KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Whoever coined the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” certainly never played on the summer hoops circuit.
When it comes to impressing college basketball coaches, it’s the last impression that players are more concerned with.
“You want the last thing on their minds to be positive,” said Trinity Christian School (Fayetteville, N.C.) wing Joey Baker.
With just two days left in the NCAA’s final evaluation period (July 26-30) of the summer, players here at the AAU Super Showcase and other tournaments across the country know that time is of the essence if they want to attract attention or upgrade interest to an offer.
“It’s important for the coaches to know that you’re gonna go hard at the end too,” said Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) wing Keldon Johnson. “A lot of times guys go hard early and just kind of go through the motions at the end, but one thing I wanted to show was that I’m gonna play hard at all times. I want to show coaches there’s more to my game than just scoring, like making my teammates better and playing defense.”
Putnam Science (Putnam, Conn.) point guard Eric Ayala kicked off the first evaluation period of the month by leading WER1 to its second consecutive Under Armour Association title.
His masterplan for the final evaluation period is as simple as it is complex.
“I try not to think about coaches being there,” Ayala said. “Mentally, I’m so locked in going into games that I know if I go out there and do what I have to do the rest will handle itself.”
Baker implores that strategy to a degree.
He said since the coaches won’t see the players again for months he feels it’s important to “finish with your best showing of the summer.”
“For that reason I want to win the Super Showcase,” said Baker, who runs with Team Felton (N.C.). “I think that’s the best way to show the coaches that you’re really dialed in. You know that after this last period they’ll all meet together and compare notes on what each of them liked. I want what they like about me to be really fresh in their minds.”
As the No. 2 overall point guard in the ESPN 100, John Carroll School’s (Bel Air, Md.) Immanuel Quickley is far from concerned with making any lasting impressions on the four schools – Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland and Miami – on his final list; instead he’s intent on putting an exclamation point on his case for rising a spot among 2018’s floor generals.
“I feel like I’m the best point guard in the country and I feel like I’ve proven that all summer,” said Quickley, who runs with Team BBC (Md.). “I just want to go out and finish off strong. It’s not so much about it being the last time the coaches will see me, but when the coaches are out it’s always a bigger stage. That’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
Johnson perspective was even more simplistic.
“At the end of the day, I just love to play,” said Johnson, who runs with Boo Williams (Va.). “And I only know how to go hard. The last evaluation period is important, but I think if you love the game like that it won’t be hard to show what you want to show.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY