Notes from Orlando


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By Thom Jones 
      The final evaluation period for coaches
this summer concluded on July 31, starting on July 25, just coinciding with the
dates for the Super Showcase and National 17U AAU events in Orlando. In another
gym across country, at the same time, The Big-Time event was going on for
coaches in Las Vegas. 334 teams in Vegas, along with the 116 in Orlando made a
travel itinerary extremely important for coaching staffs. This generally meant
splitting up staffs to cover both sites, or in the case of the more enriched
programs, like U of Cincinnati, having your head coach go back and forth.
      Bob Huggins, head coach at Cincinnati
started on the 25th in Las Vegas, spending the day. He took the
"red-eye" into Orlando on  Thursday the 26th, and left the Wide
World of Sports site close to 11:30 pm that night. Another "red-eye"
flight sent him back to Vegas on the morning of July 27th, before returning to
Orlando during the weekend. That's quite a number of frequent flyer miles and it
goes without saying that not all programs have the resources for that kind of
itinerary...........This diminished evaluation time will mean that there will be
more recruiting mistakes made......too little time to evaluate and trying to see
a high number of players in a short amount of time will mean diminished time to
evaluate.......coaches were scurrying from one court to the other throughout the
AAU tournament, trying to see as many players as possible........its interesting
to note the different approaches of coaches as far as evaluating
players.......some like to concentrate and watch fully a single game at a
time....others like to rush back and forth between several games and get to
check out a higher number of players.....some coaches like to sit as close as
possible to the court and be seen by the players, while others prefer higher up,
away from action where not as many distractions.....still others will schmooze
and converse during games, while others intently make notes and keep
stats........not ALL coaches at the event were male coaches......Gunla Hajn,
a newly appointed assistant coach at NAIA school Weber College in Florida was
very much in evidence there. She is of German descent and the school intends to
become Weber International in September. She is a former player at Weber
College, which recruits a high number of international players.........you have
to really love basketball at the Super showcase and 17U AAU events.....action
starts on some mornings at 8:30 am and continues uninterrupted until the final
game, which usually ends around 11:30 pm or so that
night......back-to-back-to-back......well, you get the message......BUT one can
always count on a little humor provided at the end of a long day of basketball
when you go out to the parking lot and find roughly 75-100 coaches wandering
around with cell phones glued to their ears and looking aimlessly for their
rental cars......its pretty humorous hearing them discussing with coaching
buddies about where they parked and what their rental looks like........another
trend that was interesting was the number of High School coaches who accompanied
their players to the events, yet were not involved  coaching  their
teams.......kind of like they were babysitting, acting like information
conduits........or maybe they simply like the attention........you also had kids
flying in from Vegas once their teams were eliminated there and their AAU teams
playoffs started in Orlando....Mario Boggans' team lost in Vegas on
Sunday night and he then flew east and arrived very early in the first quarter
for his NC Gater's team game on Monday against Maine Hoops.  Todd
Galloway, who made the All-Tournament team in Vegas, took a flight out of
Vegas early am on Tuesday and arrived in time for the 4th quarter of his Oliver
Owls (Maryland) team loss in the 1st round of the AAU playoffs to Richmond Metro
Gold 1.........the venue at Disney's Wide World of Sports is very
impressive.......hard to beat.....6 courts at same location......4 on the bottom
level and 2 up a flight of stairs.....you can find a number of seats that afford
you a chance to simultaneously watch 2 games.....air conditioned (almost too
much so).......courts were in great shape, the staff very helpful and attentive
and hard working.....one wont find many better venues....... during pool play an
additional off-site court was used and you can certainly see how serious a
school is about a certain player, by seeing which coaches show up at those
off-site courts, due to the 15-20 mine drive from Disney it
entails.......coaches miss significant portions of the front and back end games
when they move to th Cypress Creek HS site, which was used during Pool
Play.......they will only go to those sites if they are extremely interested in
certain players and evaluating them.......3 players who saw their reps blow up
in Orlando were Justin Herndon, 7' center from DCA HS in Tennessee, who
had big-time coaches watching his play after his first game, creating quite a
buzz...Tenn supposedly offered him during the event.......Ryan Moore, a
6' 4" guard from Dr. Phillips HS in Florida, is a big time wide receiver
prospect in football in Florida, perhaps the best in the state......that might
be his college preference, but should he pick basketball there will be a huge
waiting list of coaches there as well....he is an outstanding athlete, fast and
a very good shooter....big-time in hoops as well.......Eric Hicks is a 6'
6" post player/forward from Dudley HS in Greensboro.....he simply has
played better and better at each event throughout the summer and spring.....a
highlight reel and dunking machine.....he reportedly had 6 new offers during the
AAU tournament while he was in Orlando.......some of the harder-working coaches
who seemed to be there first thing in morning and then at conclusion of the
final game each night were: James Johnson (Elon), Mark Cline (Va
Tech), Michael Hunt (Towson St) and Garrick Respress (Georgia
Southern)........there were 2 West Virginia schools participating in the 116
team National AAU tournament, Panhandle Players, coached by Buck Hoffmaster,
and the West Virginia Vikings.....when tournament play kicked off in the first
round, guess who was matched up against each other?....yep, Panhandle Players vs
WV Vikings......go figure.......finally assistant coach Tom Herrion of
UVa and Head Coach Ricky Stokes of Va Tech were both seen watching the
Roanoke Jaguars closely......
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