AAU and High School: The Debate

A few days ago, Outside the Lines had a very good piece on AAU hoops and the controversy surrounding it. While I'll discuss it below, here's the videos themselves:

Fran Fraschilla had a nice companion piece to go along with the video, which is - unsurprisingly - negative towards AAU.

This is clearly a heated debate. There are those that see great things in AAU, like the ability to play against the best of the best and the all-star mentality. There are those that see the good in HS basketball, like the passion and structure. Both have positives, both have drawbacks. AAU coaches are often more selfish, with their own interests in mind. High school coaches can be too controlling and the HS game doesn't allow enough showcasing of talent.

There's no doubt AAU detracts from HS basketball. Players are less focused, as they have another system to worry about. They probably will become less coachable, and transferring from high school to high school has become commonplace.

Gary William's dislike of AAU is well-documented, particurarly in the three-part series in the WaPo a couple of moths ago (the link is to the full interview of GW). Off the top of my head, Isaiah Epps, Michael Beasley, Rudy Gay, and Darnell Dodson all had their college decisions made or influenced heavily by their AAU coach, and none of them were positive for the Terps. Gary is also known to have bad relations with powerful AAU coach Curtis Malone, who runs DC Assault, the club team for Nolan Smith, Michael Beasley, Josh Hairston, Jeff Green, Keith Bogans, and quite a few more top prospects (Malone, incidentally, looks absolutely nothing like what you would imagine). Obviously, Gary doesn't like any of the above. He has met with Malone recently to clear the air, but nothing is guaranteed.

And then there's guys like Sonny Vaccaro, the sneaker mob boss famous for, well, nearly every big decision involving a high school basketball player in the last 15 years, including Brandon Jennings exodus to Europe for a year. Technically, he has no AAU affiliation, but he thrives off the system and has a gigantic influence on where recruits go to school, just based ond whether they are sponsored by Nike or Reebok, Adidas or Under Armor. Some shoe companies are recruiting prospects toward their brand from the ripe age of 10, as seen in the case of Justin Jenifer.

I don't claim to know everything - really, anything - about how to solve this problem, but it's getting out of control. AAU and shoe deals have become the controlling aspect in recruiting, even more than the player's honest-to-god preference in some cases. Of course, some form of club needs to remain, but it needs to be significantly reduced in influence. But that's my opinion - I'm sure there are others that wouldn't mind seeing the system remain as it is. How do you see it? Is AAU too strong? Do high school coaches just need to adapt to the new system? Are shoe companies doing too much too early? I'd like to hear some opinions on this.

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