Going Camping!

Making travel arrangements for July was tough the first few years. Now, it's a snap. Once you get to know the landscape, finding hotels is easy. Making the flight arrangements can be a pain in rump, but not if you fly "triangles" or red-eyes. Ah, July. I can't wait.

BCH Summer Schedule

Remember when you were a kid and your teacher started the first day of class each year with the "What I Did Last Summer" essay? Well, I finally got that one down. Heck, I've been using the same essay for five years as I've been covering the July summer circuit. OK, I did throw myself one curveball. I've never been to the Peach Jam; it just never worked out well for my schedule. But, this year I plan on making it happen.

Raleigh To Indianapolis

Part I – Nike (July 6-9)

A user-friendly Midway flight departs from Raleigh at 12:55 p.m. and drops me at the Indianapolis airport right before 2 p.m. At this point, there isn't a whole lot to do. Check-in with the folks at Nike isn't until later in the afternoon and there is a brief practice session that evening, but overall, no big deal. For the next three days, I can walk from the Marriott to the campus of IUPUI for morning 3-on-3 games and later afternoon and evening sessions of camp. The basketball is big-time and the kids, especially the younger ones, will be stoked because on the 8th the college recruiters will be watching.

Indianapolis To Newark

Part II – adidas ABCD Camp (July 10-11)

It's 5 a.m. in Indianapolis and I just got finished writing an article for BlueChipHoops and The Sporting News. I better hurry up, the Continental flight bound for Newark that I need to be on leaves at 6:55 a.m. Good thing I don't have to return a rental car; don't have one this time.

Normally, I go to adidas Camp first, but not this year. See, adidas concludes a day later so it made sense to hit up Nike first. Also, in going to adidas before Nike, you are forced to miss the final day in Teaneck when adidas plays its all-star games. It's like Christmas in July. I get to see the all-star games for the first time. Cool.

adidas Camp is basically the same as Nike. Sessions start in the early afternoon and then there's a dinner break before the evening sessions kick in. The one major difference between the two is that adidas generally has a few more campers so it's a little tougher to see everyone in a timely fashion. But, if you discipline yourself well enough and your wake-up call at the Hilton Hasbrouk Heights is on time in the morning, you can make it happen. Seeing everyone at least once is the goal and even though I only have two days, I should be able to pull it off. Hopefully.

Newark To Augusta

Part III – Nike Peach Jam (July 12-14)

Unfortunately, I find myself back at the Newark airport, one of my least favorite destinations of the whole trip. If you've ever been to the Newark airport, you know what I'm speaking of. It's 4:30 in the morning and my flight to Atlanta leaves in an hour. From Atlanta, I get on a puddle jumper bound for Augusta.

See, this is unchartered waters for me. I've never been to Augusta, Ga., mainly because it's really hot down there in July and I've never been able to score Masters tickets. I imagine the ride from the Augusta airport is a short one. Apparently, the actual Peach Jam event is in Augusta, but not in Georgia. The Riverview Park Activities Center is in Augusta, S.C., about 20 minutes down the road and that's where they tip it up.

If I hurry, I can catch the first game. There's no time to waste checking into the hotel, that'll have to come later.

The event is a great one, so I've been told. Nike invites its best teams to participate and the result is an event with a high concentration of talent. It's also one of the more prestigious titles on the circuit and the kids are relatively fresh since it's still only their second event of the month.

The Peach Jam ends on the 14th, a Saturday. Gotta have that Saturday night stay to get a good rate on a flight so I don't head back to Raleigh the next morning. What, who booked that 7 a.m. flight? Oops, I did.

Augusta To Raleigh

Part IV: July 15-24 – The Dead Period

As of this writing, I'll be taking advantage of the dead period and won't be traveling. That' s not say there isn't work to be done. Plenty has happened since July 6. Kids have taken their games to another level and others have been just so-so. For the next 9 days, I'll be trying to analyze what's happened since the trip began. It's also a great excuse to sleep in a day or two. See, on the road games usually start early in the morning and end late at night. After that, a daily report must be written and filed for the website. By the time that's complete, it's usually about 2 a.m. and there's time for a few winks before starting all over again. For those who have seen "Ground Hog Day," you can appreciate what I'm talking about.

Raleigh To Las Vegas

Part V – adidas Big Time (July 25-29)

Another user friendly flight, this time on Delta, leaves Raleigh at 1 p.m. and dumps me in Vegas at 5 p.m. It's probably about 115 degrees, but that doesn't matter a whole lot. The only sunshine I'll get in Vegas is the brief walk from my hotel to my rental car and rental car to Durango High School in the morning and vice versa at night. OK, maybe once I'll sneak away and see what's going on at the Hardrock Café. C'mon, wouldn't you?

The Big Time is great. It's loaded with talent and you can sit in one gym and watch most of the tournament from the same seat. Basically, all of the kids at ABCD are on traveling teams at this event, much like the Nike Peach Jam was dotted with kids from their All-American Camp. However, the one great thing about the Big Time is that as the tournament progresses you get to see some teams you normally might not see at major events. There are always new players popping up and once you trim the tournament down from 250 teams to 16, it's a big-time atmosphere with pretty high stakes.

Whew, it's about 11 p.m. on July 29 and the event is over. Time to move onto the AAU Nationals. The Nationals have already started, but that's the nature of the beast: can't be in two places at once. My flight leaves for Orlando in a few minutes. It looks like I'll arrive on the red-eye near Disney at about 6 in the morning. Great, plenty of time to get from the airport to the hotel and finally to Disney's Wide World of Sports for the first game of the morning.

Las Vegas To Orlando

Part VI – AAU Nationals (July 30-Aug. 2)

The AAU Nationals are fun. At the end, an AAU All-American team is named and the championship game is televised on cable in Florida and throughout the southeast region. However, at this point in the summer, the kids are dragging. They've played in multiple cities and there's only so much traveling and playing a body can take in one month. To win this event, a 10-man rotation is almost mandatory. At the end, they give you medals for winning, but they should give the kids a few days at one of the local resorts with a comfortable pillow instead.

The kids go through a lot in July and the early part of August. For some, they play for pride and the chance to cement their reputation as the best. For others, they simply are playing for exposure and the opportunity to snag a scholarship offer from the school of their choice. Some kids simply aren't Division I players and they play for the love of the game. Either way, every one of them is exhausted on Aug. 2.

My schedule contains plenty of early morning flights and red-eye excursions across the country. The good part about is that once I get to a place, I'm there for a few days. Imagine being a college coach and having to be at both Nike and adidas Camp? Imagine having to shuttle back and forth from camp to camp, spending the better part of just one day before getting on a plane bound for another outpost? Trust me, in July these recruiters earn every cent of their paycheck. These guys are on the move all the time. If you are a low-major or mid-major program, you might even have to drive from place to place. That ain't fun at all.

Orlando To Raleigh To Home

On Aug. 2, I get on a flight from Orlando bound for Raleigh. Trust me, as fun as covering this scene is, it's a lot of work and there's no better feeling than the one you get upon completion of the summer recruiting circuit.

In a nutshell, that's how I'll spend my summer. I'll be turning in the same essay next year.


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