Summer basketball programs have been rapidly growing in popularity over the last several years. Whether they are AAU, club or summer high school teams, these programs give young players the opportunity to improve their skills and play against stronger competition. These programs also provide kids the opportunity to play in front of college basketball coaches from around the country, giving them a greater chance to earn scholarships.
Many high school basketball players have received college scholarships they might not have gotten had it not been for the advantage of playing summer ball. However, these kids are not the only ones who gain an advantage. College basketball coaches flock to summer tournaments trying to discover hidden gems amongst the players, but also to gain advantages in the all important recruiting wars.
Due to NCAA regulations, schools are limited to a small number of coaches so many aspiring coaches start their careers with miscellaneous "non-coaching" positions in the college ranks. Summer programs can provide an opportunity for these young coaches to gain valuable experience, as they feel they can get the extra advantage they need to take the next step in moving up in the coaching ranks.
Most coaches involved in the summer programs do their best to coach and teach these kids, and many also offer to help steer these kids through the hectic recruiting process in an unbiased and objective manner. However, a new summer program has been formed that may change that structure.
The "Wisconsin Swing" is an upstart AAU program created by Dana MacKenzie that will be coached by Will Ryan, son of University of Wisconsin basketball head coach Bo Ryan. Will Ryan is also the video coordinator for the Badger basketball program, MacKenzie played college basketball for Ryan at UW-Platteville. The name "Wisconsin Swing" comes from the offensive system that Bo Ryan's University of Wisconsin basketball team uses. The Swing has already put their gears in motion as they have been actively recruiting players to join their team next spring and summer. Many of these kids played for other prominent AAU programs this past summer. The Swing is also on the verge of gaining sponsorship from one of the top shoe companies, something that takes most summer programs years to "earn". It will not be surprising if the team is sponsored by Adidas, the company that sponsors the Wisconsin Badgers.
Will the Wisconsin Swing operate as an independent summer basketball program or will they operate as a "feeder program" to Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badger basketball program?
Will the obvious relationship of this upstart program lead to drastic changes in the way all summer teams operate, enabling them to become affiliated with various schools as designated "feeder programs"?
Will college basketball teams be forced to establish relationships with summer programs or even set up their own summer teams?
The NCAA does not have any involvement in, nor do they regulate the summer basketball programs, but the Wisconsin Swing may be a good reason for that to change.
Note: I edited this story on 1/25/05 to correct an error that failed to report that Dana MacKenzie created the program, not Will Ryan.
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