However, viewing the games and taking notes is only a part of the experience at AAU tournaments like the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. Interaction with coaches, players, recruiting gurus, casual fans, and the media is what makes these tournaments "complete." Not only are you making your own observations from watching kids play, but you hear what others have to say. And that's one thing we can guarantee… those in attendance always have something to say.
While watching N.C. State targets Jose Garcia and Gavin Grant go head-to-head in Durham, a young man, Kenneth Gillion, sat down beside us and began to take notes on the game. We started a conversation with him and found out that he owned a recruiting magazine and website based in Florida called Breakdown Magazine.
After informing him that we were there for StateFans, he asked us if we had seen Wolfpack signee Mike O'Donnell play. Gillion is also in charge of putting together and running the Florida/Georgia All-Star game every year (the same game O'Donnell was Co-MVP), and he said that he was very impressed with Mike's play. The only question we had to ask was if he thought Mike could play in the ACC. He mentioned that before the game, he didn't think so. He said that he had seen him play against mediocre competition and perform well, but he didn't think that he could do it against the top players. But after watching him in the All-Star game, he felt that this kid could play with anybody in the country. He told us that he was more athletic than you would think, is very quick, can shoot the hell out of the ball, and is a very smart player. He said that we should be happy as Wolfpack fans to have Mike… after that conversation we were.
We did manage to meet a bonafide NBA "celebrity," if you want to call it that. As we were packing up after the Garcia/Grant duel, Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders walks into the Wilson Recreation Center at Duke. We didn't know if he wanted to be bothered because he was there watching his son play for the Minnesota Magic, but we approached him anyways. Coach Saunders was laid-back and a personable man. Our conversation was as casual as it could be. Most of the dialogue consisted of him telling us how terrible the Magic AAU team was. He informed us that their best player was injured and that they've basically been blown out of all their games so far. He took pictures with us and even asked for the StateFans website address so he could check it out. We walked away with a lot of respect for Coach Flip Saunders after that encounter.
After leaving Durham, we headed over to Chapel Hill to watch J.R. Smith and Dwight Howard play in the Dean Dome. After settling down in front of both courts, we started a conversation with an NBA scout (who wanted to remain anonymous) who was there to watch the high school talents. Naturally, we mentioned to him about StateFans and he immediately spit out the name "Josh Powell." His opinion, and what he said was the general belief among those in his profession, was that Josh would be making a terrible decision to come out this year. The consensus among those "in the know" was that it would be in his best interests to stay in school at least another year.
However, he did say that he had "heard" the Boston Celtics were "in love" with Powell. "Are they 'in love' with him enough to take him in the first round?" He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Remember, Boston has the 20th pick in the draft and they do not have a 2nd round pick. NBAdraft.net actually has them taking a 7-foot-4 Russian center in their mock draft, and isn't the 20th pick too high to take a risk on Josh? StateFans should have a more in-depth article on this situation coming up soon. Stay tuned for that one...
We came into the Tournament of Champions expecting to do nothing but watch basketball, but were surprised at all of the information floating around the venues. In the end, why should we be surprised? Because one thing's a certainty... those in attendance always have something to say.