By Marcus Shockley
For the last three years, the Triad High School All-Star games have featured some of the top players from the region (boys and girls), and has given some exposure to senior players who have just finished their high school career. The game is held in March, just after the high school season and playoffs have ended.
I can’t take credit for organizing the Triad All-Star games (which are very well-run), but I do submit nominees and have some vote on the players who should attend. I actually vote in more than one all-star game; I have some input into a couple of national all-star games as well. I don’t scout specifically for any game, but since I cover much of the Southeast it folds in well with the players I already am scouting, I support the Triad All-Star event as a way to celebrate the senior players; usually, I’ve been scouting the players in the game for 4 or 5 years already, so it’s great to see them playing their last, or one of their last, high school games as they head into their last semester before graduation and moving on to college.
For me, the All-Star games actually take place right in the ‘middle’ of the scouting year; which brings me to the point of today’s article, which is, from a insider’s perspective, what the yearlong basketball scouting schedule actually is. Basketball is, for me and others who cover/scout/coach the sport, a 365-days-a-year game. Right now the mainstream sports world is readying for baseball postseason action and is square in the middle of the opening month of NFL and college football, and I like those sports, but for me, I’m also watching basketball in gyms. There’s literally never a month where there’s no basketball to watch or cover, which is great if you love the sport but also somewhat unknown to most casual fans.
What I wanted to do today is provide a schedule for parents and players who are wondering how scouts find players, what time of year they scout certain venues, where they look, and what they might be looking for. I can’t speak for all scouts, but bear in mind we all do tend to scout in similar patterns, although the events may be different based on where the scout’s home base is. For me, the scouting ‘year’ actually starts in the fall, but since basketball is ‘year-round’, this is more just how I personally organize my time. Disclaimer: this is primarily just my high school scouting schedule, and doesn’t include college and pro games/combines.
In other words, if you are trying to get scouted, you should be aware of where the scouts are and how you can improve your chances. It actually isn’t enough to just play well in high school in most cases. You have to strategically work on your game, get in AAU reps, individual showcases and rest for the July period. It’s not easy for players; the goal for most players is, get on someone’s radar in early fall, play lights out during the high school year, get on more radars in March, April, May and June (while also improving) and hit July with enough interest that coaches, media and scouts show up and watch you play against top competition.
So with all of that in mind, let’s kick things off:
September-October: Fall Leagues, open gyms and individual showcases. Normally I scout high level fall leagues in Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. This is where I usually first see players who I may scout during the high school season. If you want scouts to see you play, this is a good chance to get into someone’s notebook. Usually if a player looks good in fall league, I will be sure to watch that player if they are at an individual showcase like the Phenom 150 events.
Bear in mind that scouts are not just looking for finished products; we are looking for players who are still developing. Focus on using the fall leagues on getting better and work on your transition offense/defense for showcases. Players tend to think if they score 40 ppg in a showcase it will get them noticed, but as a scout I have to pay attention to rebounds, assists, turn overs, defense…everything. If you are playing in a fall league game and jacking up shots every time you touch the ball, I’m not really going to be impressed. Lebron James in high school? Yeah, I saw him. Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, I saw all of them in high school. Andrew Wiggins? We at Basketball Elite were the first guys to actually interview him on camera, when he was a relative unknown. I’m not trying to impress anyone with this, I’m trying to explain why I’m really not amazed by watching a high school player come down the court with the ball, never look at any of his teammates and plow right into two defenders while the rest of the team just looks on.
Sometimes I won’t mention a player or write about them but I will jot their name down in my notes because I notice they run the offense well or play lock down defense; this is because if I see that player during the high school season and notice him, it won’t be the first time, and that matters. You can’t really scout a player in one game, or in one setting. You’re looking at building an accurate assessment of a player over time.
November-February: High school and private school games. I split my time between high school, college and semi-pro scouting during this time because it’s the most active time of the year with live games being played. I find players during this time but I also work to watch the players I found in the early fall, because I need to see them in organized high school games. It’s at this point that I consider the most valuable scouting; but in many cases I will add/drop players from my notes because I want to know what I am looking for in the AAU season. This is where I also solidify who I am going to vote for in the All-Star games. This time period is also the most difficult, scheduling-wise, because I get dozens of scouting requests each week and most high school games are all played at the same time, on the same days. So I have to choose games close to wherever I am on those days and where I think I can find players. If this sounds hard, it is. People always wonder why ‘no scouts or colleges ever come to our games’ and this is why. The reality is that if even if you can scout 3 games in a single week, which three games are you going to pick? One in Washington DC, one in Florida, and one in Kansas, on the off chance you might find a prospect? Not really possible or even reasonable. This is also why more scouts show up at holiday tournaments, because we can watch 5-6 games (which is 10-12 teams) in a single day. While high school games may be the most valuable for evaluation, they are also the most difficult to see. Inside note: this means that when a college coach shows up at a high school game, they are probably already recruiting someone in the game. They usually aren’t there to find players, although it happens sometimes.
March:High school playoffs, all-star games, individual showcases. By this time, I’m pretty familiar with most, or all of the players when I see them at high profile events like the NC Top 80. Last year, we also broadcast several of the games for the NC Top 80 online. There are also conflicts during this time because of the NCAA tournament games.
April-May: AAU games. Here I may find players but normally what I am looking for is seeing the players I watched during high school in different conditions; I also get a chance to see players from other regions that I may not have been able to watch during the high school season. If I watch an AAU tournament in Atlanta, I may see teams I am familiar with from NC taking on teams from Texas, Florida, or Gerogia and that gives me a wider scouting reach as well as being able to compare players I am more knowledgeable about going against national competition. This is also where I solidify who I want to watch during the July live period and it’s where I really start looking for players who may be under the radar and who I would like to attend my Southeast Summer Showcase, normally held in June.
June: Southeast Summer Showcase (which I organize), NBA Top 100 camp, and usually I hit a couple of elite camps like Wake Forest, Chris Paul’s elite guard camp or another one if I can find it. With the showcase, I normally like to bring in some solid talent, some players who college coaches know about but then I like to bring in as many under-the-radar players as I can, so that they can show if they can compete against the ‘name’ players. This has worked well and last year we had more college coaches in the building than ever before, and we have had a lot of Division I talent come through the event during our first four years of operation. Also, hitting up the elite camps usually gives me a chance to see national players from across the country.
July: AAU live period. This is the time where everyone thinks basketball recruiting happens, and a lot of it does happen, from the EYBL circuit (sponsored by Nike), to the Adidas tournaments, to hundreds of other tournaments crammed into about a three week period. This is where I see the most college coaches, the most national players and really get to see top national talent. I do find players in this time but normally this is just an extension of what I’ve already seen; I’m generally looking at match-ups between top players at this point, such as if I’ve seen a regional point guard from Virginia and I want to see how he does against nationally ranked guards on both ends of the floor. This is sort of when ‘everything comes together’ for players, coaches, media and scouts. It’s also incredibly exhausting for everybody.
August: Most scouts ease off in August and there is very little coverage…except for USA Basketball, which plays internationally. This year, the USA team played in the FIBA World Cup in Spain and was covered by our own James Blackburn.
And then it’s September, and we do it all over again.