For as many years as we can remember, Dru Joyce has fielded quality elementary and middle school travel basketball teams under the King James Shooting Stars brand. Well, starting in the 2016 season, the King James Shooting Stars brand will no longer be associated with middle school basketball, as the LeBron James family has requested the organization baring his name no longer field youth basketball teams. “The family was concerned about the pressure/perceptions associated with LeBron James Jr. competing against teams baring the LeBron James name, so they requested the change,” said Dru Joyce, King James Shooting Stars founder. “LeBron has been very good to us and we respected his request,” continued Joyce. As most youth basketball fans know, LeBron James Jr. has been running with the Gulf Coast Blue Chips, a Texas-based travel team program for the past couple of seasons.
The obvious question for many youth basketball fans around the state, is where will the players currently committed to program play next season and beyond. According to Joyce, many of the players will remain with the program, but will play under the N.E.O. Shooting Stars brand name. As we all know, many players, parents and coaches are attracted by the “big name” programs such as All-Ohio, Ohio Basketball Club and King James; consequently, there’s a good chance the program could loose some of the significant talent the program has attracted over the past several years, as parents gravitate to the more recognizable brand named programs.
By most accounts, in recent years the King James program has made great strides in attracting some of Ohio’s most elite players to their youth programs. This trend is important, as players tend to transition from a program’s youth programs to their high school-aged teams. “There will be no changes to our high school program. We will continue to position our players for scholarships; what we have always done,” said Joyce. What’s in a name? Only time will tell what impact the branding change will have on parent’s decision making, as well the balance of power in middle school basketball around the state and the country.