This is a summer like no other…
Usually, by August 1st, college coaches have dropped the cost of a nice off-lease family car on the “books” at various grassroots/AAU events scattered across the country. In March, they would have made it out to the playoffs in the big states for sure. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and Florida would have attracted hundreds of guys wearing golf shirts with University logos embroidered on their chests.
The last two weekends in April would have seen a full-out stampede as Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and the independent circuits would have gotten underway. The very best 15U, 16U and 17U basketball players would have competed in front of hundreds of NCAA Division 1 coaches looking for prospects that help them participate in March Madness over the next few years.
Venues would have been filled beyond capacity as parents, hoop heads, media members and college coaches shoe horn themselves into small gyms to watch VERY big high school athletes demonstrate their athletic prowess. Shoe company sponsored grassroots events may be the most NON-socially distant activities in all of sports. They are like basketball Mardi Gras. You find yourself saying “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me” all day as you attempt to move about the facility.
You can tell what several thousand people had for lunch as you stand/sit hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder trying to catch a glimpse of the next Durant, Harden or Embid.
Shoe company sponsored Grassroots/AAU basketball would have inevitably led to thousands of cases of coronavirus being spread among players, parents, fans, media members, coaches, trainers, security guards, workers, etc.
There was literally no option other than to shut down completely…
The last two weeks in June would been a preview to next year’s high school season. Hundreds, maybe thousands of high school teams, would have gotten together to compete in from of hundreds of Division 1 coaches in NCAA sanctioned high school “live period” events.
Unlike grassroots/AAU events, these events give kids an opportunity to play in front of the college coaches with their high school teammates. Kids that may be the 7th or 8th man on shoe company teams are stars on their high school teams. It’s an entirely different look for the kids. Kids deemed not good enough to make elite grassroots/AAU teams also get to play in front of the guys known for making “STRONG ASS OFFERS.” More importantly, they get to play in front of scores of D2, D3 and NAIA coaches looking for hidden gems that can move their program forward.
Coronavirus killed those opportunities this year…
The second weekend in July would have witnessed a shortage of jet fuel as every college coach in America would have made his way to North Augusta, South Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland for the Nike Peach Jam and the UAA Finals, respectively.
Nope… Not this year…
The weeks of July 20-23 (Monday-Thursday) and July 23-26 (Thursday-Sunday) would have seen two sessions of the 2020 NCAA College Basketball Academy take place at four regional sites.
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah, WEST).
University of Winthrop (Rock Hill, South Carolina, SOUTH).
Wichita State University (Wichita, Kansas, MIDWEST).
University of Connecticut (Storrs, Connecticut, EAST).
Naaaah… Also cancelled…
Everything was cancelled… Coaches have been relegated to their homes and forced to hone up in their technological skills as they try to recruit virtually.
It’s just not the same… Coronavirus has robbed the kids of the opportunity to prove themselves and earn scholarship offers worth $200,000 to $320,000 over four years.
Kids in the Philly area have been playing nonetheless. It’s what they do. Outside… In semi-structured open runs… In sweaty Church gyms… wherever there’s an available basket, kids have gotten together and played…
Just not in front of college coaches and not with their grassroots/AAU teammates…
In a tightly controlled setting, Kamal Yard, Founder/Director of the Philly Pride Basketball Club put together an intimate day of hoops. Highly respectful of the easily transmissible virus that is raging throughout much of the nation, Yard and his associates checked the temperature of every person that entered the facility. The tightly controlled crowd of about 50 spectators was situated behind a net and located approximately 20-30 feet from the playing surface. Social distancing was practiced and masks were in abundance.
While the event began at 9:00 am, I arrived for the marquee matchup between Yard’s 16U squad and the K-Low 16U team sponsored by Adidas. The game got underway around 3:45 pm. Once could clearly see the kids were excited to be playing. They were happy to be in uniform and under the lights. Of course, both team looked the part… The gear, as usual, was on point.
The basketball, on the other hand, was a little uneven. One could tell the kids hadn’t played together that much. The timing was just a little off.
Individually though, Philly Pride is loaded on both the 16U and 17U teams. Every kid fortunate enough to wear the Philly Pride uniform on their national teams this summer is a bona fide Division 1 prospect. Philly Pride has a little something for programs at every level from the high majors down through the low majors.
Looking for poised, controlled, cerebral point guards? The Philly Pride 16 crew has two, Mark Butler and Dylan Blair. These guys play a controlled floor game that belies their youth. Need a big, strong, bruising big man, Mike Walz is your guy. Want some athletic wings and stretch 4’s? Al Amaoudu, Gabe Moss and Dan Skillings fit the bill. In the market for a smooth, athletic shooting guard with a silky stroke from deep? Take a hard look at Khalil Farmer.
If you have more immediate pressing needs and want to focus on the Class of 2021, the Philly Pride 17U crew is one of the finest grassroots/AAU clubs in the nation. Indeed, this team won the UUA 16U National Championship last summer after being ranked number 1 in the nation for most of that season. They are led by the UUA 16U MVP from last year, Stevie Mitchell. A high major point guard, Mitchell will formally make his commitment announcement next Wednesday. It has been widely speculated in various media outlets that he is headed to Marquette to play in the Big East Conference.
Playing alongside Mitchell, is Ed Holland. Holland is a 6’6 wing with range that extends well beyond the college three-point line. Like Mitchell, Holland is also a highly intelligent young man with multiple Ivy League programs vying for his services. Yale, Penn, Columbia and Princeton are prominent among the 20 or D1 offers Holland has received thus far.
If Mitchell is the engine that makes this club run, Rahdir Hicks is the transmission. Yet another in a seemingly endless line of Coatesville guards, Hicks has an incredible feel for the game. His childhood friends and teammates include AJ Hoggard (Michigan State), Jhamir Brickus (La Salle), Duece Turner (Bucknell) and Dapree Bryant (Villanova Football). Hicks is carrying the tradition this year and it’s in good hands. He effortlessly changes paces. Hicks is able to probe and penetrate at will. He makes ball handlers extremely uncomfortable on the defensive end. He will likely end up at a mid-major program and be given the keys shortly after unpacking his bags.
Zach Hicks is a long 6’8 slender shooter. He has drawn attention from SEC, American and A10 programs and it’s say to understand why. He’s capable of creating space for his shot using 2-3 dribble pull-ups, step-backs and in and out dribbles.
One of the most intriguing prospects in the region is Christian Tomasco. Coming in at 6’9, he has excellent length. His dexterity and athleticism are surprising for a kid his size. Tomasco consistently outruns opposing bigs. His teammates look for him on the wing and he able to catch the ball take a few dribbles and aggressively attack the rim. In a half court setting, he displays a nice touch that extends beyond the three point line. While his frame is slight, he’s a willing post defender with very good instincts. He will team with Aaron Lemon-Warren to give Archbishop Ryan a very formidable front court. Ivy, Patriot and CAA league schools will be taking a hard look at Tomasco once the NCAA allows them off campus.
With very few fans, temperature checks and only one court in play, today’s event was unlike the typical grassroots/AAU get together.
That’s a good thing… This is far from a typical summer…
I respect Kamal Yard for giving the kids a chance to put on uniforms and run up and down the court.
Coaches… If you want to see exclusive video of today’s action, hit up Kamal. I pretty sure y’all can work something out.