A College Coach’s Impressions of Travel Basketball

I recently had the opportunity to involve myself once again in what used to be termed  “AAU” basketball and what would now be more appropriately called “travel” basketball, because for various reasons we don’t need to get into-many tournaments are no longer run under AAU auspices.

While I am helping out with a former player’s 16U team, I’ve had the opportunity to witness a myriad of games, from very high-level 17U games down to pretty average younger JV looking games.

Just as it’s not easy, nor wise to paint broad strokes on any endeavor after only a brief glimpse, I do have some fairly strong impressions.

  1. The folks who run these tournaments have the opportunity to make a LOT of money.  At $500 a team entry fee, to the rosters sold to college coaches on “live” recruiting dates to concessions, the gross revenues at some tournaments can be staggering.
  2. To one degree or another, the tournament directors are interested in basketball, the development of young people and the gross revenues.
  3. The quality of basketball that is played, just like HS basketball, varies from team to team, depending on the coaching.  I saw some teams with sophisticated sets and inbound plays and I saw others just “winging” it.  Some teams understood the value of a possession; others didn’t.  Most teams play hard.
  4. Because tournaments start shortly after the HS season ends and can continue through most of summer, at 5-6 games per tourney, a player can play upwards to 60 games in the off-season.
  5. This presents a huge opportunity for a player to improve-provided he’s playing for a coach who holds him accountable to adhere to fundamentals and sound concepts plus play hard, smart and together.  The travel team coaches can have a lot of influence on their players-good or bad.
  6. Some HS coaches are totally tuned into on their players and the nature of their travel teams; many are not.  If a HS coach isn’t aware or is aloof, he has himself to blame.  Playing 60 games doesn’t necessarily make a player better.
  7. While “exposure” to college coaches is a huge draw on the “live” weekends, most tourneys occur during “dead” periods.  The exposure at these is generally limited to the persons running the tournament (sometimes the owner of a scouting service) and all those individuals “trolling” for young players and/or transfers.
  8. Because there are so many courts and games, it’s difficult to have good officials at every game.  At some tourneys, the refs are accountable (usually to another ref who is running a basketball official’s clinic in conjunction with the tourney).  At other tournaments, there is no accountability. The overall quality of officiating is average at best.
  9. Because the officiating can be very sub-par at certain courts, those games can get real feisty.  Crowd control can  be an issue.  Reportedly, there was a crowd issue in Akron this past Spring.  Parents and others with vested interests have no real code of conduct, as they would have in a HS setting.
  10. Travel basketball is here to stay.  Players like playing in this format and it has developed into the main way players are showcased.

What are your thoughts on Travel Basketball?  Add them below in the comments.