There are so many throughout the country all promising the same thing to players and that is the opportunity to help them land a scholarship. Over the years these events have diminished in value to the players forking over $100-$250 in entrance fees. The only ones reaping the benefits from these events are the people running them.
The biggest problem with attending showcase camps is what actual value does it give the players participating and the college coaches that attend.? Most of the events are filled with a big percentage of players that aren’t college prospects at ANY level. The camps mostly have things like “Elite,Top, or Invitational” in their title only to open its doors to any players that can afford to come to the camp.
The camps themselves don’t offer any teaching to the participants. Most of the coaches that work these events only are concerned with the numbers of the next 5 players subbing into the game and very rarely offer any type of correction or insight to the players. Players participate in 3-4 games a day over a 1-2 day period. The games make the “And 1″ Mixtape tour look like the 80′s Celtics-Lakers Rivalry.
There is no passing, cutting, or defense being played in the games. Players are all trying to outperform each other to make a name for themselves. To make matters worse some of these camps have 120-200 participants making it hard for most players to make a name for themselves. College coaches that come to evaluate have their jobs cut out for them.
The games are usually an hour of a nonstop fastbreak drill. Players push the ball up the court and look to fire up a the first shot that they can. It is a hard thing to police and it makes it hard for players that don’t handle the ball to get a shot off. For college coaches and scouts it is very difficult to get a read on players because of the style of play.
College coaches usually fork over $25-$100 for a list of participants. Some event organizers give them lists that have accurate information. The Hoop Group who is a company that organizes events like this all over the East Coast provides a very accurate roster for coaches that is updated by the hour. Most organizers do not follow their lead and provide TERRIBLE information to college coaches.
Not everyone who holds exposure camps does a bad job, but there are very few who give the participants as well as scouts a good product. There is no shame in making a lot of money in basketball, but at some point you need to give value to your customers that are keeping you in business.
The Midwest Invitational Workout
About three months ago I was running a camp in Canada when I thought of an idea. I wanted to put on an invitation only camp for players in the Midwest. The idea behind it was to run it like an NBA Pre Draft Workout. Players that participate would all be college prospects at some level.
Unlike most exposure camps there would be structure to it as the players would partake in drills and be put in situations that they would have to think. There would be little fullcourt games and players would have to perform in a controlled and structured environment. There would have to be something else at this event to solidify it as a legitimate camp that players would want to attend and their parents/coaches would sign off on.
The first call I made was to Dave Telep of ESPN. Dave is a good friend and one of the top 2 high school basketball scouts in the country. I told him my idea and asked if he would be interested in covering the event live. He agreed and there was the start of it. We reached out to over 50 Club/High School coaches form all over the midwest.
The idea wasn’t to just get bodies at the camp that can pay the fee to attend, but to screen all players that inquired to make sure that every player was a college prospect at some level. It is hard to say no to people, but it was done in many cases of coaches/parents that were submitting players for approval. In all there were over 150 players submitted and in the end only 42 were selected.
I knew to make this special that we had to be completely different in the approach that we took running this workout. The first thing that would be the backbone of the event was going to be the staff. I couldn’t have clowns that would sit there and say nothing. They needed to be coaches that would instruct and correct the kids when needed. The four coaches all had college experience. Kaniela Aiona(Assistant Coach Bennedictine University/Instructor Pete Newell Camp),Jay Price (University of Illinois/Purdue), Aaron Rolle(Roosevelt University), and Sam Maniscalco(University of Illinois) were my staff.
When I ran the idea by people that I trusted they weren’t too sure that it would work. They thought since high school kids for the most part like to run up and down and play and that working them hard as well as correcting wasn’t the norm in events such as this. They thought the structure would be over their heads and that they would be disengaged with the message of the camp.
We had three workout groups where each session would las 1.5 hours. I wanted to Dave to evaluate their skill level, ability to retain instructions, body language, ability to think n the half court structured setting, and lastly the ability to perform in fullcourt games. I explained to the players in the opening in all three groups that NBA Draft Prospects mostly only have 2 hours in a draft workout to make an impression on decision makers of the teams that bring them in to workout.
I made it very clear that this wasn’t an event where they will play all day and have extra chances to prove themselves. Most people in the real world only get one chance to make an impression and that they were no different. I knew that Dave in most cases wouldn’t see half of the participants again and that if they impressed him that it could help in their basketball future.
In all we had 44 players after 2 late selections. Of the 44 players there were over 30 division one prospects. Here are some of the discoveries that I made throughout the day:
PLAYERS AT ALL TALENT LEVELS WANT TO BE COACHED
One of the biggest questions by outside people was the interest levels of the players to be critiqued and coaches in events like this. The players were engaged throughout the entire session. When mistakes were made we blew the whistle broke down the mistake and let the drills/games go on. When you have presence as a coach and cut through all the fat of what you are trying to explain and get right to the point of the mistake and solution players respond.
All four of my coaches had tremendous energy and stopped the players when a mistake was made. I think you lose a team/group very easily when you are inconsistent with your ability to correct mistakes and keep order.
PLAYERS WANT STRUCTURE
I knew that most of these events were 95% games and that wasn’t going to be us. It did worry me a little bit, but had to believe in our product. Not all players like structure, but I do think they value it. There are always going to be players that dont like to have structure and just want to go up and down. Once they get past the initial shock of the fact they wont be spending 6 hours playing fullcourt games that as long as it is consistent thay they will stay focused.
I was happy with the structure of the drill-work as well as the rules that were implemented throughout the sessions. It added value to the workout and gave the scouts a different angle to recruit in.
STRUCTURE HAS A POSITIVE IMPACT ON GAMES
After we spent 15-20 minutes drilling the different options on specific game situations the players were allowed to go live in the half court. It added so much value to the games because now the things that we drilled (post entry, screen reads, spacing, and extra passes) were being executed in the real games. Once we went to full court the same things we were stressing in drills were once again being done in full court play.
Not only were the drills beneficial, but also stopping games and holding players accountable played a huge part in the success of the event. You have to correct mistakes and clean them up. This is a crucial pat in player development. If you hold players accountable when they make mistakes and give them good information on how to not repeat the same mistakes they will improve.
PLAYERS APPRECIATE THE TRUTH
There is no sense to sugarcoat things. If a player messes up let them hear about it. If they make a good play let them hear about it. At the end of the day players want to get better. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Let players know where they stand at all times. I had no problem getting on players when they made mistakes and for the most part they took it as they valued information that was truthful.
Our goals coming into the workout was to make sure that this event was 100% for the players involved. I wanted all players to feel as though that they received double the value of what they paid to attend the workout. I wanted them to compete, get better, and receive real exposure. At the end of the workout we gave each player a free DVD containing footage of professional players that play their position.
There are very few exposure events out there that have the player in mind. We wanted to change that culture and do something special for the high school players in the midwest. We wanted to have sessions filled with a small number (15 or less) of players so that they can receive the best attention as possible as well as to give them ample opportunity to get evaluated by a scout that is actually looking to help them.
We wanted to educate players that there are plenty of bad basketball events out there that exploit them and never get them better. I wanted to combine structure, skill, game situations, scrimmages, and exposure for an event that would benefit every player. I think we came very close for the first year.
I want to thank all of the players for participating, parents/coaches for trusting us with their kids, my tremendous staff, Montini Catholic High School, and Dave Telep for making the event a great success.