AAU tournaments: it’s where top young athletes play when they’re not balling all over their high school rivals. Needless to say, competing against top-tier prospects in this type of setting can be intimidating.
Your instincts tell you to go out and showcase your ability to make plays. You need to prove you’re better than the best, yes?
Not necessarily. If you’re competing in an AAU-sanctioned tournament, college coaches recruiting at these events already know you’ve got game. What they’re looking for are well-rounded athletes who will fit well into their programs.
With the coaches studying your every move, you have a great opportunity not just to display your skills but to reveal your extra dimension as a high-character player. “It’s very important for these young men to understand that coaches are always watching, even when you’re sitting on the bench,” says Sidney Lowe, former head coach at North Carolina State.
Do you present yourself as a stand-up, high-character guy when you’re sitting on the bench? Are you cheering on your teammates? Are you truly into the game? If not, your stock is certain to slip, according to Lowe. He says, “Things like that will turn a coach off, if you see a guy who’s not into the ballgame or not respecting the game.”
Showing respect for your coach and teammates is equally important. Jim Boeheim, head coach of Syracuse University, says, “The attitude the player has, how he relates to his teammates and his coach [and] how he is in tough situations when things aren’t going that well” are important for measuring the player’s character. “You’re looking for talent and attitude, and you want to try to get both together,” Boeheim says.
At AAU tournaments, some guys make pull-up jumpers look easy. Others drive the lane like they’re on cruise control. But being a non-stop hustler will leave a more lasting impression on the coaches who evaluate prospects at these events. “There’s always a place on some team for a player who works hard,” Lowe says. “If you’re the guy who works harder than anyone else, you’re going to find yourself a position.”
You have a chance to prove yourself against elite talent. Playing your game and displaying your character make for a winning combination, which will distinguish you in a pool of talented AAU players.