For teenagers in most sports--basketball included--the glory of playing organized competition often comes in representing your high school.
But when it comes to increasing your chances at a scholarship, the summer basketball leagues are where you need to shine.
Why is that? Why does high school bring glory and school pride, but summer league "pays the bills," so to speak?
The answer is in the availability of college coaches--and when the NCAA allows them to scout potential prospects.
NCAA Division I college coaches adhere to a strict recruiting calendar that follows NCAA bylaws. It gets into intense detail about when a coach can watch a player, talk to a player, acknowledge a player, and when a coach must avoid a player altogether.
Let's review the key terms for the recruiting calendar, as explained by the NCAA:
Quiet Period: The college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college's campus. The coach cannot watch you play or visit your high school during this period.
Contact Period: The college coach can talk to you or your family on or off campus, and can watch you play.
Dead Period: The college coach cannot have any in-person contact with you. However, the coach can write you or call you on the phone.
Evaluation Period: The college coach can watch you play or visit your high school, but can't talk to you off the college's campus.
The last one is crucial, because it best points to summer basketball's importance in recruiting. College coaches only get so many opportunities to see a player perform. For the 2011-2012 school year, for example, men's college coaches can evaluate players at these times:
- September 9 through October 5 (contact period)
- October 6 through March 28 (evaluation period)
- A few select days in April (contact period)
- July 6 to July 15 (evaluation period)
- July 22 to July 31 (evaluation period)
The problem with the first period is that there aren't many games going on. The problem with the second period is that college coaches are now in the middle of their season and have very little time to recruit.
That leaves a few days in April and all of July for coaches to hit the road and scout potential recruits for their future teams. That gives summer competition an important niche in basketball circles.
Event organizers like the AAU, Nike or adidas line up its biggest tournaments to take place during the NCAA evaluation period, with the AAU calling summer hoops "the place to be."
For teenagers in pursuit of a college basketball scholarship, being at "the place to be" isn't an option--it's a must.