AAU basketball is dirty. The stories regarding money, apparel and power are starting to become more well-know, but for every story that leaks to the public, there’s about 50 that don’t.
Every college coach, for the most part, has had a run-in with a sketchy AAU coach that has enough influence on a top recruit that the college coach has no choice but to oblige. How far that coach goes is up to him, and how important that player potentially could be to a program also plays a major factor.
Some coaches get caught, some don’t and some don’t play the dirty games. But in high level D-1 basketball, most times you don’t have a choice.
Shoe companies have a big influence in the sport of basketball, and will continue to have that high influence with the money they can throw around.
“Let’s not go crazy here. Shoe companies have been great for our sport,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said on Wednesday at the ACC media day.
“Many colleges have shoe deals that fund all their student-athletes. We wouldn’t have all that. They fund programs, grassroots things that helps thousands and thousands of kids. Just because we’ve had a few things go wrong here, you can’t get rid of all that — the opportunity for 351 staffs to go out in the summer to see kids, for them to get exposure. It’s not just the top kids. It’s for everybody.”
As most of you know, Adidas is in hot water after an FBI investigation led to two arrests of employees from the company. Sources told ESPN that at least one shoe company has discussed shutting down its summer basketball slate this coming year, and all signs point to that being Adidas despite not being officially named in the report.
“Eliminating summer basketball isn’t going to change anything. Not one thing. Not one thing,” said Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim. “It’s going to hurt kids, it’s going to hurt coaches and it’s going to really hurt the 200 schools that depend on going out in the summertime because they see all their kids then. And they can make decisions. They don’t have a recruiting budget.”
Nike, Adidas and Under Armour send kids all over the country, load their wardrobe with new apparel and shoes in hopes they continue to rep the brand throughout their career.
The three major shoe brands all want the top prospects wearing their products in hopes to develop relationships that could lead to endorsements down the road for top picks in the NBA Draft.
And that’s where things become sketchy.
Not only do shoe companies try to get involved, but so do agents -- which is another headache for coaches, parents and, most importantly, the student-athletes.
Some love the attention, others recognize the implications that can happen if things go south. But it’s also one of those instances where things don’t always go south. Money can exchange hands and, unless someone leaks information, nobody has to know.
It happens every year and will continue to happen. An FBI investigation might slow it down at first, but the sketchiness of AAU basketball isn’t going anywhere.
And truthfully, who cares if money exchanges hands? These kids make the brands, coaches and colleges plenty of money to take some for themselves, even if it bends the rules a little bit.
I’m a firm believer that colleges shouldn’t pay their athletes. I am, however, a believer that endorsement deals are fair game. There’s money to be made for these kids, most of who struggle to get by despite having free meals, classes and books.
Most — not all — of the top players care about getting to the NBA, not English 101.
Back to shoe companies — they do more good than bad for the sport. Coach K and Boeheim are right (as if they need my approval), it helps far more kids than it hurts. And truthfully, if a kid gets a few hundred thousand at the age of 18 — are they really a victim? Or maybe they understand their worth and are cashing in.
And to that, I, among many others, applaud them.