After all, it’s his name on one of the most successful programs out there, Earl Watson Elite.
He founded the Los Angeles-based program with Ryan Silver and it is now backed by Under Armour. Early on, Watson says he has spent upward of $100,000 to get kids to tournaments and bring in the right coaches.
As an NBA coach, he is no longer around the program all the time and faces limits on his interactions with potential prospects.
While he hears the detractors of AAU, Watson is a staunch advocate. He notes that more than 200 players have gone on to college from his program in the last six years.
He also points out that coaches in his program are people interested in becoming college or NBA coaches and not parents or handlers in charge of star players’ recruiting. They are there for the long term, not just for a time when a star player is with the program.
“I know (AAU) gets a bad rep from a lot of people,” Watson told SBNation’s Bright Side of the Sun. “But I think if you have the right program and the right people, positive things can happen. There’s just so many teams. Only the bad teams you hear a lot about.”
“What I do different with AAU basketball, I don’t think a lot of people understand is, we also have a program that sits side by side with Earl Watson Elite that is an All-Academic team.
“We have three guys at Harvard, five or six guys in the Ivy League. We have banquets for those players with over 4.0 GPAs, and sometimes those guys will play on the Elite team and sometimes we play against other academic players. We kind of mix and match.
“But I think most importantly we reward everyone and I think that’s key. We have All-Academic camps, we invite the top academic schools to come and recruit and I think it’s a great platform that our guys have created for the program pushing forward.”
Watson goes one step further, pointing to the relationships that extend beyond basketball and are long-lasting. “The most fulfilling thing I’ve done outside of myself in my entire life is being involved in grassroots basketball.”