This summer, however, Elfrid Payton Elite did the deed, collecting enough college-bound prospects and jelling in time to make the prestigious Peach Jam tournament.
The Peach Jam, which will run July 15-19 in North Augusta, SC, is widely considered the mecca of AAU summer basketball. It's the culmination of Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) summer season, and only the top 24 teams on the circuit make the cut.
Elfrid Payton Elite finished 10-7 through previous tournament stops in Hampton, Va.; Lexington, Ky.; Houston, Tx.; and Minneapolis, Mn. That placed the Louisiana-based team high enough in its division to move on to the Peach Jam.
The accomplishment is not lost on the man whose name appears on the team's jerseys.
"I’m really proud of them, especially being their first year," Payton told TSD's Ben Love in a recent interview. "Not many teams, if any, have made the Peach Jam their first year. I’m proud."
The Orlando Magic All-Rookie point guard and former Louisiana-Lafayette star felt he had to get involved in youth basketball, providing opportunities he knows not all talented young ballplayers have.
"What motivated me to do this was, growing up a lot of kids don’t get that exposure to play in front of college coaches, whether it be because of money or just not being able to get to those tournaments where coaches are at, things like that," explained Payton, who played his prep ball at John Ehret High School in Marrero. "So that’s something I wanted to help with, to help put guys on a stage to help showcase their talents."
---------------------------Payton, the benefactor, has done just that.
Several of the team's most noteworthy players were already known commodities in recruiting circles, namely 2016 guard DeJon Jarreau, 2017 guard Brandon Rachal and 2018 super-recruit JaVonte Smart.
But, after a summer of competing at a high level, those three have exploded even more while a number of relatively fresh faces have put themselves on the map.
Jarreau's high school teammate at McDonogh 35, forward Brison Gresham, is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the nation. The senior-to-be over this summer has collected offers from, among others, Florida, Georgia, Texas and USC.
Scholarship offers and interest from colleges have continued to escalate for others, too, including Rachal, who played in all 17 EYBL games this summer and led the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg) as a 6-foot-5 guard.
Smart, routinely two years younger than most of his opposition, has soared as well, earning an invite last month to Team USA's upcoming U16 Training Camp.
They'll all be on display when the Peach Jam tips off in mid-July. For the state of Louisiana, given the fractured state of summer ball in recent years, that's a welcomed sight.