Zach Levine Dunk All-Star

NBA All Star 2017

Has the NBA All-Star Game become kind of a joke? Yeah, well, of course it is – that’s not new information to anyone. It’s not the downright laughable embarrassment that calls itself the Pro Bowl, but the time when the talent of the East suited up to take on the talent of the West has definitely faded. The game began to first lose it’s luster as true free agency became a real thing, now that players often move between teams more often. I have long considered the NBA All-Star game to be the least credible because of fan voting – players who are well past their prime have been consistently voted into the game in years past simply because of name recognition or fan loyalty. And while none of the All-Star games in the major sports is really a ‘must see’ event, the recent changes to the NHL hockey all-star event really set a new bar in a better way to showcase talent for the fans.

So recently, inspired by the NHL’s 3-on-3 changes, James Blackburn and I grabbed a bite at a local pizza joint and devised a new method for making the NBA All-Star game competitive, watchable and fun. Fueled by too much Italian food, arrogance and chutzpah, we offer this plan to Adam Silver freely to take and implement immediately. However, as a disclaimer, we explicitly do not offer this plan to David Stern.

Step 1: Let the fans pick 24 players – 12 from each conference. Now, I know I said that I didn’t like fan voting, but just bear with me until later.

Step 2: Coaches/Voting Media, etc pick another 24 players. Now, I know your inner sports purist is probably freaking out a little about this, but again, stick with me for a few minutes. Yes, right now you have 48 names – which is a lot – but consider these your ‘All-Star Nominees’, not the actual rosters. Is it an honor just to be nominated? Of course it is, but let’s table that discussion for now.

Step 3: Name 6 All-Star Coaches. Pretty easy. You have 6 teams, one for each NBA division.

Step 4: Have a draft. The 6 coaching staffs get a draft order based on the total win percentage. Ties in winning percentage? Go to a coin flip. Come on, this is the All-Star game draft, no need to get too bogged down here.

Coaches draft 6 players each from the pool. So that means a total of 36 players get drafted. 12 players get cut.

Here’s the thing, though: coaches don’t have to stick to a conference. They can draft any player nominated to the game. This pretty much means all of the top players will be drafted first and spread out across the teams. Don’t you want a coach to try and put John Wall on the same team as Kevin Durant? Or put Lebron on the same team as Russell Westbrook?

Step 5: 3 on 3 tournament. Each team has 6 players – 3 starters and 3 coming off of the bench. Set up the tournament however you want – single elimination, win by 2, round-robin – this is pretty much whatever works in the time allotted without the players getting too gassed. James did have one suggestion which would be awesome, though – try to introduce the possibility of overtime and have ‘overtime’ be played 1-on-1 between two players. That makes a soccer shootout at the world cup look like…well, it’s pretty easy to be better than a soccer shootout. You get the idea. Awesomeness!

Step 6 (bonus): Profit. We could have stopped back at step 5, but since the NBA has started putting logos on jerseys, I guess instead of division names for the teams (since the players can be drafted across conference), you can land sponsorship for team names. No, I’m not crazy about watching Team Quaker State take on Team Burger King, but hey, if it gets me loaded teams that probably will never exist in ‘real life’, that works for me.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. He spends his days arguing with old men at local barber shops about who was a better enforcer between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Oakley. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

Steph Curry

Steph Curry

This isn’t new. Every single day, radio personalities, television sports talk hosts and newspaper pundits roll out of bed and have to come up with something to talk about. If there isn’t controversy, it’s hard to be interesting. And thus, we constantly are assaulted by questions about sports that don’t matter.

So, I’ve created a quick guide to answer all of the stupid questions I’ve heard over the past week in the world of basketball. You can read this and then ignore sports radio for a week.

Question: Should Steph Curry be the MVP?

Answer: Yes. And don’t start telling me that he shouldn’t be just because the Warriors can win without him. They could win without Lebron, too. Or KD. Or Westbrook. In fact they already have. They have the best record in all of basketball, ever. EVER. Steph Curry had such an amazing year that EA had to put in a cheat code to make the video game version of Curry as good as real life Curry.

Question: Would the Warriors/Steph be as good if playing in an older era?

Answer: Yes. Would Wilt Chamberlain be as good in the league today? Yes. Would Michael Jordan be great in today’s league? Yes. Considering how few transcendent players come along (like 1 every 30 years), this shouldn’t be a shock. Would young Shaq be great in today’s league? Yes. Would young Shaq have been strong competition for young Wilt Chamberlain? Yes. That’s the great tragedy of sports: we’ll never get to see outside of a simulated reality. When Chamberlain came into the NBA, he was the only 7-footer in the league. But he also moved like Shaq – athletic, quick, good hands, deft scorer. Any team in the NBA would take him #1 in the draft this year. Stop thinking ‘your era’ of basketball was better than the current era. In 20 years there will be fans telling kids that the modern players of that era could never compete against Steph Curry. Just stop already.

Question: Would a great college basketball team beat a weak NBA team?

Answer: No. So what if a college team has 7 or 8 NBA players? NBA teams have 12 NBA players. NBA teams have grown men with experience playing twice as many games in a season with a 24 second shot clock, deeper 3 pointers and more minutes per game.

Question: Should NCAA players get paid?

Answer: Yes, particularly for Power 5 conferences. Smaller schools, not so much. Most colleges actually lose a ton of money on sports and should stop spending so much on them. But for the big guys, it’s a pro league. The NCAA runs a pro league that rakes in money, runs licensing like a pro league, pays its executives like a pro league, and profits like a pro league. The NCAA makes millions more in revenue (and profit) than any minor league in the US and more than the Canadian pro basketball league. And it’s not even close. Yet they don’t pay their players. Legally, the NCAA has lost every challenge to their status, which is amazing considering they have deep pockets to pay high priced attorneys.

Question: Should Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram be the #1 pick?

Answer: As of today (May 12) NOBODY should be considered the #1 pick. The NBA combine starts today. Most players have not even been seriously looked at until today. The draft lottery hasn’t happened. Just because some website has been pumping out predictions and rankings for the past two years, that’s all make believe until the NBA actually starts looking at the players for real. Mock drafts done prior to the lottery selection are barely right – over the past 15 years, they are wrong 30% of the time just in the top 10 – meaning, not only are the selections wrong, but they are wrong about which players are even taken in the first round. Then, players have to go through summer league. Then, even if they play well in summer league, most of them will sit on the bench and barely be heard from. Almost all of the players drafted in the second round will be cut by the start of next season. Predicting the draft this early is just a ratings game, like the made up ‘Bracketology’ nonsense that ESPN pitches every year.

Question: Should Kevin Durant go to the Lakers, Knicks or somewhere he can have a better shot to win a title?

Answer: Kevin Durant’s current team already wins. There are very few teams that are already good enough that adding Durant would put them over the top. Normally in the past the types of moves that create a championship team require multiple players (Miami, Boston). Portland, San Antonio would possibly fit that bill. But so would bringing a superstar to OKC. Honestly, how is this even a question? It’s either going to be a blockbuster deal away from OKC or to OKC. It’s extremely unlikely that it’s going to be KD to a losing team and that’s it. Analysis over.

Question: Are NBA refs worse than they used to be?

Answer: Yes. You can (and should) find time to go watch an NBA game from the 80s. You will notice three major things: 1. Teams can shoot better today, 2. Defense in the 80s wasn’t great either and you’ve been lied to for years and 3. Refs were a lot more accurate. Don’t believe me, just go watch.

Crowdfunding Sports

I’m a big fan of crowdfunded projects – I like the idea and I like that I can help someone create something like a documentary I’d like to see, instead of having to wait for someone to green light it. Okay, I guess that’s a bit self-serving. But I do browse crowdfunding sites quite a bit looking for different interesting projects and often I will throw in a few bucks to try and help the cause.

These projects are sometimes hit-or-miss; if the funding goal isn’t reached, the project might never happen. But often I’ve been able to enjoy awesome results, such as the No Look Pass documentary. I was an early supporter of Vantage Sports and their goal of creating detailed stat tools for basketball, but they just couldn’t get the numbers of backers to fund the project through their initial pitch. Then, of course, there are some that are downright ridiculous, like this one attempting to raise $1.6 billion to buy out Sports Authority. No, I’m not kidding.

So while all projects are only available for funding for a limited time, I thought I’d start posting some of the coolest looking sports related projects for your perusal from time to time. If you like the idea, be sure to donate $5 or $10 to help these projects get off the ground.

1. “What It Takes” – A documentary/series about women working in male dominated sports. The trailer looks well shot although I wish there was a bit more narrative to show the subject’s voices and perspective; however, looking at sports from media other than the cookie-cutter mass production we see from major networks is always interesting.

2. Popup Hotel Suites for Sporting Events & Festivals – this is a great idea which should be taking the world by storm, but with time running out and very little interest, it seems unlikely. The basic idea is this: sporting events such as the Super Bowl or major festivals like Coachella are often limited to locations with enough hotels. However, with popup hotel suites – like the prototype built here by The Rollick Hotel Company, would allow many more fans and geographical locations to host major events. How is this not already a thing?

Pop up hotel suite

3. One for the Team – A great project intended to help kids in impoverished areas around the world by providing used sports equipment. Why this is a cool idea is pretty self-evident, but it’s been proven that sports can help groups avoid physical conflicts; in other words, if two groups can solve their differences in a soccer match, there’s a better chance they won’t resort to violence or war in the future. But that’s just my input – the basic project is focused on kids.

4. Mirage – The World’s First Sports Light-Up Headband – this actually isn’t the first time I’ve seen something similar to this. But honestly, someone needs to make this for all of those early morning runners who are hard to see in the dark – sometimes reflective clothing isn’t enough. This morning I was driving to the gym before sunrise in a driving rain – I’m always worried that I won’t see someone until it’s too late. This might not completely prevent accidents but anything that helps, I’m on board.

5. KUAI: The World’s Smartest Multi-Sport Headphones – This one’s going to happen, or at least, get funded. Which makes sense: WE STILL HAVE NOT SOLVED SPORTS HEADPHONES AS A SPECIES. We landed on the moon, invented electric cars and the computer and we still are looking for some way to keep little speakers in our ears correctly while exercising. This project has a lot of endorsements and tons of interest. I don’t know if it will work, but I’m getting in on this one too.

Basketball Elite Salem City Slam

Salem City Slam

The BasketballElite.com Pro Team for 2016 is coming! Last year our pro team did a little jaunt through Europe and we decided to expand this year by jumping into The Basketball Tournament with a squad repping our home base in North Carolina. Although we cover national events and love basketball from coast to coast we do hail from the #HoopState. Thus, when the TBT modified the rules this year to eliminate some team names (like…’Elite’) we decided to use our headquarters in Winston-Salem as our base.

And thus – the Salem City Slam were born.

We have a strong roster – including former NBA All-Star and Wake Forest alum Josh Howard and Florida State star Mike Joyner – but we’ll need our fans’ help. And the best part? Fans get a cut of the prize money if they jump in and we do win it all.

So here’s what I need you to do: follow me on Twitter @m_shockley, to start. I am the GM of the Salem City Slam and I will be posting a lot of info as we near the time to vote and sign up as a fan. Definitely pay attention over the next two weeks!! I can’t stress this enough. We’ll be releasing our full roster soon and we really need our fans to help us by getting out on Twitter, Intagram, Facebook, Snapchat, everywhere you can to help get the word out.

Oh! And you should sign up for the Basketball Elite mailing list, so you can get updates when we send out more info, links, stuff like that:



Stay Tuned!

Harry Giles EYBL 2015

Hey how about that? We were working so hard in 2015 that when we looked up, we were three weeks into 2016. With last year in the review mirror, I wanted to stop and kick off 2016 with an update on where we are at BasketballElite.com, and what cool things we have coming up – at least the things I can mention so far.

I’m also doing this to give more behind-the-scenes info on covering basketball, scouting, sports business and everything else we are involved in. It’s a lot, and personally, I love it. I’ve been in love with the game of basketball for as long as can remember and I’m really thankful that over the years I’ve been able to become so involved in so many aspects of it.

I’m not going to do a big ‘year-in-review’ here, but I do want to mention that in 2015, we broadcast over 60 games through our sister site NetCastSports.com and we already are ahead of that pace this year. We added the Fab 40 event and that will be coming back, as well. But wait…there’s more!

In 2016 we have some ambitious goals and plans already in motion. The Fab 40 Eastern NC Regional, an invite-only event, is returning for the Spring, and we’re still looking to add a Western and Central NC regional. Our Southeast Summer Showcase will be held for the sixth time this June. We’re also planning on bringing you a ton of showcase/AAU and All-Star broadcasts this March.

We’ll be updating our Coverage Calendar shortly, but we will once again be covering EYBL, Phenom Hoops, Big Shots, On the Radar Hoops and probably add some HoopSeen events for AAU coverage. We’ll be hitting the Dick’s Sporting Goods national high school tournament and likely will be at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn.

And right now we’re still pounding the pavement with our college coverage – over 100 live college games scouted in 2015, but we’ll break that record this year – we love to find the players who aren’t just NBA potential talents but overseas as well.

This year we’re also stepping up our pro game – we already cover the Portsmouth Invitational, NBA Summer League, several of the Vegas combines, the ABA and the NBL-Canada. We’re adding to that: the ECBL has partnered with NetCast Sports to bring several live broadcasts, we’ve already hit several UBA games and the really big news – we are adding a pro travel team again in 2016 for BaskeballElite.com. Last year’s team toured Europe a bit but we’re going even bigger this year with a lot of games in the US. We’ll have more info on the pro team soon – and how some of you can get involved in an awesome way that you’re really going to like. We’ve got a couple of ex-NBA guys already on the roster so you’ll want to stay tuned for this. I’m really excited about this and there’s some more news coming that I wish I could say, but I can’t just yet.

We also will be putting together some pro jamborees in the Spring and maybe even in the summer.

I want your feedback – we want to take you guys with us on this journey, from those hard-to-find high school gyms to the raucous AAU tournaments and the intense NBA summer leagues, we really want to bring you more into the action than ever. If you aren’t following Basketball Elite on Twitter @bball_elite, you need to do it right this second. We’ve also got several scouts to follow: James Blackburn, Charles Clark and Tony Bruton as a start.

Today, I’m heading over to broadcast Calvary Baptist (NC) as they take on The Burlington School. This should be a good match up and we have David Olivera Jr and James Blackburn on the call, and as a bonus, a halftime interview with agent Alex Ihler of HBA.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. He spends his days arguing with old men at local barber shops about who was a better enforcer between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Oakley. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

ShotTracker Splash Klay Thompson

ShotTracker Klay Thompson

Ask any coach which specific talents they could use more of on their teams and getting pure shooters is always something in scarce supply. Even in the NBA, where players are far superior in their shooting touch, the number of pure shooters – guys who can be counted on to ‘almost never miss’ when left open – is surprisingly low. When we get down to the college, high school or grassroots level, the number of shooters plummets. There are more great athletes on basketball teams than great shooters; in many cases there are more players with size on high school or AAU teams than players who can scorch the nets. This is odd, because being a great athlete is partially based on good fortune (and being 6’11” is something no one can just make happen), while being a great shooter is something players can significantly improve on with enough work.

I can’t say I was any better as a young player – if you can beat most players off the dribble from the wing and finish over/around them, it’s hard to want to develop that deep shot. Usually, what happens is that young players don’t realize they actually won’t be able to slash their way against bigger/better teams until they actually play them – there’s nothing like being guarded by a guy who’s two inches taller than you and quicker than you to make you understand the importance of being able to keep them back on their heels more with a deep shooting touch.

Being a programmer I am always quick to look into sports tech – whether it’s data related (yes, I did spend too many hours over the holiday break researching the differences between the Massey Ratings, Wobus and KenPom…but I digress) or hardware, and the truth is, it’s much harder to find good hardware related sports technology. Too many of them fall into ‘gimmick’ territory.

Naturally, I wanted to take a look at ShotTracker, a nifty little package that is marketed as a shooter’s aid, combined with data tracking. It’s got the big name NBA endorsement from Klay Thompson, affectionately known as one-half of Golden State’s ‘Splash Brothers’ duo, but NBA affiliations aside, I wanted to talk with the company as well as delving into the product.

First, let’s talk about the basic package itself: in a nutshell, ShotTracker uses two components: a wrist sensor and a net sensor. The wrist sensor can either fit into a wristband (ShotTracker provides one just for this purpose) but it also is paired up with an app that allows for data collection…and that’s we leave the ‘gadget’ world and start moving over into an actual training tool.

So you’ve got the sensor on the net, and the sensor on your wrist, but things are about to get really clever here: ShotTracker then spends some time getting to know ‘your’ shot. This is important because the app needs to be able to track you, specifically, and many shooters have different releases and movements. Sure, it’s all the same basic idea, but having scouted hundreds of players over the years I can personally tell you watching players’ shooting motions is a big deal. Some guys have crazy quick releases and others cock the ball back to their ear. The ShotTracker sensors not only learn your shot, but they eliminate ‘non-shooting’ motions – dribbling, passing, even shot fakes. If your game is entirely based on taking charges, this app probably won’t help you, but it will let you know that you aren’t a shooter.

Once the app has trained itself to know your shot, then you’re ready to start putting in work for real.

You pair up with the mobile app – the ShotTracker app has two distinct data points which will make you a better shooter: first, it will track your shooting – not just misses and makes, but the location of the shot. Second, it will allow you to run through a specific shooting workout. Yes, even the shooting workout of a famous NBA player who won a title last year. It also tracks when you are working out, too. For you players who are getting up at 5 am to run through shooting drills, your coach could actually see that. It’s also good for players who want to stay committed to a regimen and compete with themselves.

Last summer, ShotTracker ran a ‘virtual camp’ with Klay Thompson, and participants were able to use the workouts he suggested, and follow the exact same shooting regimen he was putting in. They also organized a Klay Thompson pre-season challenge, where shooters were actively competing and posting their scores to see who could top the leaderboard. I love this idea; it immediately made me start thinking about if we could use something similar during our Basketball Elite summer circuit, especially since we are so active with players on social media. Maybe we’ll be able to come up with something. It would be cool to see if we could do something with this during the Triad All-Star game in March, or the NC Top 80, or our Southeast Summer Showcase.

There are some things that ShotTracker currently doesn’t handle: like in-game tracking. As of now, it’s specifically for individual workouts and used best for the type of workout that too many players ignore: shooting drills. I was thinking with a rebounding partner and the ShotTracker app, you could really put up some shots and never think about anything other than your next shot.

ShotTracker’s motto, or at least their unofficial motto is ‘you can’t improve what you don’t measure’. In speaking with the company I was able to get a good sense that even though ShotTracker is already something players should be checking out, they are looking to the future and I’m very interested in what they may be working on next.

We’ll be putting the ShotTracker in the lab in the next few months with our BasketballElite.com pro team (more on that later), so expect some follow up from me on how the app works in a pro training regimen.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. He spends his days arguing with old men at local barber shops about who was a better enforcer between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Oakley. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

Dexter Strickland UNC

Catching up on some NBL action recently, I noticed a couple of familiar names from the ACC on some rosters. here’s some quick notes on former ACC players that are getting pro court time in the Canadian league this season:

Alex Johnson (NC State) Halifax Hurricanes – Johnson played his senior collegiate season for the Wolfpack after transferring from Cal State Bakersfield, suiting up for the 2011-12 ACC season. He played his first pro season in Romania before moving to the Canadian league.

Dexter Strickland (North Carolina) Moncton Miracles – Strickland was a highly touted recruit coming in to UNC, and saw heavy minutes in the rotation even as a freshman. Strickland started for much of his career for the Tar Heels before finishing his collegiate career as a senior in 2013. After stints playing in France and the D-League, he moved to the NBL this season.

Malcolm Grant (Miami) Island Storm – Grant played his freshman college season at Villanova before transferring to Miami, where he started his junior and senior seasons, averaging double figures in scoring. After finishing up his college career in 2012, he played pro ball in Cyprus and Australia before moving to the Canadian league.

Sammy Zeglinski (Virginia) Niagara River Lions – Known as a three point threat during his college days, Zeglinksi ranks fifth in career three-pointers completed. After finishing up in the ACC in 2012, he played in Iceland and Austria prior to the NBL.

The NBL season has tipped in Canada and one of the early title contenders heading into the season are the Saint John Mill Rats, already out to a 2-0 record heading into Wednesday’s match up with the Moncton Miracles, who have had a rough start to the season, winless heading into this game 0-3. Both teams hail from New Brunswick, which borders Maine, and while this was a road game for Moncton, the two cities are only about 90 minutes apart. Saint John has added some new weapons heading into the season to complement 2014-15 league MVP Anthony Anderson, most notably Gabe Freeman, a 6’6″ power forward who also was a former league MVP. Other notable players include Moncton’s Dexter Strickland, who played his collegiate ball at North Carolina, as well as Saint John guard Doug Herring, Jr., who teams up with Anderson to make an All-Star combo. Anthony Anderson basketball

While Saint John relies heavily on small lineups and transition offense from a high-octane backcourt, Moncton’s primary scorer is their big man Shane Burrell, a 6’8″ forward/center who is a banger in the paint.

Early on, Moncton didn’t play like the underdog, exchanging leads with the Mill Rats, but guard Corey Allmond poured in 23 first quarter points to give Saint John a 39-35 edge at the end of the first, including a buzzer-beating deep three ball. However, in the second, Allmond wasn’t able to find that shooting stroke as easily and the back and forth play became a match of specific strengths- Moncton attempting to work the ball inside to Burrell while Saint John looking to run at every chance. The inside game wasn’t consistent in the second quarter, but Moncton’s Anthony Gurley hit two big 3 pointers to keep Moncton close just when Saint John looked to break the game open. None of the speedy guards in the game – Anderson and Herring, Jr. for Saint John and Strickland for Moncton – could get open looks at the basket or effectively slash and score. The Mill Rats like to employ a three guard lineup on the floor quite a bit, but were still able to rebound defensively and looked to start the break. Herring finished the half with a deep three, and coming out of a late time out, Saint John went on a 9-0 run, finishing the first half up 64-54.

The story of the third quarter was the sudden ignition of the Saint John backcourt, with Herring and Anderson suddenly unleashing a torrent of scoring which Moncton could not contend with. The Miracles only consistent offense came from post player Burrell, who did have some success scoring inside and getting himself to the line, even cutting the lead back to 4 points, but the high speed attack of Saint John just quickly became too much for Moncton to handle, quickly running the margin back out to 13 points and never looking back, finishing the 3rd up 91-79, and eventually just maintaining the lead throughout the remainder of the game. The Miracles were able to cut the lead to just 6 before falling, 121-112.

Here are some player notes from the game:

Anthony Anderson (G, 5’11”, Saint John) – Was quiet in the first half, unstoppable in the second. Quick, sure handed dribbler who can slash and score extremely effectively.

Doug Herring, Jr. (G, 6’3″, Saint John) – Like Anderson, heated up in the second half and was pouring in points that Moncton couldn’t adjust to. very good slasher and can pass out of the drive very well; draws the defense to him on slashing plays because of his ability to score.

Anthony Stover (PF/C, 6’11”, Saint John) – A recent addition to the roster, came off of the bench and made an impact in multiple ways; has good length and can score, but really understands how to play within the team concept from the post.

Shane Burrell (PF/C, 6’8″, Moncton) – A power post player who is undersized in some respects, as a below the rim post player, but is a banger and was effective in scoring to keep Moncton in it. Sat for much of the third quarter and conditioning could be an issue.

Dexter Strickland (G, 6’3″, Moncton) – I was interested to see what Strickland would bring to the table in this game, as he played in the ACC, and he did add some scoring from the perimeter; however I still see issues with him at the PG spot – he is much more effective from the SG position and can be turnover prone when playing the 1.

The Basketball Tournament TBT

The Basketball Tournament

For longtime readers of my columns and venomous tweets, you know I pounce on bad business models when it comes to minor league sports, many of which are a complete mess of financial pipe dreams. You might remember I most recently bashed Amerileague and in the past I’ve taken on the ABA and numerous other small time operations. Minor league sports barely work because most of the organizers are thinking they can run off of the same model as major league sports like the NBA without really understanding how the money flows (or, more accurately, does not flow) for unknown sports properties.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about a minor league sports model that works. It’s similar to something I’ve researched for some time, which is basing league games on tournament style play – you are probably familiar with The Basketball Tournament, a winner-take-all cash money tournament in which the final rounds are played on national television. Last year’s champions, the Overseas Elite, took home the million dollar prize, but there’s some big differences between the normal small ball played by most minor leagues and TBT.

So why, when I love to pick the bones of broken leagues and rip apart the financials of so many huckster hoopers would I be on board with a tournament that requires social media support from fans and has no current NBA players? Oh, let me count the ways:

1: The TBT never makes big promises. What’s that, you say? They offered a million dollar prize last year? Yes, they did, but they stated up front that only one team was going to win it. Everyone else was going home empty handed. Any money tournament that is organized, whether it’s 3-on-3 or a full roster deal, is obvious up front: win and get the money, lose and go home. Everyone knows going in (or at least should know) that they are a longshot. Think of it like the NCAA tournament: every single team goes in knowing the odds are against them, and with the exception of the number one seeds, there are no cupcake games. The TBT has tons of pro talent: former NBA players, NBL players, overseas players. The only stipulation is that none of the players can be on current NBA rosters. That means D-League players are good to go as well. The talent level is strong, but usually not famous. In fact, so far in the first two years of the TBT, the teams with the most famous players tend to fall by the wayside.

2: The marketing is not based on the talent. The NBA has been struggling with what happened in the 80’s with Micheal Jordan for thirty years, and only under Adam Silver has their marketing finally been moving in the right direction (although slowly). When Jordan exploded in popularity, he became the biggest draw anyone in sports had ever seen. The NBA was not on par with the NFL or MLB, and the influx of fans to games where Jordan was playing suddenly presented them with a marketing opportunity that they’ve been milking ever since: promoting the players over the teams. The problems with this are that there isn’t another Micheal Jordan and for any player that will bring in fans (like Steph Curry) there are hundreds of talented NBA players that most fans don’t pay much attention to. I’ve talked about this before: the NFL does their marketing based on the team, not the player. Popular players can change teams (like Peyton Manning) but the team loyalty stays rooted in place. That’s not the case in the NBA, where fans followed Lebron from Cleveland to Miami and then back to Cleveland. This is also where most minor leagues trip up: if the NBA can’t get fans interested in watching talented players who aren’t big names, how can a tiny team playing in a small arena, with no TV broadcast deal, expect fans to somehow pay NBA prices? The TBT avoids all that by marketing something else: the tournament. People watch the NCAA tournament often for their favorite team, but March Madness is more about the upsets and shocking losses as it is about the elite high majors. The TBT builds in that tournament feel, and fans who watch are along for the ride.

3: Sponsors and broadcast deals. Everyone wants sponsor money. Every AAU team, every minor league, every fitness coach and every dance squad. The problem is, that’s not how sponsorship works. Sponsorship is really just advertising. Why is an ad in the Super Bowl worth so much money? That’s easy, right? It’s because the audience for that game isn’t just massive – it’s mega-supersized-massive. One ad in the Super Bowl can garner enough attention (if done right) to launch a new product or company into financial prosperity. Sponsoring a tiny AAU tournament with 20 parents in the building isn’t worth that. But the TBT has a TV deal (which they may have financed up front, but that would have been smart) and a built in marketing narrative as we discussed earlier. It made sense for advertisers and sponsors to get on board. The TBT wasn’t marketing that it had some 5-star high school players (no one would care if they weren’t being recruited anymore) and wasn’t dependent on a certain team or player advancing to the title games. Remember when Lebron and Kobe had a huge marketing deal where they were supposed to meet in the Finals (there were puppets, and yeah, it was stuuupid), but it all fell apart when Lebron lost early. Not a problem in the TBT. Whoever wins, wins.

4: Well organized, no lavish spending Minor leagues that are run well (such as the PBL) generally watch expenses carefully and are pretty much bootstrap organizations. Minor leagues that are doomed to fold quickly spend like they are making NBA money. The TBT splits the difference, they are organized without spending lavishly; however the broadcast deals and marketing they have in place have made them more successful than other leagues. The travel is handled with the tournament style play, which is a killer in most minor leagues.

5: Marketing is built in through social media. No, not that pie-in-the-sky corporate buzzword bingo that so many companies think is just somehow supposed to ‘go viral’ without actually knowing what that means – the TBT allows fans to help their teams along the way and some fans actually get a taste of the action. Yes, you read that right.

So, I like the business model of the TBT – it’s not quite to where I think minor league sports could go to be more successful, but it’s solid and it should not be considered in any way similar to the sham leagues that pop up every couple of years. Coming up very soon we’ll start giving some more information about this year’s tournament, including teams to watch, celebrities involved, and even how some fans could get in on the action this year. You’ll want to check back in for that info.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. He spends his days arguing with old men at local barber shops about who was a better enforcer between Bill Laimbeer and Charles Oakley. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

Maverick LaRue of West Forsyth High School

Maverick LaRue West Forsyth High School

Prior to tonight’s game I’d been able to catch up with many of the players in this match up during the Blue Chip Basketball Academy Fall League, although West Forsyth had divided up their players into two squads for that league. Coming into the game both the Titans and the visiting Glenn Bobcats have struggled, although the season is still young. Less than a week prior, West had eked out a close win on Glenn’s home floor, and this time West Forsyth was missing 3 key perimeter players in Cooper LaRue, Darion Slade and Josiah Jenkins. West Head Coach Rusty LaRue expected that with his depleted perimeter game, Glenn’s Monty Gray would employ a lot of zone, and he was correct.

Both teams exchanged leads throughout the game, with Glenn HS taking advantage of lax transition defense and athletic quicks from Josh Daniels and Crishawn Lindsey; West battled back with a one-two punch of KJ Henry on the inside and Darriel Brown on the outside. Neither team could establish control, although West finished the 3rd up 4 with a breakaway dunk from Maverick LaRue. West finally was able to seize a bit of a lead late in the 4th and managed a 4-5 point lead to hold on for the win. Big takeaways on the team level were the major performance from West’s Darriel Brown, yet abysmal team shooting for the Titans from the free throw line. Glenn’s transition defense and disruptive backcourt defense created multiple turnovers which they were able to capitalize on. Below are some of my scouting notes from the game.

Jackson Striplin (SF/PF, 6’7″, ’17) Glenn HS – plays facing the basket and has very good timing on shot blocks. Showed a nice pull up mid range game but also rushed a couple of shots and cocks his shot back a bit much. Slender but has agility and a good frame. Definitely a player who should be continuing to work but should be on area college radars.

Darriel Brown (PG, 6′, ’16) West Forsyth HS – A stellar night for the senior. Has college level quicks and is deadly going to his left hand. Was the big scorer of the night with 37 points, and scored his 1,000th career point during the game. Had several notable big plays, from taking a key charge to grabbing some steals to help keep his team’s lead, but the big number was his shooting from deep: 6 shots from outside the arc to blister the Bobcat zone.

KJ Henry (F, 6’6″, ’18) West Forsyth HS – one of the best forwards in the region, Henry has agile feet and is a very good passer from the post. Isn’t a pure post player but has great hands and touch. Has a physical build and always under control, he still needs to improve finishing through contact, but is definitely one of the more gifted prospects in the area. A reliable scorer with the ball.

Toby Brown (G, 6′, ’17) Glenn HS – big time bounce and timing from the guard position; literally took a couple of rebounds right off the rim and has a strong build. Moves well without the ball.

Maverick LaRue (G/F, 6’5″, ’18) West Forsyth HS – Larue has been known as a sharpshooter with lithe ability in traffic for some time. Tonight his shot was inconsistent but he plays through contact well from the wing and is a pure wing. Plays either the SG or SF spot and at 6’5″ has an ability to get his shot off over smaller high school guards. Did seem to hesitate a bit with his shot; would want him to recognize those smaller guard mismatches and release quickly when the opportunity is there.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase, NetCast Sports Network and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley