What's So Bad About AAU Anyway?

Its time to get on the AAU train – if it hasn't already left the station.

Georgia isn't getting top recruits from this state (or any state for that matter) because its ties to AAU teams in the state have not been formed in a concrete way according to those behind the scenes.

The truth hurts.

So does watching every top-level player in the state (save Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who Mark Fox and company should be given tremendous credit for signing last year) not sign with Georgia.

In a way, Fox and company signed Caldwell-Pope a year ahead of schedule. Fox had only completed two seasons in Athens – and getting Caldwell-Pope was a very good sign.

But signing one All-American does not make a conference-winning basketball team. And not signing Tony Parker, a player Fox has had three years to recruit, is a stinging indictment of the way the Bulldogs are recruiting right now… and no one is happy about it. That's why a critical question needs to be asked:

If the players are in the AAU circuit anyway, what's so bad about having ties with an AAU program?

Maybe I'm wrong (and the last two decades of Georgia basketball proves I'm not), but signing top-level talent from Georgia is the only way for the Georgia Bulldogs to win. The "Georgia" brand name doesn't extend past this state's border at this time.

Top-level talent in this state (and every state) plays AAU basketball, and Georgia needs to figure out how to be very good at recruiting the AAU circuit. You recruit in the AAU world because that's where the kids are - not because you are endorsing some fictional or non-fictional stories about how "bad" AAU is.

Something needs to tie Georgia to the AAU circuit in Atlanta, and right now that something doesn't exist. Keep in mind that many AAU organizations start playing in sixth grade – three years before players are eligible to even be recruited by colleges. So there can't really be any mystery as to why AAU organizations have such clout with their own kids.

That tie is most certainly not Korey McCray, who will now do his very best to yank every top player out of Atlanta to bring them to UCLA… and he's going to be very good at it when he wants to.

After all, there are no borders in the world of basketball – only longer rides home. AAU provides seemingly unlimited travel, so growing up in Atlanta and playing in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Ohio, Arkansas and tons of places in between is pretty much what AAU kids call "summer".

You see Korey is very, very smart, and he understands the world of AAU.

I can't remember the first time I met Korey, but I was no older than 14, and he was about 13ish. Korey and I both played in the Atlanta Celtics organization. We crossed paths often because in those days the Celtics organization often played all age groups in tournaments around the country (Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta – wherever).

Everyone playing with the Celtics loved Atlanta, and we all loved to win. Often our teams would punish foes (I remember a summer where we only lost four times out of 60 or so games), and we'd watch as Korey and company did the same thing. AAU was something else back then, and it's not too different now.

Korey has lived in the AAU world – either playing it, running it or coaching it – for over 20 years. He understands recruiting because you have to recruit kids to play on your AAU team to begin with.

Guys like Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Josh Smith and Dwight Howard didn't just lace up Adidas shoes and magically run onto the court for the Celtics – someone had to get them on the team first, and often that was Korey or his father Karl, who won an AAU national title in 1993.

I was there at the beginning of the Atlanta Celtics. I saw in a behind-the-scenes manner how no one in the Celtics organization really thought about Georgia in any way. They didn't necessarily think badly of Georgia… they just didn't think of it at all. I still remember that very clearly, and that's why it was no surprise to me that Tony Parker picked UCLA, where Korey works now, over Georgia and other schools.

Parker, who is also very, very smart, gave Georgia a long look and decided that he'd rather play across the country than with two of his teammates less than an hour and a half up the road.

Why is that?

That's an answer Georgia must figure out and soon. But my guess is that it has something to do with living in the AAU world.

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