"I think I played OK this weekend, but it could have been better," said Andre Dawkins. "I think we started to come together as a team as we got more time on the court together."
Indeed his Boo Williams team began to find their rhythm as the event wore on as they began to dispatch their opponents in an almost methodical fashion. Certainly recruiting fans know that AAU teams often assemble a ton of talent, but that's not always conducive towards winning.
"It's definitely different from the high school environment where you're with your teammates every day during the season. With AAU you are really just using game situations to learn one another's games. The more games you play, the better and better your team gets. [In our case] we had a chance to practice for a few weeks before our first event, but usually we just travel and play. We may get a chance to practice the night before an event, but not always."
With such a disjointed practice schedule - a marked departure from the rigors of the high school season - it's a wonder that any team finds any semblance of unity in the early events. However, the Boo Williams squad benefits from veterans of the process, like Dawkins.
"We've all done [the AAU circuit] for years, so we kind of know what to expect this time of year. We learn to make adjustments on the fly and we've been fortunate to play with each other enough to have an idea. One thing we have develop is the understanding that we need to come out early and establish ourselves. Once we do that, we'll be really good."
That the team will be a force on the circuit is hardly news. But, without the chance to develop as a traditional team might, the responsibility to improve individually lies solely with each player. That's something that suits Dawkins' work ethic well. Ever cognizant of the finer points in his game, the Duke bound guard can be found most any day of the week in a gym preparing to take the next step.
"My dad and I get in the gym and we have a routine. Not something that's the same every time, just a schedule. We work on things like shooting, ball handling, and passing. Then we may do some resistance stuff. It's always something."
Such a varied training schedule probably goes back to a self-scouting report provided by Dawkins. When asked what he needed to improve in his game the answer is simple: "Everything". As is the reasoning:
"If you are satisfied with one part and you stop working on it to focus on other things, then that will eventually become your weakness. My goal is just to become a more and more complete player."
Eventually he will take that work ethic to Durham to play for Duke. But, as with most future Blue Devils, Dawkins could very well have a proverbial target on his back as he takes the floor on the various AAU and High School floors. So, has any of that extra attention from opponents been felt to date?
"I think it's like that for anyone committed to any school. Guys are coming out and trying to make a name for themselves against you. But I feel like I'm still the one with something to prove. I am still going after guys. I see guys rated ahead of me and that gives me some motivation. It's not my only motivation - obviously - but it's something I use. But, I'm driven to get better regardless of that kind of thing."
Currently rated as a top 25 player and a five star prospect by Scout.com, Dawkins is in a position where a strong summer and senior year will likely result in an invitation to the 2010 McDonald's All-American game - something he admits is a goal.
"It's certainly a goal of mine, because it shows that you're one of the better players out there. If it happens that would be great, but overall I am just grateful for what's happened so far, and I'm just going to continue to try and improve and let things happen."
More immediate goals include helping guide his AAU team to strong performances at Peach Jam, and the Nike Memorial Day event. Individually Dawkins will camp at the NBA Top 100 Camp; the Lebron James Camp; and the Pierce Camp. All of this while matching up with the top players in the country and staying in contact with the Duke coaching staff as much as possible.
"I try to follow [the program] on the Internet and TV as much as possible. Every now and then I'll call the coaches just to catch up or they'll touch base with me. I think I am going to officially visit Duke during the season with Tyler [Thornton] and Josh [Hairston]. We're all really excited about getting there together."
Before that, however, there's a bit of unfinished business on the high school level.
"We've made the Final Four in the State Championship every year, but we've never won it. It's like there's something missing for me there. I really want to win a state championship. That's the missing piece."