Name: Bobby Grubbs
High School: Jacksonville HS
AAU Team: East Coast All-Stars
Recruitment: Catawba Valley CC, St Andrews, Emory & Henry, NC Wesleyan, Randolph College
Projected Level of Play: D2/D3
Bobby is a rising senior that is somewhat under the radar at this point, after a solid Junior Season at Jacksonville HS he had a successful AAU Season with East Coast All-Stars. During the fall he attended the Eastern NC Fab 40 Camp with some of the top players in Eastern NC and was named Camp MVP.
Shooting- Is a knock down shooter from midrange and from the perimeter especially off the catch, has a good idea of what a good shoot and a bad shot is, doesn’t force shots at all. Has good form and lift on his shot which allows him to get his shot off fairly easily regardless of height of an opponent.
Defense & Rebounding- Takes the defensive end of the game seriously, is versatile enough on that end of the floor that he has the ability to switch and guard bigs inside the paint or defend wings. Boxes out just about every time he sees a shot go up which allows him to put himself in great position for rebounds.
Toughness- throughout the summer he dealt with numerous injuries that would have sidelined most players for an extended period of time. However he fought through this injuries and played very well at numerous Team camps and AAU events over the summer, these days it’s rare to see a kid that will play through the pain to see his team succeed.
Areas for Improvement
Athleticism- At the next level at the wing position a large amount of players play above the rim and have a very quick first step, which is an area that we would love to see him add to his game. Even though he is a solid defender on the wing at this point, some more lateral quickness would make him an even better defender at the next level to the point where he could possible even guard PG’s.
Ballhandling- He has made very good progress in this department over the past year but to elevate his stock as a prospect he will need to continue to become better with the ball so that he can possibly handle the ball under heavy defensive pressure at the college level.]]>
Our First time seeing Jimmie Sanders in Action was back at the SEBL Combine prior to his 8th grade year of School. It didn’t take long to see that although he was very young he had a very nice natural feel for the game and his basketball IQ exceeded his age without a doubt. A very quiet and respectful young man, Jimmie has been doing damage on and off the court the past few years at Neuse Charter School in Smithfield, NC. Before we even begin to talk about basketball we have to note that Jimmie is a stellar student and sports a very impressive 4.1 GPA, We always love to see a player that can excel in the classroom and truly wants to be a student athlete. His Freshman year he took on more of a facilitating role as he played along the side of his brother Jourdan Sanders, who is now playing his Freshman Season at St Andrew University. Once Jimmie’s sophomore season began he took on more of a leadership role and picked up the scoring load for his squad. Although many people in the recruiting world did not hear a ton about him he clearly had an outstanding year putting up 23.4 Points and 6 Assist Per game while leading his squad to a winning season record wise. Of course at his size there was still question marks about whether or not he could perform at a high level against some of the better guards in the state, which leads us to 2015 NC Top 80 Camp in Greensboro NC. Jimmie played very well throughout the camp and finished #1 in Assist out of all players that attended, he got after it on both ends of the floor and clearly answered the question about his ability to play with other top guards in the state. As his junior year has begun he has picked up right where he left off last season and over the summer, in his first two games he has gone for 28 Points each and in the second game, surpassed the 1,000 Point mark for his career. This is a very impressive accomplishment for any player but especially for a young man who still has almost two full years of High School basketball left. Even though he has received some College interest, he is still very much under the radar and should be one that college coaches keep a close eye on. He has added some more muscle to his frame and even looks as if he has grown a few inches as well, we look forward to watching Jimmie this season and we feel that college coaches should do the same.
By James Blackburn
Dozens of college coaches from all 3 levels of NCAA packed Proehlific Park on Saturday to watch over 30 HS teams compete on 3 courts. The games were competitive and there was a plethora of talent on hand.
I tried to watch as many teams as I could while there for over 7 hours. Below I have included my reports on players organized by high school in alphabetical order.
Cameron Easter (2016, 6’6″, F)
Easter is a versatile and athletic wing who’s full arsenal was on display on Saturday. He can shoot it from the perimeter and finish above the rim on drives. He should see his recruitment increase after his performance.
Jairus Hamilton (2018, 6’8″, F)
Although he was the tallest and strongest player on the team, Hamilton played mostly point- forward today. He showed the ability to handle the ball, break down the defense, and kick to open shooters on the perimeter. He needs to continue to improve his body language and his effort on the defensive side of the ball. He didnt show the ability to knock down many perimeter shots, instead electing to attack the rim.
BJ Mack (2019, 6’8″, F)
Mack isnt afraid to do the dirty work and embraces contact and inside play. He has a strong frame and can play with his back to the basket. Mack projects as a HM prospect.
Rechon Black (2018, 6’6″, PG)
Black was another big PG I saw today. Not sure if this will remain his primary position going forward, but he did a good job of dribbling with his head up and getting to the FT line at a high rate. He is long and athletic and can hit open 3’s. Needs to continue to get stronger, but is tracking as a HM prospect.
Ray Kowolski (2016, 6’2″, G)
Ray plays with a lot of confidence and was one of the best shooters I saw today. He is patient with the ball and utilizes ball fakes. Strong. He has committed to SE Missouri.
Jamari Benjamin/Nyheem Atkins (2016, 6’9″)
I didnt get to watch these twin towers play for very long but both of them are mobile athletic and long bigs who have good hands.
Cox Mill HS
Wendell Moore (2019, 6’5″, G)
Moore has possibly the highest upside of any player in attendance. He had a number of HM coaches scouting him while playing today. He is long and a decent athlete. He is a good ball handler who needs to continue to improve his left hand. Understands how to get other players involved and is unselfish. Has a college ready strong frame already which is scary- players were bouncing off of him on defense. Showed he can shoot from the outside. Can he defend high level PG’s is the question, but Moore has a bright future at the G slot.
Forsyth Country Day
Tripp Greene (2018, 6’1″, G)
Tripp continues to impress me every time I see him. His body has gotten stronger and he is more and more confident in his PG duties. He was one of the best 3 pt shooters in the gym and plays solid help side D. Colleges from all 3 divisions should monitor.
Bruno Solumon (2016, 6’9″, F)
Legit MM stretch 4 man who has a college ready frame and is mobile. Rebounds and passes the ball well. Has a high release on his shot and is willing to score inside as needed too.
Matty Edwards (2016, 6’5″, G)
One of my favorite players on the day, Matty is a coaches dream. He does the little things on both ends and works hard. He can shoot, dribble, and pass and is highly versatile. Good size for the 2/3 spot. Skilled and versatile.
JP Moorman (2017, 6’6″, F)
Possibly the best player on one of the deepest and best teams in attendance today. JP is a terror to defend in the open court with his blend of size, strength, and athleticism. Played hard today and is a MM+ prospect.
Travon Mayo (2017, 6’4″, G)
Under the radar type player who has a high motor with a good frame. Attacks the rim aggressively.
Johnny Newman (2018, 6’5″, G)
Showed some good things while in game. Plays hard, athletic, and defends.
Victor Tshiona (2017, 6’5″, F)
Victor is a bruiser inside who loves the physical play. Solid scorer with his back to the basket. High motor player who was unstoppable around the basket today.
Justyn Hamilon (2017, 6’10”, F)
Long and athletic front court player who has a good shooting touch. Must continue to improve strength.
Jack Britt HS
Gerald Buncum (2017, 6’6″, F)
One of my favorite players I saw today. Buncum is mobile and is an aggressive shot blocker. Long. Has the ability to hit the 15′ J.
Jacob Skidmore (2016, 6’8″, F)
Long and lanky wing who is scrappy and a good defender and rebounder. Skidmore was solid all day and can shoot the midrange with consistency.
Josh Helton (2017, 6’8″, PF)
Helton is a strong post player who can score with his back to the basket. Showed he could pick and pop and hit the short corner J. Plays hard and attacks the rim. Good motor.
Kody Shubert (2018, 6′, G)
Highlight reel with the ball and is fun to watch. Capable of playing either guard slot. Arguably the best shooter in the gym today. Defends and makes plays.
Faison Brock (2016, 6’6″, F)
Loved his energy and athleticism. Rebounds the ball and makes winning plays. D1 player.
Austin Cobb (2016, 6’4″, G)
One of the best 1 on 1 scorers I saw today. Really good with the ball in his hands- has the ball on a string. Can create for himself with an excellent hesitation dribble.
Cartier Wilks (2017, 6’6″, F)
Face up 4 man who rebounds the ball well and has good energy. Super long and is an aggressive defender.
Jay Huff (2016, 6’11”, F)
The UVA stretch 4 man showed a good skill set and soft touch from the perimeter. Needs to continue to improve on the defensive end and show a higher motor.
Westchester Country Day
Marshall Lange (2016, 6’3″, PG)
Lange entered the day with only 2 D-2 offers and I believe that will change very soon with his solid play today. He has a strong upper body and a quick first step. He can shoot it with a quick release on the outside and can create off the bounce. Had several no-look passes today to cutters and has good vision. Contests shots on the defensive end- bumps cutters too.
Caymen Bennett (2016, 6’1″, G)
Plays bigger then 6’1″ with his length and athleticism. Needs to tighten up his handle but is solid in transition.
Word of God
Rawle Alkins (2016, 6’4″, G/F)
By far the strongest player I saw today, any position. Has a great frame with good shoulders- looks like a football player. Aggressive slasher who can change directions off the bounce. Struggled to defend quicker 2’s and 3’s on the perimeters- took poor angles on the closeouts and has slow lateral quickness. Low shooting release but is a college prospect.
Jalen Harris (2016, 6’2″, G)
Plays the game with a quite confidence. Fluid with effortless athleticism. Good perimeter stroke. The 2G has committed to Buffalo.
There’s dirty money to be made in recruiting, and it’s about to get a whole lot dirtier.
It’s not made the way people think; most players in the world of college basketball and football recruiting are just trying to land college scholarships. We’re talking about the rare players worth money – potential pro players. These are the types of players who are offered money to play on certain AAU teams; whose parents are given jobs and houses by high profile universities; who are considered a ‘financial asset’ by the very profitable NCAA, NBA, NFL, shoe companies and major universities. They sell jerseys, they pack stadiums and they print money for the corporations that control those sports – at least, until they blow out a knee, or become too old, or, frankly, don’t put up the numbers on the court or field that were expected and no longer generate revenue.
So, yes, players get paid sometimes. This can happen in a myriad of ways, but usually it boils down to someone at a college or shoe company handing over cash to a third party agent, who then moves the money to players, parents and coaches. In the NCAA recruiting world, people refer to these agents as ‘runners’, but what they would be called in most places would be a ‘bagman’. There are some differences. Let’s talk about them now!
This could get complicated, so I’ll do my best to simplify it. Then we’re going to talk about how this whole system could be about to get wiped out and replaced by the digital age.
First, a ‘bagman’ is someone hired to move money (almost always ‘dirty money’) between two parties. Most people think of the mafia when you mention a bagman, but the reality is there are people who operate in this capacity in lots of places. For example, a major U.S. corporation might want to do business in a certain country (like, I dunno, let’s say…Mexico…or Brazil…or Russia…actually the list is pretty long). The U.S. company doesn’t want to just write a check to a bunch of police chiefs in a another country, so they give cash to a ‘bagman’ who makes sure the right people get money in an untraceable way. This type of thing happens a lot, and it’s where the U.S. Treasury and IRS spend the majority of their time – trying to figure out who is moving cash around unseen. Big companies don’t generally just hand over a paper bag full of cash to some dude who vanishes to stuff a bunch of envelopes. Normally, there is an offshore intermediary (think Switzerland or the Cayman Islands) where there are companies who will launder the money and distribute it anonymously, and eventually it lands in the hands of the people who are on the take.
Now, let’s go back to college recruiting: Some major college wants a highly-sought-after recruit to come and play for them, and they are willing to pay to do it. Now, major universities have donors who will not only put up the money for recruits, but also know how to move money around. These donors, or at least a few of them, know all about moving money through the Caymans and getting it squeaky clean. However, at the grassroots level, cash is king. The parents or coaches of a player don’t care how they get paid; they just want the money in hand, and they don’t want the NCAA to know about it. Sometimes this is a cash envelope handed over during a secret meeting in a gym somewhere. Sometimes it’s new job for a parent with a ridiculously fat signing bonus. Not much of this is illegal (there are some exceptions), but it’s all against NCAA rules. The trick for colleges, agents and shoe companies is getting around all of this without being detected, and that usually boils down to a bagman, or a ‘runner’. The NCAA isn’t the Treasury dept; they don’t (and probably can’t) do sophisticated forensics to try and track all of the money moving around and athletic dept at any given time. They do minor things, like tracking the debit cards of assistant coaches, but if a major booster of the athletics program can move money around and make payments to a bagman without the University’s direct involvement, it becomes nearly impossible for the NCAA to enforce.
Consider this: in order to stop this type of fraud, the NCAA would have to prove that the university coaching staff had contacted a booster of their program and specifically requested a payment to a specific parent or player; Then, that the booster had laundered cash in their own accounts, taken the laundered cash and given it to a third party (bagman) who then gave the money to the parent. To do all of this, the NCAA would not only have to prove the meeting took place between the coaches and the booster, but that the meeting was specifically about a payment. They would have to prove that the booster took funds and moved them around just for the purpose of making that payment. Then, finally, they would have to track those funds to the runner and finally to the person who was actually getting the money. Does this exact thing happen? Absolutely. But tracking this type of money transaction isn’t easy even for the Treasury, so the NCAA doing this is not realistic at all. For all of the fans who believe that such-and-such university is obviously paying players, but the NCAA is just looking the other way, this is the blunt truth. Even if the NCAA is being told about the payments (which is happening, they get tips every day), they aren’t able to track down or prove anything. The NCAA is not a law enforcement agency. When you look at how the NCAA levies down infractions and violations, you will see that they are all in the petty, academic arena: grades being changed, or players not qualifying, or some Division II player getting a free sandwich at a burger joint. This is the arena that the NCAA can investigate. Tracking down laundered payments is not such an easy task.
The breakdown point in these transactions is how many people are involved, and whether or not they can keep their mouth shut. There are known bagmen in NCAA recruiting circles who the NCAA cannot touch, because the bagman is under no legal pressure to talk to the NCAA about anything. However, those runners’ days may be numbered, but not in the way that the NCAA would want.
So, let’s talk about BitCoin. You probably have heard about BitCoin at some point in the past couple of years. I don’t want to get into how BitCoin is ‘mined’ or verified (if you really want me to talk about all of that, you can let me know on Twitter). I’m also not going to talk about the basic valuation of BitCoin versus gold or anything like that. There’s plenty of other discussion about that in other places, and that’s not what we’re focused on today.
Let’s just keep things as simple as possible. BitCoin is a digital currency, and it’s not the only one. There’s also others such as LiteCoin and Ripple. But BitCoin is definitely the most known and most widely adopted. You can use BitCoin to buy things on major retailers like OverStock and TigerDirect. However, the real appeal of currencies like BitCoin and LiteCoin is that they allow you to make payments to anyone in the world anonymously. All you need to send money to another person is their BitCoin address, which is nothing more than a string of letters and numbers, and boom, money moves from person to person without any tracking. The tracking and verification is all done in the open, but the accounts are anonymous, and anyone can create as many anonymous addresses as they want.
Now, how does this impact recruiting? It means that the need for physical, on-the-ground ‘bagmen’ is almost eliminated, and it means shoe companies, agents and universities can make anonymous payments to anyone in the world within a few minutes.
So in our earlier example, let’s take our fictional big-money booster. He or she can set up a BitCoin fund which is intended to just ‘invest in BitCoin’. However, just like gold, BitCoin fluctuates in price. So, to compare the two, let’s say our booster friend dumped $100,000 into gold, but then he price of gold plummeted by 50%, and he sold his gold, effectively losing $50,000. That can happen in BitCoin, too. However, because BitCoin is not tracked, nobody really knows if our booster friend is actually losing money in his BitCoin account, or just letting it sit there. Meanwhile, he could be pushing payments to other accounts (either his own or owned by others) and they could be cashing out. All of this is happening without any monitoring by any government, and BitCoin does not have a centralized governing body. If you look on many venture capital portfolios today, you will see that a vast number of them have ‘BitCoin’ portfolios. Many of these are legitimate; however, the truth is nobody knows if the money going into those BTC portfolios is even there anymore, or if it left as an anonymous payout at some point. For large companies, there is some reporting that has to take place, but there is no law in place that states any BitCoin transactions have to be reported, and the reality is that is the intent of these crypto currencies.
One of the more common ways that recruits are ‘bought’ is with unofficial visits. Let’s say a star recruit flies across country to visit a major college; the college is not allowed to cover the expenses of unofficial visits. However, if someone, like an AAU coach or parent, pays for the recruit’s visit, they may arrive at the University and be handed an envelope full of cash which more than covers the cost of the trip. This is why some major recruits can afford to fly all over the country all around the year. Despite this being a somewhat common practice, there’s the whole ‘how did this money end up in this envelope’ thing we talked through above, and how it came to be in a form of untracked cash, and how someone has to then hand that money over to the person in question.
Now imagine if that cash payment were an anonymous BitCoin or LiteCoin payment. Payments could be made before the flight was taken; payments could be made without the need for the recruit to even make a trip for an ‘unofficial visit. Payments could be made on a regular basis no matter where the player is (playing with USA Basketball in China? No problem! Playing travel ball five states away? Let me send you some cash for a dinner out!) and this isn’t limited to boosters. Shoe companies could make payments to entire rosters of players without anyone knowing it was happening – even the player’s coach could be completely in the dark. A major shoe company could be paying different players a regular salary without any of them even knowing that anyone else on the team was being paid, or what they were being paid.
Not only that, but a player with a mobile phone could be getting regular payments from a company or person without anyone – not his parents, not his coaches nor his teammates – knowing a thing about it. This is a sticky situation.
This actually goes way beyond the NCAA – let’s consider for a moment that pro sports teams could circumvent the salary cap with anonymous payments, especially if they made those payments to an agent first. But with BitCoin or any of the other digital currencies, suddenly anyone can move money around like an offshore holding company.
So what would be the need of a ‘bagman’ in this new digital currency world? There isn’t.
There’s still some issue with how deals are negotiated. It’s unlikely that most universities or boosters are technologically savvy enough to use anonymous browsers and similar technologies. Most deals are probably going to start with a face-to-face meeting, and then a runner who actually makes the terms of the deals known. But once the deal is in place, the money is going to move much faster and more anonymously than ever. If the NCAA had trouble keeping payments out of recruiting before, they are pretty much doomed at this point.
Naturally, the concept of digital currencies and anonymous payments encompasses much more than a few payments from colleges to parents or even shoe companies to players, but it does highlight how much things will be changing very quickly with these new options. Yes, it’s true that individuals and companies could be (and likely are) circumventing political campaign finance laws with BitCoin right now, or paying employees under the table to avoid taxes and other fees. So this isn’t just some little niche problem. But it’s a problem that has much potential impact on the grassroots recruiting world.
By James Blackburn
National powerhouse Oak Hill Academy played against Hargrave on Monday night at North Surry HS. The game was two 20-minute halves with college rules. A third period of 12 minutes was also played after as well. The game featured over 26 D-1 players and multiple college coaches and talent scouts were on hand. Harry Giles (6’11”, F, Oak Hill) , arguably the nations number 1 player, did not play, but there was still a ton of talent on display.
Oak Hill jumped out to a quick start to open up the first half. They looked excellent in transition and were getting anywhere they wanted on offense and found themselves up double digits in the first few minutes. Their high pressure defense caused multiple Hargrave turnovers, which Oak Hill converted for easy points. Oak Hill won the battle on the boards and hit their 3’s. Hargrave eventually handled Oak Hill pressure defense and the contested shots Oak Hill had been shooting started missing and Hargrave was able to battle back. Oak Hill took a 55-51 lead into half time.
Hargrave came out the 2nd half and continued to build momentum from the 1st half. Both teams went back and forth to start. Hargrave were the aggressors from that point on and eventually built a double-digit lead of their own by forcing contested shots and being patient on offense. Both teams played primarily man to man defense and Hargrave also sprinkled in some 2-3 zone at times too. Big 3 pointers by DeVontae Shuler (6’2″, G, Oak Hill) and Mario Kegler (6’7″, SF, Oak Hill) brought Oak Hill back within 2 with a couple of minutes to go but ultimately it wasn’t enough and Hargrave got the win 108-105.
Matt Coleman (6’2″, PG)
Matt was the best PG in the game and one of the best I have seen in some time. He is a tremendous passer and play maker with eyes it seems in the back of his head at times. The lefty has a sweet outside shooting stroke and can hit the pull-up by stopping on the dime and the 3. He is confident in his game and a highlight reel with the ball. He is extremely quick and was terrific all game. He needs to continue to get stronger and has a tendency to flop at times on his shot. Florida, UVA, Texas, UConn, and Arizona amongst others have offered.
Braxton Key (6’7″, SF)
Oak Hills X-factor, Key is a versatile and athletic do-it-all forward. He is solid defensively and showed he could handle the ball, slash to the rim, and shoot it. Well-rounded scorer. Alabama is getting a good one with him.
Mario Kegler (6’7″, SF)
College-ready body who was the purest shooter on the floor. Not overly athletic but is strong and can fill it up from the outside. Took some ill advised shots but can also hit contested shots. Shabazz Muhammad type. Kegler has a ton of HM interest including Maryland, Indiana, and Baylor.
Devontae Shuler (6’2″, G)
Shuler was the best on-ball defender on the floor and picked up his man full court every time. Very quick laterally and has a great 3 pt shot. South Carolina and Clemson are showing heavy interest.
Khadim Sy (6’9″, C)
Sy doesnt get a lot of touches offensively, but he is a work horse and the workhorse inside for this Oak Hill team. He is tremendous on the boards and uses his length to defend the post very well. He is mobile and has potential. Virginia Tech received his commitment after the game.
De’Riante Jenkins (6’6″, SF)
Jenkins was everywhere all night on both sides of the ball and was my pick for MVP of the game. VCU got a good one in this kid. Jenkins uses his length and athleticism to defend multiple positions. He is highly versatile and can really handle the ball well. He has a quick first step and was able to create space well for his shot. Drew contact at a high rate and was able to score with contact. Has a good mid-range game and can hit the 3, but his 3 is still inconsistent. He does get great arc on his shot.
Braxton Beverly (6’0″, PG)
The Miami University of Ohio commit put on a show in this one. Beverly has the ball on a string and has underrated quickness. Good defender with quick hands. He is not rattled with ball pressure. Was able to get to the lane and has a nice pull-up and floater. Well conditioned player. Over-dribbles at times and needs to improve overall play-making and passing skills.
Derek Funderburk (6’9″, F)
I absolutely loved what Derek did this game. His motor never stops and he was the best rebounder this game. He has good length and showed he could attack in straight line drives. Solid back to the basket game. He will be attending Ohio State.
Austin Burnett (6’7″, F)
Campbell got themselves a steal with this kid. Burnett does all the little things and is a solid role player. Good rebounder, plays hard, and is efficient.
Evan Wieck (6’9″, F)
Wieck is a high IQ hard working big who will be going to Navy. He has great hands and seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. Not a great athlete but is mobile.
Iran Bennett (6’9″, C)
Struggled in the first half to find a rhythm but was a beast who couldnt be stopped in the second. Soft hands who can catch everything. Efficient around the basket and is tough to keep off the boards. Bennett is a legitimate HM back to the basket big. LSU, Missouri, and Ole Miss are on him hard.
With the recent news about Amerileague, longtime readers of my articles or followers on Twitter will no doubt remember that I’ve been saying the league was a complete joke for several months. This morning I woke up to multiple texts & tweets about the crash of the league and quite a few messages asking ‘How did you know?’ I had the same experience last spring when the Elevate Basketball Circuit was exposed as a fraud, which I had also stated more than 10 months before it happened.
The reality is, this isn’t the first time by a long shot and it won’t be the last. Unfortunately, it seems that almost every AAU parent or young basketball player hoping for a pro career all think they are masters of navigating the basketball business underworld, and that means they will continually get taken in with scams like this. Think of it like this: I’ve heard parents who play hardball and ‘negotiate’ payments from college coaches, and they’re really proud of themselves. Meanwhile, they have no idea that while this is their first and only under-the-table deal, that college has been doing it for a long time. The parent/runner is almost always the ‘new guy’ in the deal.
But, I digress.
Yes, it is true I have been scouting, writing about and running sports related businesses for a while, so naturally I would have more experience than someone just entering the AAU scene. But you don’t need vast amounts of experience to know when a deal is bad. So while I realize that most people will continue to ignore this advice, I offer you five pretty rock-solid tip offs that that awesome new basketball league or deal is a complete scam. These are not really basketball specific – these are true in any business, but we’ll keep it at court level for today.
Red Flag #1 – Who’s running the show?
The number one, absolute, lock-it-down red flag of any scam league, prep school or business in general is who is behind the whole thing. If you pay attention to NOTHING ELSE in this article, remember this:
No legitimate business in the world is operated by ‘invisible’ people.
You want to know who runs Basketball Elite? It’s right on our site – there’s my name, there’s my twitter handle. You can Google me and find out who I am and what my connection to the site is. If you want to know who is the CEO of Uber, or the CEO of Coca Cola, you can find out what you need to know in one search engine query. This isn’t limited to massive companies. On a recent trip to San Fransisco I happened across a food truck serving up Peruvian street food and guess what? They are super easy to find, as well.
Why is this? For starters, a real business doesn’t hide from customers. Over the years, one of the things we’ve put together at Basketball Elite is showcase events. Right on our website are our contact phone numbers, and we’ve bent over backwards to respond ASAP to any customer questions or complaints. Yes, we do it primarily because we want to treat customers the same way we’d want to be treated, but there’s also that cold hard fact that a business that avoids customers won’t be a business for long.
So what happens when you hear about some new basketball league, and you search Google for news about the league and the person organizing it is non-existent? Yeah, this isn’t rocket science. It’s not real. A real league would have someone front-and-center, answering questions with real answers and putting themselves on the line. It doesn’t mean their league will succeed, but any real business wants as much exposure as it can get. A ‘business’ which avoids any footprint is a business that wants to be able to disappear in a hurry.
Now the second part of this is when you look at who is running a proposed league and they have a LONG history of bad deals. No business is going to make everyone 100% happy all of the time, for various reasons. But when you see names attached to a business who have been busted before on various scams or shady deals, that’s pretty much a dead give away that this one is, too.
Red Flag #2 – ‘Magic’ business models
Minor league sports rarely work, with some exceptions in baseball and you may even be able to include Arena football. The business model of sports is based on the fact that sports are actually entertainment, and good entertainment leads to big audiences, which leads to advertising dollars. It’s not complex. Lebron James and Kevin Durant garner attention, and people are interested in watching them play, so the ratings are high enough that make buying advertising on their games worth it to companies. Without television contracts, major league sports as we know it – worldwide – would not exist. It would be impossible to maintain the million dollar contracts, licensing deals and huge arenas of pro sports without television ad revenue. Minor leagues don’t have TV deals (which is why I hesitate to include all of Arena football, since some divisions do have TV deals). Minor leagues have to rely primarily on game attendance and merchandising, and getting people out in person to watch lower level athletes they’ve never heard of is not an easy task. This is why so many minor league teams fold; first, they overestimate how many people will attend the games, and second, they completely ignore the fact that road games are going to be played at a loss. Add it all up and you get most new minor league teams folding only a few games into their inaugural season.
But every so often, there’s someone who comes along and pitches a new league which will make gobs of money but do (and this is the best part) nothing different than every other league. It doesn’t matter if you sign some former McDonald’s All American player or some former NBA benchwarmer, because those players won’t bring people in. The Amerileague pitch also added that they wanted to sign big time high school recruits, but that is a misunderstanding of recruiting interest. There are high school basketball players who pack gyms when they play; and many people around those players mistakenly think that people are coming to watch the players because they are stars. But the dark truth is that the players are stars because they are actively being recruited by major college basketball programs, and those major basketball programs have huge, active fan bases. If you are a high school player, and you have offers from Duke, UNC, Kentucky and Kansas, there are literally millions of fans of those teams who are interested in watching you. But guess what? As soon as a player commits, he loses all of the fans from the teams he didn’t commit to. If he comes to the school and just has a normal career, he won’t be a massive draw anymore, and even if he plays really well, he will only be a big draw to his college fans. The NBA is full of guys who had thousands of fans in college but now play on weak teams in front of half-empty arenas.
If Amerileague had signed some top high school prospects, those prospects would have seen their ‘box office appeal’ vanish overnight. Very few people are going to watch players they don’t have a personal interest in just because they can do cool things on a basketball court. There already is a popular traveling show like that, and it’s called the Harlem Globetrotters.
Red Flag #3 – Unrealistic revenue sources
There is a reason why McDonald’s sponsors a high school All American basketball game every year, and it’s not because they love basketball. It’s because ‘corporate sponsorship’ is just another form of advertising. Getting corporate sponsors is not some deal where big companies or investors are just going to fork over truckloads of cash so your league can get rich. You have to have something of value that they are getting for their money. I say this as a person who has ‘big name’ corporate sponsors for our Southeast Summer Showcase; any deal with a corporate sponsor has to promote the sponsor’s business in a way that may make them money. Corporate sponsorship isn’t easy to get, and sponsors drop major names every single day. I’m actually on a mailing list that sends out most of the major sponsorship deals or drops every couple of days. Amerileague was never in that conversation, not even close. They had nothing to offer the types of corporate sponsors they were claiming. Nike doesn’t sponsor the EYBL because they want a few kids to have free sneakers. They want the exposure that comes from having high level recruits wear their shoes, and they also hope to make inroads so that when one or two of those players actually become big NBA stars, they might have a relationship. Think I’m wrong? Go look at how many kids played on Nike sponsored AAU teams 10 years ago, but never made the league, and tell me how many still are getting free shoes while working a non-basketball related job.
But Amerileague pulled the same stunt I’ve heard so many times before – that big money would come gushing in from corporate sponsors and make it rain on everyone involved.
Red Flag #4 – Going Big Right Away
Almost every single business – even Microsoft, General Electric, Apple, and Facebook – started small. It is almost impossible for a business to open up on their first day of existence with 1,000 retail locations and keep growing from there. Many companies go under because they expand way too fast. During the dot-com bubble, heavily-funded companies were springing up everywhere, and many of them had lavish offices with unbelievable perks that most established companies couldn’t afford. Guess what? They all went under within a few years, sometimes within months. It’s called ‘burn rate’ – how much more money is going out the door as opposed to money coming in. Any legitimate minor league should be able to give the media some idea of their long term profitability plan, even if they can’t hit their targets. But scam leagues show up like multi-level-marketing hucksters – they arrive with jet planes, Rolex watches and nice suits. It’s based on two things: One, the guys running it are not real business people; Two, they are trying to convey how much money they have so people will believe they are more successful than they are. This is most dangerous when the targets are high school kids, because young players don’t know the difference between an NBA agent and a con man, but adults get taken in as well.
A real business person knows they are taking on risk, so they start as small as they can without cutting too many corners. If you open a new ice cream shop, you want to stick with making that one shop profitable before you open a second shop. You definitely don’t open up 20 ice cream shops right away. Elevate Basketball Circuit was hiring people like crazy, and flying people to high level meetings from around the country. Amerileague had apparently hired a PR department and was jetting in coaches/players/agents but the media couldn’t get a company rep to even answer the phone. I’m confident if USA Today wanted to get a corporate statement from the D League (or Sears, or Best Buy), they could get it pretty fast.
Red Flag #5 Nobody reputable is really involved
If we are “judged by the company we keep” as the old adage goes, then we are also judged by the company we don’t keep as well. To put it another way, if Warren Buffet turned down a deal, you would do well to also turn it down as well, right? It doesn’t mean Buffet is always right, but you and I both know there’s a pretty good chance he turned it down for a really good reason.
You might not have insider knowledge of a business or whether a new league is going along just fine, since a private company isn’t going to just put all of their inner workings out for everyone to see. But there are people you can follow up with. You can ping me on Twitter about a league and I will tell you if I know anything. There are other reputable people as well as media who cover the specific business or area. The radio silence of media alone surrounding Amerileague should have been a tip off. If there are high profile people involved, they will be open about it. Their name, brand and business are part of their monetary value and it is important. If you contact local newspapers anywhere we are running a Basketball Elite event, someone on that newspaper staff will know who we are or can find out within an hour. If you tried to contact local media, even in Las Vegas, about Amerileague, they would have just shrugged their shoulders because nobody was talking.
In cases like this, listen to the silence, because it’s speaking loud and clear.
By James Blackburn
I had the opportunity to attend one of Combine Academies recent practices in Charlotte and check out some of their talent on hand. Combine Academy is a prep school that currently has locations in Charlotte and Atlanta and field 5 different teams. If you are a college coach at any level, Combine Prep has a player for you.
Below are some of the standouts from their 2 hour practice. All of the kids are post grad players.
Artur Labinowicz (6’3″, SG)
Terrific athlete who can shoot the 3 ball with ease- has a pretty stroke and can get it off against anyone. Confident in his game. Really fast with the ball in his hand. LM/MM talent.
Tim Marshall (6’3″, SG)
Heady player who is very smart. Can do a lot of of things well. Good shooter from 3 point range. Plays hard and communicates. D2/NAIA schools should be all over him.
Jamal Deshields (6’4″, SF)
I have seen Jamal develop over the years into the player he is now. Good shooter with a high release. Plays hard and would be a steal for a D2 school who needs a tough slasher.
Tyler Cheese (6’4″, PG)
High IQ player who is an underrated athlete with a quick 2nd jump. Terrific defender. Makes his team better and makes winning plays. Can score the ball at the rim. Lefty. USC Upstate has shown interest and is definitely a D1 player.
Leo Viitala (6’4″, G)
One of my favorite players in the program. The high IQ slasher from Australia is tough to stop going downhill and is smooth and versatile. Solid passer who has a quick release. Schools from all 3 divisions should watch.
Bart Schild (6’7″, SF)
Played on the Holland JR National Team. This kid is smooth and a sneaky good athlete with a good mid post game.
Bradley Pierce (6’3″, G/F)
Terrific slashing and athletic player who plays the passing lanes on defense and can finish with either hand. Leader and is confident in his game. Can score in bunches.
Phil Steffens (6’9″, F)
Stretch 4 from Germany with good length and a good motor. Active on the boards. Good right hook. Has potential. NAIA and D2/3 schools would all be good fits.
Kyle Bradshaw (6’5″, SG)
One of the best athletes I saw today and can light it up from the outside.
Derian Valdes (6’6″, F)
This do it all player from Canada was solid on both sides of the ball today. Good athlete who can attack the rim and can shoot the 3 with a smooth stroke. Can finish with either hand. LM prospect.
Treyvonte Diggs (6’5″, G/F)
All-Around scorer who can beat you on the drive and shot. Active.
Josiah Thomas (6’1″, PG)
True PG who can also score. Thomas is one of 3 players from Canada in the program. He is athletic, changes speeds well, is a good ball handler, and sets up teammates. Excellent on-ball defender and can hit open 3’s. LM+ talent.
Johneil Johnson (6’0″, G)
Stood out because of lock down on-ball defense and athleticism.]]>
On ESPNU, Greenberg and Gaudio will be in-studio for both, with Katz (SEC) and Schick (ACC) anchoring.
SEC Tip Off on SEC Network
SEC Network will also provide coverage of SEC Tip Off, the conference’s men’s and women’s media day events on its flagship program SEC Now – men’s (Oct. 21 at 10 p.m.) and women’s (Oct. 22 at 9 p.m.) In addition to segments with coaches and players referenced above, SEC Now will also televise segments of the roundtables hosted by Nowkhah and Taylor.
ESPN3 will provide coverage of four additional conference media days: Horizon and Mountain West (October 14), MAAC (Oct. 21), Big South (Oct. 26) and Atlantic Sun (Nov. 4). The network will also cover ACC women’s (Oct. 21) and men’s media day as well.
|Wed, Oct. 14||2 p.m.||Horizon (men’s and women’s)|
|3 p.m.||Mountain West (men’s and women’s)|
|Wed, Oct. 21||9:30 a.m.||ACC (women’s)|
|7:30 p.m. (women’s)*
8:15 p.m. (men’s)*
|Mon, Oct. 26||9:30 a.m.||Big South|
|Wed, Oct 28||9 a.m.||ACC (men’s)|
|Wed, Nov. 4||7 p.m. (women’s)*
7:30 p.m. (men’s)*
College Basketball Live on ESPNU (October Schedule)
|Thu, Oct. 15||4 p.m. – 5 p.m.||College Basketball Live
Conferences with media days: Big Ten and Pac-12
|Studio: Andy Katz, Dino Gaudio
From Chicago: Jeff Goodman and Sean Harrington
From San Francisco: Roxy Bernstein and Corey Williams
|Tue, Oct. 20||4 p.m. – 5 p.m.||College Basketball Live
Conference with media day: Big 12
|Studio: Andy Katz, Seth Greenberg
From Kansas City: Fran Fraschilla and Miles Simon
|Wed, Oct. 21||1 p.m. – 3 p.m.||College Basketball Live
Conference with media day: SEC
|Andy Katz, Seth Greenberg, Dino Gaudio, Sean Farnham, Dari Nowkhah|
|Tue, Oct. 27||4 p.m. – 5 p.m.||College Basketball Live
Conference with media day: American
|Studio: Andy Katz, Seth Greenberg
From Orlando: Tim Welsh & Brooke Weisbrod
|Wed, Oct. 28||1 – 4 p.m.||College Basketball Live
Conference with media day: ACC
|Matt Schick, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg, Dino Gaudio, andCory Alexander|
A special Kentucky Men’s Basketball Practice will air on Sunday, October 11, at 7 p.m. ET from the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Ky., featuring a two-hour look at ESPN.com’s preseason No. 3 ranked team. ESPN NBA and college basketball’s Doris Burke, college basketball analysts Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg and college basketball reporter Andy Katz will anchor the coverage, which will showcase the Wildcats participating in individual drills, 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 scrimmages.
The 2015-2016 Wildcats, coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, have six players in the top 60 of ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Top 100 2016 NBA Draft prospects:
|Top 100 Rank||Player||Position||Year|
NBA scouts will be in attendance and fans can join the conversation by tagging their tweets with #UKPractice.
No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on ESPN
No. 3 Kentucky will take on No. 6 Duke (7:30 p.m. on ESPN) in the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from the United Center in Chicago. The double-header from Chicago concludes ESPN’s eighth annual college hoops tip-off marathon. Both team rankings are per ESPN.com.]]>
Backcourt Running Mates
C/O 2018 Point Guard Dakari Johnson- Dakari was impressive from the time I stepped into the gym , he has always been a very mature player but now is becoming more vocal and taking on a leadership role on the squad even though he’s only a sophomore. He displayed very good ball handling skills and the ability to be able to maneuver through small gaps to get into the lane and make good plays. Dakari has outstanding upper body strength and has no problem finishing through contact and on the defensive end was very effective by playing physical defense with his opponent. He has all the tools that you love for a Point Guard to have and is drawing interest from colleges at the Mid Major + level. We expect a big year from this young man and won’t be surprised to see him finish the year with multiple scholarship offers.
C/O 2019 Combo Guard Josh Nickleberry- Josh had an outstanding 8th grade season playing on the varsity level, he had numerous games where he put up very impressive scoring numbers and plays the game with a smoothness that is beyond his years. Following the season he recorded some dominant performances during the AAU season playing with Team Loaded 2019 finishing as one of the top teams in the country in their age group. Throughout the night he showed very good ball handling skills and a quick first step but His best attribute that he showed on this night in particular was his shooting. He can get his shot off very quickly and has good lift on his shot so even when his shot is defended well or contested he has no issue getting his shot off. This young man can flat out play and we are expecting another impressive year from him as well.
New Kids on the Block
C/O 2016 Wing John Maynor- John is a transfer in from Hoke County HS, his recruitment has been pretty quiet up to this point but that will definitely change before too much longer. At 6’5 he has nice size for a wing at the college level, he has a textbook shooting form and knocks down shots at a high rate from midrange and downtown with a minimal amount of dribbling. What makes him even more dangerous is that he has the ability to play inside as well , to make things plain and simple, this young man can score the ball at a very high rate while doing it all in the flow of the game. On the defensive end he really got after it, applying constant pressure and using his wingspan to come up with numerous steals, if you’re a Low Major coach you will definitely want to keep a close eye on this young man. In the words of J.Cole I can honestly say that ‘‘He’s about to blow up’’ when it comes to his recruitment.
C/O 2019 Max Farthing- As soon as you see Max walk into the gym he reminds you of former Fayetteville Academy and Current Manhattan Jaspers Forward Zane Waterman. Max has a lean frame but plays much stronger than he looks, he has no problem mixing it up inside but is a very efficient shooter. Throughout the night He showed his ability to find ways to get open and knock down midrange and perimeter shots as well as creating space for himself to get a shot off with his ball handling skills. Max was very impressive throughout the night and has the tools and size to be a very special player if he continues to progress, even on the defensive end he was constantly giving effort on every possession. Whether it was an opportunity for a rebound that was up for grabs or diving on the floor for a loose ball Max was involved in the play some type of way, He will definitely be one to keep a close eye on this season and in the upcoming years
The X Factor
Bench play will be solid for Northwood this season with some athletic players as well as some knock down shooters stepping in to give the starters some rest, but a player in the starting lineup that will have to come up big for Northwood to be a contender for a state championship is 2016 6’9 Center TeTe Armel . Throughout the open gym session he showed sparks of how good he can be if he plays with high energy, there were numerous plays where he threw down a dunk or finished a layup effortlessly. During drills he showed some ball handling skills that I had never seen from him in the past few years that were very impressive, His ability to rebound the ball and block shots was on full display throughout the night and will be needed during the season to hold down the inside for Northwood Temple]]>