High School Basketball vs. AAU by kentsterling

[Bob Kravitz wrote a column earlier in the week about the decline in popularity of high school basketball.  Coaches like Doug Mitchell implied that the summer tournaments have has something to do with that erosion.  I asked the Rainman, who played both at the highest levels to offer his thoughts.]

by The Rainman

Has high school basketball lost some of its flare due to the rising popularity of the AAU circuit?  My answer is simple – no it has not.  Not to the people to whom basketball really matters.  It might not be the place to go see the best talent in the country play, but that does not mean that high school basketball has lost anything.  AAU and high school basketball are not in my mind linked in any way.  They are two very different types of basketball and having participated in both for multiple years I can say without a doubt in my mind that the high school has not suffered due to AAU basketball.

I would equate playing AAU at the highest level is more like being a part of a rock band.  It is a show for many of the teams, a showcase of talent driven solely to advance to the mainstream and reach an audience that can give you what you want: a college scholarship.  Playing high school basketball is like being in a local garage band.  You may not be as talented, but you play for the love of the game and for pride in your school.  You play for the students and the fans that come to watch basketball at maybe its purest form.  Not that one is better than the other, but the two serve entirely different purposes for the players.

For the fans of AAU basketball it is about being able to see some of the best basketball talents in the country converge in your hometown for one weekend.  When I played, if you wanted to see Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, and Daequan Cook play on the same floor? There was only one place to do it – at an AAU tournament.  Want to see Kevin Love, OJ Mayo, Brandon Jennings, Taylor King, and Bill Walker play on the same floor? Again, only one place to do it, at an AAU tournament.  So yes, more people may go to watch AAU basketball, but that is because there are matchups of future great players in their teens.  A person can say, “Yeah, I saw those two play against each other at an AAU tournament before”.  You cannot do that anywhere else.

For the fans of high school basketball there is more loyalty involved.  It is more about the pride of being associated with a certain school, not about dream matchups.  Students go to these games to watch their friends play and to cheer their team on to victory.  Alumni go to remember the glory days when they either played in the game or cheered.  It is more nostalgic to go to a high school gym and watch a game.  There is more passion involved for the crowd.  When is the last time you heard a roar from an AAU crowd?

These two brands of basketball are different in almost every aspect.  From the style of the game, to the reasons to watch the game they are different.  Don’t get me wrong they both serve their purpose and are both rewarding to participate in.  I have friends and memories from AAU basketball that I could never have hoped to have from high school alone and the same goes for high school basketball.  It’s not that the high school game has become less popular, it’s that the game is evolving and with that comes a new brand of player and fan.


3 Comments so far
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i agree 100%. i coach aau basketball and have children of my own who play high school and aau basketball. you get more of a cheer from the crowd in a high school game than aau. in aau it’s more of a aah and ooh to the fancy moves and dunks and cross overs you see.

Comment by james jordan

The best AAU 7TH-8TH Player I saw this year was from Indy Hawks.His name is Lane Weaver Guard -Power Forward.Wherever they put him this kid was OUTSTANDING.Look for him in the near future.I believe he attends Mooresville Schools.Get a chance to watch him play do so. You wont be sorry.

Comment by Michael Euler

Lane Weaver is not a team player. Have seen him in many school and AAU games in which I attended to see other players. If he was worth being recruited by Indiana or any D1 school, we would have heard of him by now. Plays for a low tier AAU program and made little noise in a couple of the AAU tournaments I saw him in when scouting, including vs Eron Gordon and the EG10 squad. Forces many of his shots and/or to the rim. Needs to involve his teammates more and let his game come to him if he has any aspirations of playing at any collegiate level.

Comment by Arnold Scott - INHS Scout

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