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Advice from a College Coach on Summer Basketball Tournaments

When it comes to being recruited for college basketball, the time in which a coach can watch a prospective recruit play in-person is limited.  The NCAA calendars for basketball recruiting for Divisions I through III only include a handful of days for evaluation periods.  During evaluation periods, coaches can watch prospective recruits engage in basketball games.  Division I currently has six evaluation periods.  Two of these periods, which are in April, are for certified events only.  Three of them fall in July, when coaches travel across the country to watch players participate in organized tournaments.  Given the pervasive role that certified events and organized tournaments play during the NCAA’s basketball evaluation periods, it is advisable that prospective basketball recruits join a competitive basketball team, such as an AAU program so that they can participate in these events.

Kevin Wagstaff is a former NCAA men’s basketball player who played in July Evaluation Period tournaments with his former AAU team, the Colorado Super Flow.  During high school, Wagstaff was recruited by a number of Division I institutions, but ultimately accepted a basketball scholarship to play at Division II’s Colorado School of Mines.  Wagstaff believes that for him, playing in summer tournaments with an AAU team was critical to being recruited, especially by out-of-state schools.  “Unless you are a star player, only coaches from in-state schools take time to travel to a player’s high school gym.  If you are just in the mix and not a blue chip guy, it’s hard to expect coaches to come to your high school games,” Wagstaff said.  A Division I assistant coach echoed Wagstaff’s sentiments.  “We do not view every tape that’s sent into us by recruits, because we do not have the time.  We only travel to see recruits that are high on our radar.  Playing in tournaments is a great way for recruits who may not be on our radar to get on it.”

Wagstaff believes that if a player finds the right competitive team to play in evaluation period games with, that he can increase his recruiting stock.  Thus, it is important for players and parents to choose teams with a critical eye on how they will impact a player’s recruiting.  “The thing that was the most important to me, was finding out who else played on the teams, their style of play and the offense the team plays.  You have such a limited window during which to show your talent, that you need to make sure those things add up to showcase you in your best light.  Furthermore, if you are on a team without good coaching who knows how to help you perform, you are not going to be able to show what you are worth,” Wagstaff noted.

Along with utilizing tournaments during NCAA evaluation periods, Wagstaff believes that recruits should ensure that their high school coaches are working for them.  At the most basic level, this includes sending out letters, videos and feelers to schools who may be interested in the recruit.  Additionally, high school coaches should respond to inquiries from schools interested in recruits.  However, an additional thing that high school coaches can do to help recruits is inform interested schools about which team a player will be playing with for NCAA evaluation period tournaments.  “If schools are intrigued by your profile from the high school, they will come out to see you at the summer tournaments.  Coaches see as many as 150 kids they are interested in recruiting during three days at a tournament,” Wagstaff said.  Thus, when a basketball recruit joins a traveling or competitive team, it is important for him to communicate this information to his high school coaches.  He should keep his high school coaches updated throughout the summer about tournament schedules and outcomes, so that the high school coach, along with the competitive team’s coach, can also relay this information to schools.

While Wagstaff set forth playing components players and parents should be aware of when selecting a competitive team, there are other factors that must go into the decision.  In recent years, there has been a large amount of scrutiny of some AAU teams and their relationships with coaches and universities.  Parents and players should investigate a coach’s record not only on the court, but in placing athletes at universities.  Parents and players should ask themselves what benefits the coach may be getting in placing certain recruits at certain schools.  Additionally, parents and players should work to ensure that a competitive coach’s actions have players’ best interests at heart.

When it comes to being recruited for basketball, the window to be evaluated in-person by coaches is small.  Furthermore, it is during this window that a coach’s most critical analysis of a player’s abilities occurs.  Thus, if a player is serious about being recruited, he must do the most to put himself in front of the eyes of coaches.  The easiest way to do this is by joining a competitive team and participating in NCAA evaluation period tournaments.

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