High School Basketball

Summertime basketball in SC: Why NCAA, not AAU, is behind newest recruiting showcase

During the summer, it’s common for college basketball coaches to be packed in gyms during recruiting periods.

College coaches travel the country watching high school players on their AAU summer teams. But this weekend in South Carolina, those coaches were flocking to high school gyms in the Midlands for a different reason.

Under new NCAA rules, college coaches are allowed to attend what’s being called “June scholastic basketball events,” organized for the first time along with the National Federation of High Schools, S.C. High School League and S.C. Independent School Association. The change was part of the NCAA’s reaction to the FBI’s probe into recruiting and aimed to strengthen relationships between college coaches and high school programs.

Previously, coaches could only watch prospects on grassroots AAU circuits in April and July before players rejoined their high school teams. But the NCAA eliminated one of the two July evaluation periods for non-scholastic events. Nike EYBL will still hold its Peach Jam in North Augusta on July 11-15, while Adidas and Under Armour will hold their events in Birmingham and Atlanta the same week.

“You see some of these kids play in February and then you don’t see them with their high school until November,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said Friday. “Now, they play with the AAU team and with their high school team, and you see the progression. The kid that was a sophomore is more confident as a junior and has a different role with his team. It is his turn. You get a better feel for stuff that way.

“The same kid with his AAU team, he might be the fifth-best player. So how does he handle being the fifth best player on that team and maybe the best player on his high school team? You see different things.”

Martin was one of about 30 or so college coaches at Richland Northeast High School on Friday on the first day of the three-day event. Clemson coach Brad Brownell, new Virginia Tech coach Mike Young and Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner also were there along with assistants from Pittsburgh, Southern Cal, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina.

College coaches also headed to Westwood and Spring Valley high schools, the other hosts of the SCHSL event, while Cardinal Newman and Heathwood Hall hosted the SCISA event.

The SCHSL event concludes Sunday with the Top 100 camp at RNE. Fans also able to attend the games.

According to the National Federation of High Schools, there are 30 scholastic basketball events over the next two weeks involving 41 state member associations. More than 60 teams are playing in the SCHSL event, while nearly 20 are playing in the SCISA camp.

Some South Carolina teams, including state champions Dorman and Ridge View, also have been invited to take part in a scholastic event in North Carolina next weekend.

“I’m so glad the national federation and the NCAA came together to let states to do this,” Dorman coach and Lexington native Thomas Ryan said. “Thirty-five college coaches here [Friday] on the baseline. Jordyn Surratt, a rising sophomore for us, probably gets noticed for us. It is good for exposure for the kids who aren’t on the right AAU team and you see the kids play within the concept of their high school team.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are some great AAU teams, but it is neat to see them in their high school arena.”

Martin backed up Ryan’s comments, adding that it is a different dynamic seeing players perform with their high school teams.

“AAU basketball, you may practice three days in a row and then go play six games in three-day period and then they break and probably don’t see each other for a few times in the next few weeks,” the Gamecocks’ coach said. “High school basketball, these are the guys who they walk hallways with, have mutual friends with and go home and practice after school. It is a different dynamic. I coached high school and AAU, and they are completely different animals. High school teams, you practice more and are around each other more and for so long, which resembles more like college basketball.”

The camp is a good chance for players to get noticed and raise their recruiting profile.

Blythewood High rising sophomore Julian Phillips, who has an offer from Iowa State, turned in a strong performance in a Friday win over Gray Collegiate and could add more offers from the weekend.

“It is a great experience,” Phillips said. “It is something you dream about as a kid, playing in front of college coaches, and it will get me used to doing it down the road.”

Even guys like Dorman’s P.J. Hall and Myles Tate, the state’s top two senior prospects with several Power Five offers, saw the benefit of playing with their high school teammates in front of college coaches.

Hall and Tate, who also are teammates on the powerhouse Upward Stars SE AAU team, are used to playing in front of large contingents of college coaches. This kind of setting offers something different, they said.

“I like it a whole lot better because whenever a coach sees you in your natural system, I think it’s a whole lot better than just going out there and playing ball,” said Hall, who recently took part in the NBA Top 100 camp in Virginia. “In AAU, it’s whoever’s the best scorer, whoever can just go out there and fill it up. You’re going to get recruited, but in high school ball, if you’re the one rebounding and taking charges, they see you play real basketball. ... I’m not saying AAU is bad, but this is more of a system kind of thing.”

Both said playing with their high school teammates lets them showcase more of their all-around game.

“AAU, you can’t really get the most out of your players,” Tate said. “You can see one side of the ball, they might just score the ball, but you won’t see what they bring on defense. In high school, you can play both sides of the ball to the best of your abilities and show the coaches how you play.”