Spent some time yesterday talking to Tony Pappas, one of the nation’s top high school coaches who’s known for his basketball teaching skills, especially the post, who’s at the Nike Skills Academy in Portland, OR this past week. He game me an in-depth rundown on the players who attended the event pointing out skills, game and attitude. While the camp is known as a “skills” event it is also an opportuunity for Nike staff to evaluate the top talent and their personality, not just their game. You never know who’s going to get a contract once they leave college for the pros (it will be Europe by the time this group leaves). While the discussion about the viability of women basketball players as effective marketing vheicles can be debated, the reality is there will be only one or two players maybe in a good year who will carry the name plate of a shoe company to a level public attention. Bob Corwin, long time fan and stat taker of the women’s game at all levels before most people hopped on the bandwagon, will be the first to tell you that the desire of people to want that icon does not match their financial choices to support the game.
The biggest nugget of information that Mr. Pappas dropped on me was that the best player at the camp was 6-2 big wing Haley Peters of the Peddie School (NJ). He said Peters was the standout because of her continual intense play and ability to play a number of positions on the floor. There has been some discussion about the final list of eventual attendees but with all of the 2010 big names in attendance there can be no skipping over Peter’s performance. This was the first time in three years where one of the top players wasn’t able to “compete” due to one circumanstance or another.
I told Tony that I wanted a line-by-line run-down on each player’s performance and attitude so that I can add this to the measuring stick of subjective thought while I observe these players again during the summer observation period. Without going into each name I bascially got the same run-down from Tony that I expected. There were a few players who were there that I felt shouldn’t have been there and some left off the list but under the circumstances of what happened with the changing chairs at Nike, it was a masterful job to make this year’s event as great as any.
We’re about to head into the summer session and I haven’t bothered to write that much this spring due to the extensive travel that I undertook to dig deeper into the coming battle for the hearts, minds, eyeballs and pocketbooks of tomorrow’s player and parent with the birth of the new iHoops concept by the NCAA-NBA. Due to the nature of what’s going on out there behind the scenes in basketball – not just women’s basketball – but basketball I can’t write what’s possibly coming due to the nature of information that I’ve stated before. Sure, there have been some very bloated stories out there hoping to hit the side of a barn with speculation but while everyone goes about their summer business forces are at work and asleep as our game of American basketball slides toward a world only Stalin would love. And don’t be fooled by the handful of millionaire basketball coaches (both genders) that serve as Commissars of disinformation to the doting image they’ve created of themselves and the game.
Remember, there are three levels of this game – those watch, attend and consume basketball in all digital and live forms. The second is a smaller group of fans, media types and assorted insiders who get tidbits of info from the final group, the real movers and shakers of the sport, the true stakeholders of basketball. Most of us are of the first degree but those in the next two live in a fools world where the true reality of basketball is money and influence. Billions of dollars are in play and no one in any of these two top groups can shake the unequivial influence of the men’s pro game and the mounds of money that surroud that process.
I was tempted to write after a call the other day to read the personal attack on Tom Insell of the TN Flight program. Tom called me on my way back from a meeting in Boston on Wednesday but I missed his call. I caught up with Tom the next day to tell me that he’s the new America’s Bad Boy of girls Travel Basketball. I thanked him for hefting that baton that was thrown at me last summer. I still haven’t forgotten that incident and still need to inform those who read this spot what really happened and the connect-the-dots purpose of it. Summer basketball is evolving and changing, something I’ve told quite a few travel basketball people over the past 10 months. The changes to both the boys and girls basketball won’t be visible to those first-level fans until next spring but know you heard it hear from this spot again. I hope to find more time to get what I can write out to you readers. I know those on my email list and even shorter phone call list get to hear me vent about what’s going on and what might be coming to our game. As I always say at this time of the year, the prep for the summer is now over and hence, this summer is over – all we are doing is playing it out.