The Magical World…of AAU

By Aggrey Sam

This is it. The end of the line. For college coaches, the end of July signifies their last chance. The infamous July evaluation period is almost over, meaning top prospects won’t be on display again until the fall (and only briefly), then winter for high school basketball season. The most vaunted of the end-of-summer events take place in Las Vegas (adidas, Nike and Reebok all have tournaments), but Orlando (the HQ of AAU–the actual organization/governing body, not the misnomer often used to describe travel team summer hoops) has been picking up steam in recent years as a top location for coaches to see some of the better players in the nation. While Vegas has more quantity, Orlando is more centralized (most of the better teams are in Disney’s beautiful Milk House or the adjacent Jostens Center) and while there are a lot of teams (about 300, according to James Parker , AAU’s Director of Sports, from AAU) here, the way it’s set up (between the different age groups and divisions), makes it somewhat easy to cover. The 16-and-under divisions are already over (with Nationals beginning today), as All Ohio Red took down Albany City Rocks in the chip. The 17-and-under brackets begin today, as pool play is almost over, so expect to get another update from me again soon. On to the players who stood out yesterday:

Jared Sullinger, 6-7 post, 2010: Simply put, the wide-bodied Ohio State commit is a monster, equipped with a soft touch, excellent hands, nimble footwork and tremendous power on the block that makes him not only a 20-and-10 threat, but a potential 30-20 guy every time out on the high school level.
Adreian Payne, 6-9 post, 2010: While Sullinger is a sure bet to do damage in every game (and just about on every touch), his All Ohio Red teammate Payne may have more long-term potential, as his length, quickness, athleticism, shotblocking and shooting touch make him a tough matchup on both ends.
Eric Bledsoe, 6-0 point guard, 2009: The floor general of one of my favorite teams (the Birmingham Ice) on this year’s circuit, the fast-rising (in both stock and athleticism), the Alabama native is a strong, aggressive and defensive-minded player with good court vision, finishing ability and a accurate enough J to keep defenders honest.

Alex Oriakhi, 6-9 post, 2009: The chiseled big fella, a UConn commit, displayed his arsenal of post moves, a mid-range J, dominating work on the boards, passing ability, powerful finishing and intimidating shotblocking.

Gerald Coleman, 6-3 combo guard, 2010: The Bostonian (I’m pretty sure he’s the latest in the line of the city’s talented Coleman brothers; check out “The Assist” by Neil Swidey), Oriakhi’s AAU and future prep teammate at New Hampshire’s Tilton School (along with Oriakhi’s classmate and fellow UConn commit Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel), showed off his efficient slashing game, tough D, solid ballhandling, quickness and athleticism.

Phil Pressey, 5-9 point guard, 2010: Another member of BABC, Pressey (the son of former pro and current Hornets assistant Paul) defended recent claims he’s arguably the nation’s top true point guard in his class by knocking down open treys, using his court vision to set up his teammates for easy buckets, playing harassing D, controlling the tempo and finishing at the rim despite his diminutive frame.
Tobias Harris, 6-7 combo forward, 2010: More of a face-up power forward than a true wing, the big-bodied Harris frustrated opponents by handling the rock and hit deep jumpers like a guard, but rebounded and scored on the inside like a big man.
Taran Buie, 6-2 combo guard, 2010: The younger brother of Penn State point guard Talor Battle is making quite a name for himself with his shooting, athleticism and slashing ability and while he’s not a true point, his playmaking and on-ball defense have stood out, as well.
Johnnie Lacy, 5-10 point guard, 2009: Jet-quick and possessing tremendous body control, Lacy makes the game look easy by utilizing his sharp handle, solid court vision and array of shots in the lane to create easy offensive opportunities.
Jereme Richmond, 6-6 wing, 2010: An Illinois commit since his freshman year, Richmond has been much maligned recently, but the polished wing’s versatile scoring ability from the wing, post and in transition, combined with his length, athleticism and stroke make his talent undeniable.
Marcus Jordan, 6-2 wing, 2010: While his J and ball skills could certainly use continued polish, his strength for a perimeter player, rebounding from the wing, consistent effort and intense D earned acclaim, but his jaw-dropping athleticism (an oop directly on the head of a helpless foe had the gym buzzing) shows the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Mike Gilchrist, 6-7 wing, 2011: For my money, Gilchrist might be the best player here, period–he scores from everywhere, rebounds like crazy, is unselfish, has a great motor and on top of that, is a great kid–in short, he does EVERYTHING.

Stay tuned for more from Orlando.