Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and summer basketball have become a large recruiting ground for college coaches who can offer basketball scholarships. Breakthrough Basketball says that summer basketball has become the most significant aspect of recruiting. Summer basketball has its benefits and drawbacks, but the potential to be seen, noticed and potentially get a basketball scholarship is greater in AAU than most organizations.
According to Breakthrough Basketball, the Amateur Athletic Union is an organization that sponsors amateur sporting events. However, the AAU is only one of several organizations that direct and operate summer basketball tournaments that are open for college coaches to attend. The AAU and some other events are nonprofit, while some individuals and companies also operate for-profit events and tournaments. In Division I men's basketball, as of January 2011, college coaches are permitted to attend events for 18 days in the month of July.
Teams and Tournaments
There are thousands of summer and AAU teams from across the country and players are free to play for any team in their state in tournaments that are attended by college coaches. Most teams go out and actively recruit the best players they can find from a certain area to form a team. Tournaments usually last for four to five days and begin with pool play before moving into a single-elimination bracket format. This format is designed to guarantee that every team will play at least four games to give them adequate exposure in front of college coaches.
The main benefit from AAU basketball is the exposure and opportunity to play in front of coaches and earn a scholarship. The largest tournaments bring together so many teams that college coaches can literally see hundreds of players over a few days. The Eagle-Tribune notes that in 2009, more than 1,000 teams played in Las Vegas from July 22 to July 26. The volume of teams and recruiters means that there are tremendous opportunities available. AAU coach Mike Trovato sums it up best by saying you never know who is watching.
There are plenty of drawbacks regarding AAU basketball and the chase for scholarships. First, most players who play do not get scholarships as the number of players makes that impossible. Many pay outlandish entry fees and travel expenses and do not get a scholarship in the end. AAU games are often poorly coached, with untrained parents and volunteers coaching, which leads to poor decisions and often leads players to play below their potential. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is attempting to regulate the coaches in summer leagues to prevent illegal recruiting and make sure that summer coaches do not have criminal histories.