The 2003 basketball recruiting season is now in full swing, and we're right in the thick of an April evaluation period that has coaches out on the road watching sanctioned tournaments. But even past that period, the sequence of spring and summer AAU tournaments will be zooming along in fifth gear. The Charlie Weber Invitational, Houston Kingwood Classic, Spiece Run 'N Slam, Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, Nike Hoop Jamboree, Nike All-American Camp, Adidas ABCD camp, Nike Peach Jam, Adidas Big Time... and countless others. These events are when a lot of kids get noticed, and "blow up" onto a more national recruiting scene. Two summers ago, Rob Little jumped from relative obscurity to a top 100 player. Last summer Matt Haryasz exploded in a very similar fashion. So while many Booties are focused on the David Padgett's and Omar Wilkes' of the world, we know there are many other important recruits out there of critical importance to Stanford basketball - now or in the months ahead.
I was able to attend two tournaments in Las Vegas this past weekend, which put together almost equaled the presence of a 'Big Time' tournament. I was able to watch several key Stanford recruits play several times each, and garnered interviews with them as well. I'll be bringing you them over the next couple of weeks. First, here is a little context to the tournaments:
The larger of the two tournaments was run by the Pump brothers - aka Double Pump, Inc. It featured 64 teams from the Western U.S., stretching from California to Washington to Wisconsin to Texas to Arizona. Most teams were AAU clubs, but a few are simply high school teams that continue to play and travel through the off-season. One such prominent example would be the Villa Park Spartans, which ostensibly carries their underclass roster on the road, from juniors on down to a freshman. The Villa Park junior Stanford fans best know is of course Sean Phaler, who tied with Dan Grunfeld last summer for the highest scoring game in the entire Big Time tournament - 45 points. The event was played over three days in three high schools and a total of six gyms. The Pumps had some five teams competing, including the famous Pump 'N Run team that arguably was the most talented in the entire tournament.
The smaller of the two tournaments was run by Dinos Trigonis, who runs the FullCourt Press club events. It featured 32 teams, though amusingly some of them were entrants in both tournaments. Villa Park was another example there, giving them an exceedingly hectic schedule running back and forth between the two tournaments... not to mention the overload of games to play. Dinos also had two of his Belmont Shore teams competing.
Amusingly, the Pumps had a team in the final of their tournament, and both Belmont Shore clubs played each other in the championship game of Dinos' tournament. The Pump team in that final was not the Pump 'N Run team, though; they lost at the wire to Villa Park in their second game of the tournament and were knocked out. To better describe the talent of the Pumps consider some of the names on the roster: Omar Wilkes, Mikel Watson, Trevor Ariza, Martin Iti, Devon Evertson and David Padgett. The killer for the Pumps was that Padgett decided not to play, as he is still rehab'ing from his knee injury. And the killer for those who wanted to see them play deep into the tournament was the structure of the bracket, which forced you out if you lost after your first game. Unlike other events with pool play, a slim 2-point loss and 2-1 record in their first three games sent them packing. The Double Pump All-Stars, which featured Deon Cook and Leon Powe, were the Pump squad that advanced to Sunday's final, where they played the SoCal All-Stars, a well-known LA Nike club. You may remember the edition two summers ago, which featured Josh Childress, Jamal Sampson, Cedric Bozeman and more. They actually had two clubs, with the #1 team featuring Rayshawn Reed, Marcus Williams, David Burgess and Mohamed Abukar. The younger Childress, Jeff, played for the #2 team. SCA #1 defeated the Double Pumps in an entertaining final. The final in Dinos' event pitted the main Belmont Shore team versus Belmont Shore Black. The former featured Harrison Schaen, who missed free throws to win it in the final second of regulation, though they easily claimed the overtime and tournament championship.
Since these tournaments were both properly sanctioned, college coaches were at every game. Stanford was represented by Eric Reveno and Tony Fuller the first two days, while Russell Turner was in town the third. The "name" head coaches were Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Mike Davis. Duke had Wojo and Chris Collins there; Arizona had the thereafter-departed Jay John there; Oregon had Scott Duncan; and UCLA had Gerald Madkins and Patrick Sandle. Assistants represented just about every major D-I program in the country. Even the Ivies were out in force, and you knew you had a good kid with grades on the court when Princeton, Penn, Yale, Cornell and Harvard were in the bleachers.
The job of these coaches is tricky, more so than you think. They're there to evaluate talents, hoping to find the next emerging talent like Matt Haryasz, but also find themselves "babysitting" the bluechip recruits at the top of their radar. The balancing act isn't easy, and several coaches find themselves doing much more "babysitting" than scouting.
Now that you have a little more flavor about the events, and how these events go... it's time to start talking recruits. I'll be bringing you the latest from David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Sean Phaler, Harrison Schaen, Ryan Appleby and more. Additionally, you'll want to make sure you read what Tracy Pierson and Greg Hicks from PrepWestHoops had to say about the recruits. These guys are the real deal when it comes to West coast recruiting, and you're missing out on their top notch work if you don't have a subscription to the Recruiting Pass...
Additionally, there was hot hoops action this past weekend on the East Coast, at the Boo Williams Invitational. This was not sanctioned for coaches to attend, so both recruiting junkies and college staffs alike were dependent upon the likes of Dave Telep to get the good word. You certainly don't want to miss his updates on the important Stanford recruits back East, again accessible if you have a subscription to the Recruiting Pass...