If the shoe fits ...
Nike camp opens with NBA scouts out en masse
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The hundreds of college coaches who attend the Nike All-America Camp each summer were absent Friday.
That didn't mean, though, that the 190 high school players or the 19 camp counselors were not on display during the first day of practice.
Actually, the auditions were already under way -- for the NBA scouts.
"We had 16 teams watching the camp counselors' games this morning," said former college coach George Raveling, now the director of Nike's All-America Camp. "Not one time since I've been involved with this camp have we had a single problem with an NBA scout."
Still, the invasion of NBA scouts to summer camps, designed for high school players, is relatively new. While some have shown up at past Nike camps, the practice did not become commonplace until 1999.
Over the next four days, Nike officials expect all 29 NBA teams to attend this camp for the third straight year, albeit incognito.
"You know this morning only two guys had anything on that said what team they were with," Raveling said, smiling. "It was almost as if they were embarrassed to be here."
The mission, however, is no embarrassment.
Each is looking for the next Ray Allen, the next Vince Carter, the next Kevin Garnett -- all of whom attended the Nike camp while in high school.
A year ago, the NBA scouts found three high school players at Nike -- Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop -- all of whom were lottery picks in last month's NBA draft. Now the focus is on players such as Shavlik Randolph, a senior from Raleigh, N.C., and Amare Stoudemire, a senior from Orlando, Fla., who first caught the attention of scouts at last year's camp.
"He was not a household name here last year, he was just another kid," Raveling said of Stoudemire. "Some kids come here and find out 'I'm as good as I thought I was.' Some kids come here and find out 'I'm not as good as I thought I was.' And some kids come here and find out 'I'm better than I thought I was.'"
The scouts are looking for more, though.
On Friday, the NBA scouts spent most of the afternoon watching the camp counselors, who are college players, running through drills and playing pickup games. "We come in here to see where they are and what they're doing," said Keith Smart, a scout for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"We don't want to be caught in the dark. If somebody wants some information on a player we want to have it."
The camp is not all about playing basketball.
Each high school athlete attends classes in subjects such as conflict resolution and interviewing skills and college finances and team building.
Each athlete receives advice in how to attain better grades and writing resumes.
And each student hopes to put on his best performance for the college coaches, who will be in full force Sunday when the summer recruiting period officially opens.
One subject Nike counselors don't address, though, is what future avenue the players chart.
"That's not our role," Raveling said. "We'd be accused of giving information to kids about whether they should go pro or whether they should go to college, and that's not our role."
But the subject is a hot topic these days, in the hotel rooms.
"A couple of us joke around a lot," said Jarrett Jack, a prospect from Fort Washington, Md. "A lot of guys want to know where we're going to college and most of the people here are like 'What college? I'm not going to college, I'm going to the NBA.'"
The matter is more serious for the counselors, many of whom also hope to impress the NBA scouts.
But Raveling does not believe things will change anytime soon.
"I don't know, I'm probably as interested as everybody else to see where it all goes," he said. "Twenty years from now, we might realize this is the start of an evolution."