Local AAU basketball programs at a standstill

  • Hersey girls basketball coach Mary Fendley hopes that players will trust the process college coaches are adjusting to as the COVID-19 pandemic has already altered some AAU schedules.

      Hersey girls basketball coach Mary Fendley hopes that players will trust the process college coaches are adjusting to as the COVID-19 pandemic has already altered some AAU schedules. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/31/2020 4:23 PM

Even though AAU girls and boys basketball action has been halted this spring by the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Elite director Tom Hohenadel is still working.

"I sent out letters to all our players," said the coaching veteran in AAU for more than 20 years whose program has sent 185 girls on to Division I scholarships. "I said 'Get me your videos and we'll start sending them out to colleges now.' "

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Hohenadel said that is one thing AAU coaches can do during this down time, which has occurred at one of the most important times of the college basketball recruiting season.

"I'm still working for my kids," said Hohenadel, whose daughter Susan scored more than 1,000 points at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights.

"It's difficult now because the NCCA ruled there can be no on-campus visits until April 15. We had kids who were going to go before that. They can still text or email but restricting visits to the campus makes it quite challenging."

While there are some big tourneys in April (two already canceled) and May, Hohenadel said the biggest month for college exposure is actually July.

"Obviously, no one knows if we can play then but if we can, I believe everyone would be OK," he said. "All the 2021 graduates should be able to get their scholarships if we can play in the four tournaments in July,"

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Midwest Elite director Kevin Cox, who played at St. Viator and was a walk-on at Villanova, said his club, like most, was able to conduct tryouts before being shut down.

"Our rosters are set for the most part," said Cox, whose program's home base is the Berto Center in Deerfield. "We have seven teams in our program and we are one of 32 programs sponsored by Nike."

In the past, AAU teams have shut down in June to let their players compete with their high school and summer teams.

"I'm wondering if we might have stuff in June now," Cox said.

Like Hohenadel said, it's the girls coming off their junior seasons who are affected the most.

"This is kind of their last AAU season," he said. "It stinks for those kids because this is the time when the college coaches are allowed to be out and definitely the time for them to get exposure. It looks like it's just not going to happen in April."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The good news is that his teams are scheduled for events in Louisville, Minneapolis and two others in the Chicagoland area in July.

"July is the busiest recruiting time in the girls season," he said. "There is a period of 10 to 12 days where the college coaches are allowed to be on the road."

All In Athletics co-owner/President Matt Truding said his boys and girls club already had tryouts and selected the majority of its teams. It still had one more boys tryout scheduled that had to be postponed.

"We are working closely with many organizations around the country to navigate these unchartered waters," he said. "We are working closely with our Jr. NBA network and have weekly calls to talk about new changes/mandates that are going on."

Truding said All In is in touch with major tournament directors about potential changes.

"Unfortunately, many are waiting to see what the NCAA continues to do with the 'live' periods for college coaches to attend," Truding said. "The class of 2021, unfortunately, is getting hit the hardest."

Truding said his club is in contact with those players on how they should be advocating for themselves with college coaches.

"Our staff is also reaching out to coaches and scouting services for them," he added. "We have a list of resources for players to use on our website at www.aiathletics.com/resources.

Hersey junior standouts Mary Kate Fahey and Mary McGrath play for All In.

"Division I coaches are so in tune with the needs of their program and getting out there and finding kids," said Hersey girls basketball coach Mary Fendley. "They're going to have to adjust their timing.

"Hopefully the kids just trust the process and know that the colleges are going to do their best so the kids have the opportunities despite this."

Dave Ruggles, in charge of the Mercury Elite boys AAU program, explained why it is so important for uncommitted players to get exposure at this time.

"When you rely on the high school season to be your opportunity to get exposure, it's tough," said Ruggles, whose outfit is based at the Center Complex in Wheaton. "There are a lot of high school teams which play different systems. Some are very slow and methodical so the scores are low. The player doesn't look as good because you are playing within a team concept that's really slowed down and structure.

"The AAU season gives these guys an opportunity to get out and play a little bit and you can see what other stuff they can do. Hopefully this thing gets straightened out for these guys."

Ruggles said there is only one live weekend for the boys in July where college coaches can watch.

"There used to be three," he added. "But now it's down to one (July 9 to 12). The following weekend is supposed to be for regional camps but those are really only for the top 150 players and most players around here are not top 150. But that doesn't mean you don't have Division I players.

"We have a lot of kids right on the cusp so they would have the chance of playing their way into a D-I scholarship if we can start earlier and get them more exposure."

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