Summer is no vacation
Long, strange trip lies ahead on recruiting trailPosted: Thursday June 12, 2003 10:37 PM
What if I told you that I was getting out of the office and for the next month and a half and would be spending time on the road in St. Louis, Colorado Springs, Colo., Indianapolis, Teaneck, N.J., Augusta, Ga., Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., and my sole mission would be to watch basketball?
Youíre in, right? Whenís the bus leave? Meet me at the airport? Oh, youíll buy dinner in Vegas? Nice. One catch: this isnít a pleasure cruise, itís all business; OK, mostly business but this is serious stuff.
That means no theme park action at Disney, no nightlife in Vegas and no, you wonít be able to squeeze in a round at Augusta National either. Still interested? Sure you are. Itís basketball. You love it, why not come along for the ride?
Now, let me fill you in on the details. St. Louis (June 17-22), thatís the easy part. The Nike Hoop Jamboree is a six-day event where youíll get to see a plethora of rising freshman, sophomores and juniors from around the country. Games are spaced out well, the food in the ďSTLĒis terrific and yes, the Cardinals are in town. The first stop on the tour is pretty painless; youíll be feeling pretty good about yourself when you get home.
After resting up for a few days and cranking out some stories, because hey, stories are a big part of the trip, weíre off to beautiful Colorado Springs for the USA Youth Development Festival. The good people at Olympic headquarters decided once again to invite 48 elite level players to camp.
The games and practices are spaced out well and you might be able to drive up Pikes Peak or even take in a movie or two at the theater across from the hotel. From June 22-26, youíre loving life. The ball is good and cranking out stories on a daily basis isnít so bad when thereís plenty of time to write in between games and the evening sessions donít run too late.
At the end of the Colorado trip, youíre thinking, "this is easy, bring on July."
July 5, the first day of summer camp. You might not know it, but youíre in for a long month. Youíve written your summer camp previews, released the pre-summer rankings and got your schedules together. Youíre ready for anything that comes your way.
From July 5-9 youíll be at Nike All-American Camp. Again, the first few days are easy because itís just practice. Youíve arrived in Indianapolis early enough to catch the final day at the 16 and under AAU Nationals just down the road; as if you havenít seen enough hoops in the last 10 days. Media interviews are going on, kids are committing because thatís what they do in the summer, and you wait for July 7th, the first play day at Nike.
Over the course of the next three days, youíll evaluate just under 200 prospects in four different age groups. You canít get mesmerized by the senior class, either. Thereís plenty of young kids that you need to see.
Every day begins with 9 a.m. 3-on-3 games. After the first day, youíll be tempted to sleep in but this is where you can really find out who can score and who struggles with their offense. Get out of bed, the car leaves at 8:30.
If youíre lucky, you can get out of the gym by 10 p.m. each night. Thatís when the fun begins. You better have taken good notes because itís time to crank out some copy. Two stories will do and if youíre lucky -- and good -- 12:30 is an attainable bedtime.
Itís July 10th and itís 3 a.m. What? Yes, get out of bed, weíve got a 5:30 eye-opener that will take us to New Jersey for the final two days of the adidas ABCD Camp (in Teaneck, N.J.). Weíll get in around 9 a.m., rent a car, maybe grab a lunch and weíre at the gym by noon my man. Weíre rippiní and running now. Itís all adrenaline.
There are over 200 kids at the adidas ABCD Camp and youíve got to see as many as you can. For the next two nights, itís wall to wall ball. You begin to feel a little tired and the stress level goes up some, but youíre OK.
The ABCD All-Star game is a site to see and it provides you with great individual performances, loud hip-hop music that makes Glen "Big Baby" Davis dance and a quick look at many of best in the country. Whew, weíre outta here tomorrow.
On July 12th, weíll get home around noon but donít get too comfortable. Crank out some stories quickly, get a few hours of rest, kiss the woman and boom weíre gone again. Plane leaves bright and early on the 13th for the Peach Jam.
Why are we leaving a day early for the Peach Jam, you ask? Because games start early on the 14th and we canít be late. The Peach Jam (Augusta, Ga.) has just 24 teams, nice breaks in between and generally you arenít in the gym at midnight. Weíve been telling you for weeks that itís the coldest gym in the country, so donít forget the sweatshirt.
The eventís over on July 17. You get to go home for four days. Remember, you better write up some stories during those days. Thereís no rest for the weary. Youíve got to take that information you gathered from the last three events, process it and crank out the copy. Remember, you do the traveling and the folks at home do the reading. Youíve got to take them there with you everyday with the stories.
July 21 comes around. We head to Vegas a day early to pick up the rosters for the adidas Big Time (July 22-26). This is no ordinary packet. This baby is huge. Itís got over 300 teams and it weighs slightly less than that calculus book you opened once in college.
In Vegas, the trip gets interesting. For starters, games tip at 8. Thatís 8 a.m., and they run straight through to midnight. Provided there are no overtimes, maybe you get out of the gym by midnight Ė on a slow night.
So, we get back to the hotel, the one closest to the gym, not the snazziest one on The Strip, by about 12:30. Time to bang out a story or two. With an eye on the clock, you close shop at 2 a.m. Yikes, thatís a little late.
The alarm goes off at 7:15 a.m. Games start in 45 minutes. Hurry up. This goes on for four more days. These, my friend, are four of the longest days of the year bar none.
On July 26, the event ends at around 7 p.m. Weíll go into the media workroom, bang out a game story and then head for the airport at around 9. The flight and you know itís a red-eye, leaves just before midnight.
A plane change and 10 hours later youíre home. Whew, what a trip? You shake off the cobwebs and wonder if the month will ever end. It wonít. Not yet at least.
On July 27, in the evening, you board a plane bound for Orlando and the AAU National Championship (July 25-31). All new teams, and plenty of potential "sleepers" that you havenít seen yet. Thereís six gyms at the Wide World of Sports Complex, and there are games on each court. Have fun.
For the next four days, your mornings begin at 7, just five or six short hours after youíve finished writing the previous nightís batch of stories. The kids are just as tired as you are. The bathrooms in Disney are not clearly marked and you spot a guy waltzing into the womenís restroom. 10 seconds later, he makes like Carl Lewis on his way out. Itís been that kind of month for everyone.
Ah, light at the end of the tunnel. On Aug. 1 you return home. The first order of business is to turn off the cell phone, adjust the AC accordingly, grab an armful of pillows and sleep. Go ahead, sleep the entire day. You earned it.
Aug. 2 rolls around. Time to get out of bed. Remember those 22 days you spent on the road in July? Well, each day you learned something new about a player. Itís time to start writing wrap-ups, bios, entering names into the database, adjusting school lists, ranking players, cropping pictures and fielding phone calls. Kids are committing left and right. Your phone is ringing off the hook. Glad youíre home now?
Hey, toughen up. We told you it was all business. Want to come along for the ride next year or not?