There is an epidemic going on in the basketball world today. No, it is not the fact that Division 1 College Basketball players should be getting paid for their service. It’s in my world, which is the world of AAU basketball and the idea that most players think they are “elite” and should be playing on “elite” teams.
The word “elite” has destroyed many young players and poisoned the mind of many parents.
Are there actually elite players in youth basketball?
Yes, but is every Joe Schmoe who comes to a tryout, an elite player? Heck no!
I have nothing against players wanting to play at the highest level. If you are competitive, you should want that. It is human nature to prove that you are one of the best or that you can, at least, compete with them.
In fact, here at Pro Skills Basketball Charlotte, we have what we call our “Elite” teams, which are our high school teams that are good enough to travel and full of kids good enough to possibly play in college one day. These PSB Charlotte Elite teams have helped over 90 players go on to play college basketball over the last 6-7 years.
With that said, I will never hold wanting to be “elite” against anyone, but in the basketball world, we also need to KNOW WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE ARE CAPABLE OF. There is a place to play for all serious players, but it may not be with the “elite” yet.
And guess what?
That’s OK! No one will judge you or think less of you. As a director of an AAU organization, it is very frustrating to receive emails stating that “I decline your local/regional team spot, but if a spot on the elite team becomes open let me know”. It does a player no good to “play” on an elite team but not actually play and just sit on the bench!
Or here’s my favorite one: “I know a lot of those kids in the gym, and my son is easily top 10”. Parents, I know you want the best for your children, and I applaud you for that. I am just sad that you are falling into this trap of comparing your child to others. We simply need to have the mindset of doing what’s best for the development of your child and not playing the comparison game.
Back in 2001-2005, I was wet behind the ears and started to become a household name in the City of Canton, Ohio which is not only known for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but also known for a number of Division 1 basketball players. The city has also produced 20+ NBA players (2 of them happen to be my uncles).
During my sophomore year, I attended the Five Star Basketball Camp and became the MVP. For those who are not familiar with the camp and its history – it is a training camp where you can measure yourself against the best in the country. You may check the list of alumni and you will find that some of the greatest basketball players ever attended the Five Star Basketball Camp.
Did I play for an elite AAU team?
No, I played for a team called Top Prospects of Cleveland, Ohio. I also played for the NEO Shooting Stars which was later renamed to King James Shooting Stars. Yes! Lebron’s Team!
If my mother and older brother were standing in front of you, they would testify that I never once complained about not playing for the Elite Team, even though there were plenty of Elite AAU organizations in Ohio including “All Ohio” and “CBC.”
My main focus, then, was to earn a full scholarship and possibly make it to the NBA. After 2 ACL tears, junior and senior years, my path and dreams suddenly began to change. It’s neither here nor there, but the fact is the conversation of “if I’m not elite, I’m not playing” never came up amongst the guys I knew and played with. I just wanted to play and improve!
I must agree that times have changed with the advent of social media and the shoe circuits. I get it! However, it was a simple fact that the love for the game was just in my heart. I would just play with whomever I had the opportunity to play with during my spring/summer breaks.
My uncle would always say, “If you can play, they’ll find you”. Cj McCullom is a good friend of mine as we were both Canton boys. CJ went to Lehigh University, which most people have not heard of, but look at where he is at now! He didn’t go to an “elite” basketball school. He simply went where he could play, worked hard to improve, and is now a truly elite level player!
We all wish we could be elite but we have to start coming to the realization that not everyone is elite from a young age. Guys like us who are not elite will have a different path to take. What you do with it when you get the opportunity is up to you.
So don’t look down on “non-elite” teams. If you love the game you will work on your craft and ball out to prove the doubters wrong.