For the Love of the Game -- Part III: AAU basketball and summer camps

The writer is the former Bishop Gibbons boys varsity basketball head coach.

What are AAU basketball and elite summer camps doing for and to the game? I was somewhat reluctant to write about this subject because I know, like big business is to our economy, many of the individuals associated with AAU programs and basketball camps are only about making money and making a name.

Unfortunately, the people who support these programs (i.e. parents, grandparents and in some cases, friends) are often misled. They feel that attending camps and playing AAU will increase an athlete's opportunity to win a college scholarship. In some cases, it can be argued that camps and AAU will help some athletes who are already endowed with exceptional skill, but in most cases for the average athlete, it's just not so.

What I've seen with most AAU programs is that they have a few exceptional players on a team surrounded by a few more good players, then several more average players.

Here is a common scenario: Two or three exceptionally talented players will get an opportunity to play on the college level; the others will finish playing high school ball and then continue playing at some level in college but not on the actual school team. A few will try to walk on to their college teams but they will not have what it takes to make the team. After it's all said and done, the student who wants to continue playing will end up playing intramurals.

(Please note that I believe that intramurals in college is a great opportunity to continue enjoying the game. My only purpose in going through this long litany is to encourage potential AAU athletes and anyone paying the bill to reassess the costs and the payoffs.)

No longer is AAU just for the high school athlete. AAU now is open to kids as young as the fifth grade, usually as young as age 10. In fact, some kids will be playing in programs at even a younger age because they are the "exceptional" players.

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