Over the past month, I have seen more Washington, DC High School basketball games then I have ever saw in my life. 11 in the Month of February to be exact. From Dematha to Friendly, Gonzaga to my Alma Mater Eastern. This has been a very interesting and shocking experience. The game has changed so much since my days at Eastern High School. AAU Basketball seems to have effected the inner city schools more then some of you may know. The quality of players in the city has dropped off drastically. Inner city kids are running to Prep schools, private schools and suburban schools in belief that they will have a better chance at attending bigger 4 year Universities. Yes the option is there but its only because YOU (the players) go there.
AAU teams came into the picture and started the recruiting process earlier then ever before. AAU coaches scout other smaller teams and convince the best players on those teams parents, to join there much bigger and sponsored teams. They offer them lesser fees and your kid won’t have to stand on the corner and sale baked goods to raise money to go play in national tournaments. Throw in nicer uniforms, sneakers and other gear that some teams don’t offer and it’s a sell. The ultimate reason is their sell of the relationships they have with the top High School programs and Universities in the country. Players and parents believe in this and buy in to it. But what does it hurt? Now you have all the best players in the city going to the same high schools outside the city and none at the inner city schools. So the scouting services overlook these schools believing that the talent level and competition is diluted because the best players from these AAU teams, go to better schools. This makes the inner city schools more so a neighborhood league. These inner city schools are hurt by this. The teams are not as competitive and the talent level is slacking. My solution to this is put your kid somewhere they’ll be taught the game.
To become a very good player, you need one on one attention. AAU teams are all star teams that coaches chase winning more then teaching a player the game. Some players succeed and some are lost. A lot of players play on teams built with the best players from an AAU team who sends them to Prep schools and now they have College relationships also. Some AAU coaches are receiving college assistant coaching jobs from these relationships by sending players from associate AAU teams. It’s big business. If a kid isn’t playing for a major AAU team, his chances of getting scouted or recruited by a major Division I college is slim to none. Some players get lost in the shuffle because they don’t receive the individual attention necessary to become a next level player.
As I sit here and watch the City title game, Dematha vs. Roosevelt, two schools from two opposite parts of town. Ones private and one is public, Dematha’s team is 20 players deep and Roosevelt’s 11. Dematha’s point guard standing 6’3, taller then half of Roosevelt’s team and I wonder how did Roosevelt make it this far. Then I see the Roosevelt’s kids determination to prove that they belong being up 48-47 with 1:36 to go. Now it’s 4 seconds on the clock the score 50-50 Dematha player at the line for two shots… He makes both 50-52 Dematha. Roosevelt calls a timeout. This is a kids final moment to prove that they belong. They throw the inbounds pass away and Dematha wins. How hard these kids performed and competed will never be remembered and we may never hear their names again. But one thing we can count on is that the players from Dematha who competed down to the last four seconds with these kids from Roosevelt, will be on our TV’s next fall playing at someones Division I basketball program.
I watched Suitland lose their final playoff game at home against an underdog team from Bowie. Suitland had some pretty good players. There was one Junior College scout in the stand watching the game. As I walked out of the gym almost the last person to leave, I watched a senior player on the team stop at the doors. He turned around as if he was visualizing memories. As he took his last look, after his last game as a public school basketball player he stood between the doors and tears fell from his eyes. The start of a dream is left behind for someone else to absorb the tears.
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