My Trip To AAU Nationals
Last Friday, I left sunny South Florida to take a trip to the land of Mickey and Minnie: Orlando, Florida. The true destination of the weekend’s events was Disney’s Wide World of Sports and even more specifically, the Milk House, where the best of the best AAU boys were put on display in front of large crowds of fans, family, and NCAA coaches. The first item of business was to scoop up Dynasty‘s Director of Coaching Division, Jason Belzer, from Orlando International Airport. He was arriving into O-Town from Las Vegas, where he had spent a few days mingling with many NCAA coaches at a similar AAU event held in Sin City. He likes to say that he traveled 8,000 miles over eight days, building Dynasty. Sounds good to me.
After adding Jason as a passenger, we were off to find our hotel. While it was conveniently located near the Wide World of Sports complex, we definitely got what we paid for. The budget of a startup agency needs to be appropriated towards recruiting and retention, not comfort in hotel beds. Thus our weekend began at the beautiful Masters Inn and would include plenty of visits to fine restauraunts like Ponderosa Steakhouse and Sizzler. Jason will tell you that it is not all that much fun to be around me after six hardboiled eggs and a serving of oatmeal topped with fruitloops (pictured right). I have to give it to Disney, though. Their bathrooms are top of the line.
If you are not an outstanding high school basketball player or a Division I NCAA coach, you easily stand out at the Milk House during the AAU tournament. Every single coach subscribes to the same Men’s magazine. That magazine has team polos and a variety of khaki shorts. If you deviate from the dress code, you get kicked out of the coaching fraternity. The gym, which contains a main court along with 5 others, all containing live basketball games at the same time, is ice cold. I had goosebumps the entire tournament, and it was not only from the level of competition.
Regarding the competition, though, I was thoroughly impressed by some of the talent that I witnessed. How can you beat watching Athletes First of Oklahoma take on the New York Gauchos? Athletes First quickly became my favorite team to watch. They have a guy named Xavier Henry, and you will one day be wearing his NBA jersey. Rivals.com lists seven universities in contention for his services, but after one of his games, he told me that he has narrowed it down to four. The first school he mentioned is Kansas, leading me to believe that’s his number one choice. After a pause, he went on to say that he is also looking at UCLA, Memphis, and UNC. Looks familiar, right? Yeah…this year’s Final Four. But Xavier was not the only sharp looking guy wearing the yellow, red, and blue of Athletes First. Their big center, Daniel Orton (pictured left), dominated the paint (even while wearing a brace). Additionally, Terrence Boyd looked LeBron James-esque on the floor, creating his own shots and getting calls left and right from the refs. Athletes First not only had impressive skill, but looked real sharp in those jerseys.
There were so many teams chalk full of very impressive talent, but other than Athletes First, I could not get over the white and pink jersey wearing, Team Breakdown. If you know anything about high school basketball, you have heard of a boy named Kenny Boynton, who recently committed to Villanova. Those boys can wear purple and pink if they wanted to and still be the best looking guys on the court. They manhandled the competition while I was watching, even though Boynton was taken out of the game with a leg injury.
It was truly a great venue and a great tournament to attend. I was sitting courtside at every game among coaches like Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, and Rick Barnes. I met some great potential new coaching clients. It was also a great bonding experience for Jason Belzer and myself. Justin Herzig, a current Dynasty intern, also joined during the weekend, but he was not able to come out with us at night (he is still a baby at 20-years-old…haha).
Anyway, I am finally home, and completely exhausuted. I have a ton of emails to get through and a lot to catch up on between this site, Dynasty, and other business material. Next year, I think I’ll add Las Vegas to my list of AAU tournament destinations.