If you're at a basketball game at any time during the course of the year, you might see a member of the iHoops staff in attendance, closely watching the action on the court.
We're not just there for entertainment. There's a purpose. Five different iHoops employees go all over the United States to watch scholastic and summer basketball games, looking for the next player who could be a potential member of the iHoops First Team.
Those five are often greeted warmly at the games, and a lot of spectators approach them asking questions about the program and how First Team works.
"The reception is always really, really good," said Duke Pryor, iHoops' Assistant Director of Programs.
First Team is a mentoring program designed to help promising high school student-athletes navigate the recruiting process and be independent thinkers in the world that awaits them. Most First Team members are in the program for four years, meaning the iHoops staff often identifies and selects First Team members when they're in eighth grade.
So how does the selection process go down?
Those five iHoops staffers take recommendations from coaches while also cross-referencing recruiting services. From that, they compile a large list of potential players and start making phone calls to learn more about them.
They then hit the road, watching the players play in person, talking to coaches and parents and trying to figure out if that player would thrive in a program like First Team.
While extraordinary basketball talent is the common thread among those who are selected, character and academics is also considered. Basically, players who would benefit from First Team and embrace what they will learn from the experience are considered good candidates. If there is interest from iHoops' end, those players are encouraged to fill out an application for First Team. iHoops eventually selects participants from a pool of players who have completed and sent back an application.
Once enough information is gathered, the iHoops staff comes together and narrows down the list of candidates. It then goes to a selection committee, which makes a final decision on which applications will be accepted.
Those lucky players will get a letter in the mail informing them that they are invited to join the iHoops First Team program. That letter is usually sent early in the summer and the players are all invited to the annual First Team Summer Conference in August.
And with that, a lifelong mentorship begins.