Traveling team or "AAU" basketball is a fixture in the culture of the grassroots basketball scene. Each year after the Final Four, teams hit the road for statewide, regional and national competition. To better understand the role of "AAU" basketball in recruiting, we offer this question and answer session.
What is "AAU" or traveling team basketball?
Traveling team basketball is commonly referred to as "AAU" basketball because in theory, the Amateur Athletic Union is the umbrella for post high school basketball play. In reality, "AAU" is merely a metaphor for spring, summer or traveling team basketball.
AAU teams are registered with the national office of the Amateur Athletic Union and subject to rules and regulations. When a tournament is not AAU sanctioned, then it is considered to be a traveling team event. Traveling teams don't have be registered with AAU and currently have no governing body.
The traveling team allows the very best players from a certain area to band together and compete as a unit. It's an all-star team by nature. Often times there are tryouts for the team but for the most part, players are recruited to play by the coach or director of the program.
Why is it important?
The traveling team often participates in events outside of their home area. There are large national and regional tournaments in which the best players in the country get a chance to test their skills against players they normally might not be able to play against.
Kids are given an opportunity at different times of the year to play in these big events with hundreds of college coaches in the stands. A good traveling team can provide maximum exposure for a player. A good performance at a major national tournament not only can earn a player a scholarship but it raises his national profile which can lead to participation in post season events and give him confidence for the upcoming high school season.
Lastly, you get better by playing against the best and traveling team ball provides kids with an opportunity to measure themselves against elite competition while gaining exposure.
Who plays on the teams?
For the most part, teams are made up of the best players from a certain area. In some instances, players come from around the country to play for a team. If the team is a registered AAU team playing in a certified AAU event, then the players must come from the AAU team's region. AAU teams are permitted to have 3 players from adjoining states play on their roster. By contrast, traveling teams can have players from anywhere in the country on their roster but commonly have a high number of in-staters.
When an event is sanctioned by the NCAA, then a new set of rules dealing with distance and player restrictions comes into play.
How are teams picked?
Most teams are selected by the coach of the team who will go out and watch the players with their high school teams. At that point, the coach will often recruit players to participate in his program. There can be tryouts or players can contact teams seeking a spot on the roster.
When does the season begin?
The first event this year is the same weekend as the Final Four. The unofficial beginning of the traveling team season is the first weekend in April. The month of April is an extremely busy month with a handful of events that are even certified for college coaches to attend. May has many tournaments – though colleges coaches can't watch – while the action becomes more camp oriented in June before picking up to its apex in July, the busiest month of the calendar. Events will typically run through September but slow considerably after August 1.
Will the Insiders.com cover these events?
Absolutely. This network will have a presence at nearly every major event in the next 6 months. Our team will be out every weekend during the month of April covering events and the coverage won't slow down until August. We'll report scores and who wins events but our focus will directed squarely at the players participating in the events as they drive our coverage.
Where can I see one of these major events?
April: Hampton, Va., Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Houston; Ft. Wayne, Ind., Austin, Tex. May: Chapel Hill, N.C., Ft. Wayne, Ind., New Orleans. June: Bronx, N.Y., Portland, Ore., Atlanta. July: Houston, Orlando, Augusta, S.C., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New York.