Division II and Division III schools have to deal with a challenge of a smaller budget that has a major effect on the recruiting process. Division I schools have better exposure and funding so the budget is less of a problem for them to hurdle. After all, UConn’s athletic department’s net worth was $94,522 in 2011.
However, lower-level schools must find different ways to overcome a smaller budget and one of the biggest remedies for them has been the emergence of AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball.
“AAU is a valuable resource,” University of New Haven head basketball coach Ted Hotaling said. “You get to see lots of kids play at once and there are a lot of people that want to be involved. There are willing participants to help people out with communication.”
Hotaling led New Haven to a 15-13 overall record and 10-7 in conference play.
Basketball on the AAU level has been around for a long time, dating all the way back to the late 1800s. But in the last few decades its popularity has sky-rocketed. College coaches are turning to AAU showcases as an important resource to help guide their recruitments. Division III Eastern Connecticut State head coach Bill Geitner utilizes the AAU circuit to help combat the problem of a smaller budget.
“AAU events really maximize the dollar,” Geitner said. “Going to a high school game, you may only get to see one or two prospects. However, an AAU showcase allows you to see 75 different teams and 175 different players.”
Geitner and ECSU finished the season 24-6 on the year, eventually losing in the NCAA Division III Sectional Tournament.
Overall, recruiting trips take a real toll on a school’s budget, so coaches are limited with the number of trips they can take. Because of these restrictions, coaches in Divisions II and III don’t have the luxury of watching a kid play more than once. These single evaluations are an extreme disadvantage to a coaching staff and can lead to an abundance of mistakes on the recruiting front.
Obviously, a coach or scout is going to have a much better feel for a player if they get to evaluate them several times. AAU Showcases have answered this calling. A coach only needs to make one trip and can watch a kid play a few times throughout the day. Showcases take place all year long so recruiters don’t just have to be out and about in the winter. They also have better communication with the players and many coaches feel like they can have a bigger impact.
“There isn’t as much access to kids at high school games,” Hotaling said. “AAU really fills the gaps that high schools can’t.”
Has AAU finally beaten out high school basketball as the ultimate resource to college basketball recruiting? Some coaches will say yes but, at the same time, they will also agree that high school basketball still holds its own, very important place.
“A high school setting and atmosphere is much more similar to one you would see in college,” Geitner said. “It’s beneficial to see players in that kind of environment.”
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