View Full Version : USA Basketball destroys field at U17 World Cup, despite 'handicap' of AAU experience

07-09-2018, 09:53 AM

Indeed, seven of the gold medalists will go from this tournament to the Nike EYBL at the Peach Jam this week. They will compete in what might be the final Peach Jam event open for scouting by college coaches, because when basketball looks for someone to blame, the letters A-A-U — even though misused — remain a convenient target.

According to reporting by Jeff Goodman, a working group that was established to help implement proposals by the Rice Commission is recommending allowing college coaches to scout in the summer only a series of camps conceived and run by the NCAA. Condoleeza Rice and the group she led had recommended reducing the influence of non-scholastic basketball in the recruiting process.

Her assertion — “non-scholastic basketball is an ungoverned space with coaches, players and their families, agents and sponsors exchanging money and goods in the hope of future benefits and without accountability” — is hardly the most emphatic condemnation of AAU hoops.

“It’s stupid,” future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant once said.

Supposedly, the loosely configured summer travel basketball scene that is labeled AAU has contributed to a general decline in the efficacy of young American players.

And yet, the U.S never has lost a game at the U17s. It is 37-0. Such players as Jayson Tatum, Jabari Parker, Collin Sexton and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have won gold at prior tournaments. No opponent came within 32 points of this year's team. The Americans won by an average of nearly 54 points.

If the conventional wisdom regarding the state of American basketball were to be believed — Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is among those who have spoken out — these games should be getting closer now. We’ve been lectured for years that the European club system is a superior training ground for “fundamentals.”

“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant said during his anti-AAU rant in 2015. “They are just taught the game the right way at an early age.”

Well, that skill advantage didn’t prevent U.S.-trained players from filling 23 of the top 25 positions on the NBA scoring chart this past season, or 23 of the top 25 positions in 3-point shooting percentage and 21 of the top 25 positions in assists.

And those “fundamentals” got France beaten by 53 points on Sunday.

It’s not as though the U.S. got the top 10 kids in the 2019 high school class to go and destroy the world’s teens, either. Harmon is ranked No. 40 by 247 Sports. Romeo Weems is 36th and Isaac Okoro is 38th. Five of the 12 players on the roster are going to be high school juniors this fall, including Green.