Most players start AAU as a way to play more basketball, face better competition and improve their skills. However, as they come closer and closer to the end of their high school basketball careers, many of them realize that they want to play basketball at the next level in college. While Division I college basketball garners most of the attention with full-ride scholarships, all levels of college basketball recruit and offer some sort of scholarship or potential position on the team. For those who do want to play college basketball, there are many more options than people may realize. There are NCAA Division I-III schools, NAIA, junior college, community college and college preparatory (prep) schools. All of whom need to fill out their rosters. But to get there the players need to catch a coach's eye.
The rules for what tournaments coaches can attend and the different kinds of contact they can have with players vary across divisions and times of year. Generally, the most strict rules are at the Division I level and at the lower divisions there are far less. Division I basketball recruiting has a schedule of when coaches can evaluate players at tournaments and when they can contact them. Those evaluations, also known as "live" periods, are in April and July and those tournaments tend to be the largest with the best competition so as to attract as many coaches as possible.
Events like Peach Jam (the Nike EYBL championships) and the end-of-the-year national tournaments in Las Vegas attract hundreds of Division I coaches. More regional tournaments, like those run by NY2LA Sports, attract numerous Division II and III schools. For some players, the goal is a Division I scholarship and they seek the tournaments where they can play in front of as many coaches possible. Others, who may be a ways from making a decision whether or not they want to play a form of college basketball, still get the added thrill of playing in front of them.
Sawyer Levos of Hastings, who just finished his final season of AAU, is hearing from several Division II and III schools.
"I've heard from mostly Division III (schools) and a couple Division II, but nothing too serious yet," Levos said. "That's what I'm hoping for, Division II. I've talked to St. Mary's a little bit, they were the first school that I talked to, as well as St. John's. I'm hoping to visit there soon. A lot of MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) schools mostly. In Division II I reached out to a couple coaches and they are coming to watch, and they have talked to my AAU coach as well. I'm hoping to impress them and maybe pick up an offer."
In a follow-up with Levos, he said the main schools he is hearing from now are Augsburg, Hamline, Macalester, UW-Eau Claire and Bethany, but he hopes to garner more Division II interest during the high school season.
Courtney Brown Jr., an upcoming East Ridge (Woodbury) junior who played with the Howard Pulley Panthers this past summer, has one Division I scholarship offer and hopes to gain several more over the next year during his high school and last AAU season.
"Well the University of North Dakota offered me a scholarship at the beginning of the school year (fall of 2016)," Brown Jr. said. "That's about it right now. Drake (University) came and watched me at practice. UNI (University of Northern Iowa) came and watched a game. (There's) Nebraska-Omaha, I think that's about it."
The recruiting process can be intense and it only increases with the player's talent and if they are capable of playing at the highest levels.
Mallory Brake of Hastings, though only going into her sophomore year of high school, was exposed to the highest level of recruiting this year playing on the EYBL circuit with North Tartan.
"I would say this year has been a huge recruiting season for our class (2020) and next year will be even bigger," Brake said. "I'm noticing them (coaches and recruiters) more and more. I'm being patient while going through the process. I'm not looking to speed through it or be in a rush. I look forward to going through it."
Parker Nielsen, also an upcoming sophomore from Prescott, says he looks forward to having the opportunity to potentially go through the recruiting process.
"I'm interested in going and playing college basketball," Nielsen said. "Having coaches watching me and showing interest in me would be sweet."