Mario Chalmers always had mixed feelings about this time of year back during his AAU playing days with Pump ‘N Run (Alaska) in 2004. The AAU season winding down meant no more traveling around the country to tournaments and showcases leaving Chalmers wondering “what’s next?”
“There was nothing to do around this time,” Chalmers said. “I always wanted to AAU season to last a little longer, but I typically tried to just use this time to get better and prepare for my school year. It always came really fast after AAU was done.”
Fresh off of his second consecutive NBA title, we caught up with the Miami Heat point guard and talked about everything from his foundation to how high school hoopers should fill their time post-AAU to how big an impact he thinks Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins will have this coming season.
USA Today HSS: Looking back is there anything you wish you knew then about AAU, rankings, etc., that you know now?
Mario Chalmers: Not really. I feel like I had a pretty good understanding of how things worked. Living in Alaska I was just like a lot of players out there that wanted more coaches to be able to see them play. I used AAU to get exposure and it worked out pretty well. I never really cared about rankings. That’s just a number on a piece of paper. It means nothing. I was always of the mindset that when the ball tips you’ve just got to go hard at the guy in front of you. Just gotta give it everything. That’s what I tell me players at camps.
USAT: What should players focus on now that AAU is coming to a close?
MC: I would say focus on getting their mindset ready for the academic side of school. The basketball part won’t be as hard for them, but school is the most important part so preparing for that is big. Then I’d definitely try and build some chemistry with my high school teammates in this time. That would be beneficial for sure.
USAT: That makes sense. Now obviously you guys have a pretty solid player there now; some guy named Andrew Wiggins.
MC: (Laughs) Yeah I’ve heard of him.
USAT: You’ve seen him up close and you’ve gone through college and had great success, obviously; how good will Andrew be? The hype is such that you can’t help but ask: Best Jayhawk ever?
MC: Well, that’s a tough thing to say when you’ve got the type of great players that we’ve had here at Kansas. I think it’s a fair question and I know what you mean. I think he’ll be up there with the greats, but the best ever? That’s tough to say.
USAT: What do you anticipate his biggest hurdle being as a freshman?
MC: I think just trying to stay levelheaded and not putting too much pressure on himself. He can’t try and please everybody; just gotta stick to his game and stick to doing what he does.
USAT: I know it’s early, but my guess is that you could predict the 2014 NCAA champ right now?
MC: Kansas! I pick Kansas every year no matter what. We’ve definitely got a shot!
USAT: Indeed. You do a lot for kids with the Mario Chalmers Foundation; what all have you guys done this
MC: We do basketball camps and a lot of the proceeds go to breast cancer research. We’re trying to find a cure for that! We do the camps to try and help the kids develop athletically as well as academically. So we’ve had some events down here in Lawrence, Kan., to help with that. It’s been great.
USAT: What age groups do you take at your camps?
MC: We get sixth and seventh graders. We just feel like it’s important to get the kids a little earlier to create good habits. That way when they hit junior high and high school they’re better prepared for success on and off the court.
USAT: Speaking of success on the court, what’s your most impressive head-to-head?
MC: I would have to say beating Ray Allen in a three-point shooting contest. That was a big one for me.
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