Nothing at this month’s Adidas basketball events in New York and Los Angeles suggested that apparel-company-sponsored grassroots – or AAU – hoops is on the brink.
It was “business as usual,” as 247Sports.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels put it. And that, for anyone who regularly goes to these events, was expected.
The alleged shady backroom deals that put Adidas (and several high-profile college basketball programs) in the FBI’s spotlight were exactly that — alleged deals away from the packed multi-court gymnasiums where America’s next hoops stars play for their futures in front of college coaches.
The Adidas banners still hung from the rafters. The Adidas signs still stood along the baselines. College coaches still sat in the bleachers. Recruits still played for their futures. Parents still berated the officials.
“Everything,” said former University of Louisville player and current Louisville Magic coach Ellis Myles, “ran just as it did last year.”
But, Myles added, one thing behind the scenes was different, and it captured the zeitgeist of basketball in 2018. It feels like a storm is on the way, and the people in its path are scurrying like birds before a thunderstorm.
Parents, sensing this might be the final summer that travel basketball runs as it has for a decade-plus, scrambled to get their kids onto 17-and-under teams quicker, with the goal of getting them one final summer of exposure in front of college coaches.
“It was hard to get a 17U team together knowing that this was probably the last go-around for some of their kids,” Ellis said. “When you hear all the rumors of what David Robinson and them are talking about, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
This anecdotal trend is a reaction to the proposed changes to summer basketball made by the Commission on College Basketball, appointed by the NCAA to reform the recruiting process. (Robinson, as Ellis referenced, is on the commission, which is chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.)
New proposals focus on taking the July evaluation periods, the most significant three weeks on the college basketball recruiting calendar, out of the hands of apparel companies. The reported solution, which introduces NCAA-sponsored regional and national camps and disallows college coaches from attending shoe apparel events, has been criticized by media and coaches.
There are concerns that the commission is taking for granted the complicated logistics of putting on events that include hundreds of players and dozens of teams. There are concerns that the commission is simply hoping for a public-relations victory that won’t actually change the influence of apparel companies on the sport.
And there are concerns that shifting power to high school basketball programs, which reportedly in the new setup would take on more important roles in hosting coaches for evaluation opportunities, will only invite wrongdoing that involves different characters.
As long as the NCAA refuses to address the issue of compensation for use of an athlete’s name, image and likeness, rules that invite cheating (by NCAA standards) remain.
Nonetheless, what I wanted to find out this summer was if Adidas made any changes to how it runs events as the hoops community prepares for the NCAA-mandated alterations.
The answer was no. Well, an Adidas spokesperson declined a request to interview a representative from the grassroots team at the company. But the answer in terms of any noticeable differences at the actual events was no.
Travel coaches still had to pass background checks and registrations with the NCAA and USA Basketball. The players still had to register with the NCAA. That process, Myles explained, started a few years ago.
For those who know the travel basketball circuit well, the changes don’t really have to do with the actual events themselves, anyway.
Changes are due elsewhere.
But the NCAA is storming forward, and those in its path are scrambling to prepare for the aftermath.
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