by Bryan Crawford / @BryanCraw4D
Last weekend, while the eyes of the basketball collective were fixated on Houston for the All-Star Game, 1,000 miles away, many of the top college coaches and assistant coaches descended upon Bradenton, FL, to check out the third-annual IMG Academy Beach Blast.
The 38-team event was filled with talent at all levels, from junior varsity to varsity to post-grad. Division I coaches, along with several junior college coaches camped out at IMG’s sprawling campus for three days taking in all of the action and looking for those “hidden gems” and in some cases, even made scholarship offers to kids.
Kenny Natt, who played in the NBA during the early-to-mid-’80s and was featured in SLAM 160, is IMG’s newest director of basketball, and he and his staff set out with the purpose of making the event attractive to both coaches and media alike who could’ve been anywhere in the world, but decided to spend a rainy and cool weekend hanging out in central Florida.
“Overall, I’m very impressed with the talent level and me being a coach myself, I’m very impressed with the way the coaches are coaching their teams,” Natt said. “All of that together, from my perspective, including our efforts at IMG in putting on a first class event, has made this a success.”
The action took place simultaneously on three courts, two of which were in IMG’s brand new, state-of-the-art gym facility that was erected last summer. And it was easy to tell when it was time for a big game because the spectators would make an overwhelming and dramatic shift toward whichever court on which the game was being played.
But not only did Natt want to make the Beach Blast a positive event for the players, he wanted to make it positive for the coaches who participated as well, including his own coaches at IMG.
“I like the way that our coaches [at IMG] are conducting themselves. I’m a disciplinarian and I hold our coaches to a high standard. I want to make sure that our players are being respectful out on the floor, showing sportsmanship, teamwork and things of that nature,” Natt said. “So far, everything has worked out wonderfully. Our players are playing well, our coaches are dressed properly, everyone is acting as gracious hosts and ambassadors and conducting themselves in the right way. Those are the things that we expect here at IMG.”
Here are few names of players you should keep an eye out for:
Joshua Robinson (Beacon Prep): 6-5 combo guard – Post Grad
Connor Smith (Moravian Prep): 6-2 guard – Post Grad
Abdoulaye Harouna (New Creations Academy): 6-4 guard – Post Grad
Jamaree Strickland (Queen City Prep): 6-10 center – Post Grad (Cincinnati commit)
Tommy Hamilton Jr. (IMG Academy): 6-10 forward/center – Class of ‘13
Boubacar Moungoro (IMG Academy): 6-6 wing – Class of ‘14
Satnam Singh (IMG Academy): 7-1 center – Class of ‘14
Kyle Kuzma (Rise Academy): 6-8 wing – Class of ‘14
Bruno Caboclo (Score Sports Academy): 6-9 wing – Class of ‘14
Illia Antonenko (IMG Academy): 6-8 forward/center – Class of ‘15
Steve Tankou (IMG Academy): 5-10 guard – Class of ‘15
Loren ‘Cristian’ Jackson (IMG Academy): 5-7 guard – Class of ‘16