Many middle school and high school basketball players are now facing a difficult decision. Will they just participate in a spring sport for their school or play for a club/travel basketball team? Should they try to do both?
Non-school basketball games for club and travel teams, such as AAU basketball, usually starts in the middle of March and can run until mid-July .
Some of these teams will be playing both Saturday and Sundays on most weekends to get ready for the state AAU tournaments that could qualify them for national tourneys in July. This has been occurring since the early 1990’s.
It creates a dilemma for players and coaches. Many spring school coaches do not want their athletes competing in non-school basketball during their sports seasons. They want those athletes’ full attention on their spring sport.
The coaches run the risk of losing these athletes to club/travel basketball if the athletes are not permitted to compete in both programs. This is a coaches problem. Players will have to decide what they wish to do and if they want to do both, then they have to make the difficult decision when conflicts occur.
Many people think that an athlete should play a different sport each season to help their school, but that decision — with some good parental guidance — should ultimately come from the athlete.
Players who choose to play just basketball are usually the ones who have been sold on the theory that if they want to become a NCAA Division I player, a year-round basketball commitment is needed. This is a fallacy because very few Mainers reach the Division I level.
Some non-school coaches have successfully influenced basketball players into the year-round theory. This contributes to more specialization. Players and parents should be careful and not allow coaches to put pressure on them to play for the coaches’ non-school team in pursuit of the tough-to-reach Division I goal.
By buying into the theory, many players and parents spend thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles in search of making the Division I dream a reality.
There is a better way to reach that goal.
Any Maine high school basketball senior who wants to play Division I or Division II, which also offers scholarships, by their sophomore year should go to prep school for a year. If they cannot get a scholarship to a prep school, then they probably are not a Division I prospect.
Players must decide early to go to prep school because the scholarship money is usually gone by the middle of December and usually based on their performance during their junior basketball season.
Some Maine players have gone on to Division II and many more to Division III. The results have been an excellent education and a successful basketball career.
I disagree with the theory that players have to play 12 months a year to be a Division I prospect if they live in Maine. Organized basketball is available for 46 weeks.
Some players who specialize will also continue to do weight lifting, conditioning or work with shooting coaches or basketball non-school coaches. The players need to be careful and remember that they need time to rest and recover physically and mentally from the 10 months they have practiced and competed.