Check back soon for more Undiscovered Prospects coming to Elite Session 1!