As the middle school basketball is about to tip off, thoughts start to creep toward the upcoming AAU season. Ordinarily, at this time of the year coaches are starting to develop their schedules and contemplate roster upgrades and/defections. As has been the case for as many years as we can remember, parents are evaluating their kid’s future with former and prospective teams. Often times, parents of talented and not so talented players are both receiving and making recruiting-related phone calls. Visions of, “super teams’ are being sold to kids and players along with promises of undefeated seasons, unlimited playing time, prime roles and positions. With that said, the old adage, “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the street” is most relevant this time of the year. In our experience, parents will chase perfection and move their child from what appears to be a good situation (good coaching, competitive, skill centered development, participation in quality events & healthy environment) to situations that appear to be better based on anticipated win totals, more playing time, playing with better players, free gear, better brand name, etc. In our opinion, all that glitters is not gold, and we would caution parents about switching teams based on promises and perceptions. Your kid’s current situation may not be perfect, but it could be good enough, and at least you know what to expect.
Middle School Ball is Tough to Watch
During a recent opportunity to watch middle school basketball we were reminded just how fortunate we are to be able to watch some of the most elite middle school basketball players in the county compete week to week. We are also reminded just how bad middle school basketball can really look at the local level. Many parents of elite middle school-aged players are shocked at the level of play in middle school, as from November through February they are forced to endure a much lower level of basketball than they are accustomed to seeing during the AAU/travel basketball season. Although the elite middle school circuit of tournaments, camps and showcases provide us an opportunity to watch high flying dunks, elite skill level, high scoring and exciting games, middle school ball is often plagued by slower pace, fewer skills, below the rim play and low scoring contests. In addition, in many cases, elite players are held back from fully demonstrating their talents as middle school coaches tend emphasize team-oriented play over individualism. Of course that’s not the case with every middle school program, depending on the area of the country, but in at least in the Midwest it seems to be a common occurrence. Although middle school ball may not be as exciting as travel ball, it still serves a purpose in the overall development of a player’s game, and it’s still exciting for you to watch your child play with his neighborhood friends, while representing the local school and community. Also keep in mind, middle school ball may offer many players a greater opportunity for skill development through more frequent and consistent practicing. At the end of the day, middle school basketball never killed anybody, and the AAU season is right around the corner. One last note, we are always thrilled when we discover a talented player during middle school ball that was flying under the radar during travel season!
Questions Abound for 2016
With the 2016 travel basketball season only a few months away, there are a lot of questions and uncertainty with some of the major AAU programs in the state. First and foremost, people are waiting to see the possible ramifications of King James’ branding change from King James Shooting Stars to the NEO Shooting Stars. Because we only recently addressed the issue, we won’t spend much time on the subject, but the move has raised a number of legitimate questions about the possible makeup of King James’ youth teams. Will they stay or will they go is on a lot of peoples’ minds right now. Also, the recent merger between King James and Ohio Varsity will be effected, as Ohio Varity teams will remain with their original program names.
Prospects for OBC’s 2020 team are looking up, as the team will merge with keys pieces of Jay Younkin’s Cincinnati-based SWO Elite squad from last year. Coming over from SWO Elite are Jake Younkin, Evan Prater. The big addition to that team is 6’9 Zach Loveday who comes over from All-Ohio Northeast. Loveday’s addition along with 6’2 Andy Barba, 6’3 Anthony Maxie and 6’5 Ryan Kerns will give OBC one of the biggest front lines in the state.
Some of All-Ohio’s middle school teams have questions marks as well. The biggest issue at the moment centers on the 2020 team in terms of who will coach the team as well as what players are left as possible building blocks. Although there were encouraging signs from All-Ohio’s City Series squad, thought to represent the future of a team in that class, there seems to have been a loss of momentum for now. Aside from securing a coach, the next big question is where will the players come from. Dave Migron’s Puma program has done a great job of locking up local talent, while King James has an elite team in the class and the Ohio Basketball Club (OBC) has merged with a Cincinnati group to field a quality squad. Needless to say, All-Ohio has an uphill battle on its hands.
There are also some questions concerning All-Ohio’s 2021 team(s) going forward. As most observers in that class know, there was a split of sorts early last season, resulting in 2 All-Ohio Red teams in the class. Marti Fenta kept the bulk of last year’s squad, while Al Mobley created his own team. The big question for 2016 is who will get the best players and field the most competitive team for All-Ohio. King James has arguably the top team in the class, while the Mid-Ohio Pumas and Buckeye Prep have talent in central Ohio locked up. Questions also exist for OBC’s entrant in the class as well. Dennis Barba appears to be at the controls of OBC’s youth program at the present, but it’s unclear what his recruiting efforts will garner for 2016.
All-Ohio’s 2022 team appears to be the early favorite, as Coach John Mobley has secured the services of Cincinnati’s Paul McMillan IV to go along with a solid core of returning players. With that said, word on the street has it that Sean Jones may not be returning to the team. This is a big loss as Jones is a consensus top 5 player in the state. There have also been some suggestions that Garfield Height’s Sonny Johnson Jr. may make a few cameo appearances for Mobley’s team in some of the bigger tournaments. In any event, All-Ohio’s 2022 team should be in great shape.
The biggest story for the class of 2023 involves the Blue Chip All-Stars and a possible Ohio-based team built around LeBron James Jr. Information is still very limited, but word has it that Ohio’s elite players are being heavily recruited, and a team will compete in 2016. We’ve heard a few individual names, but it’s still way too early to determine the makeup of that team. Needless to say, if that team happens as expected, the number 1 spot is up for grabs between Blue Chip, Cincinnati Royals and All-Ohio Red. Stay tuned for more information. Also, in preparation for preseason team rankings, Buckeye Prep is currently talking with coaches in order to build a foundation for a mid-February release.
Well that’s all for now. In our next installment of Random Thoughts we will talk about individual players and provide updated information on next year’s team rosters and potential.