Paul Brownfield, of the Crons Basketball Club in Kentucky, is a veteran coach with the Amateur Athletic Union. I recently talked to him about the ins and outs of AAU basketball. Here are the highlights of that interview.
STACK: What is AAU Basketball?
Paul Brownfield: AAU Basketball is about three things: game experience, skill development and getting noticed. Rarely do these not correlate.
Often with AAU, player roles change. Minutes can go up and responsibilities can change. This increases a player’s experience and helps develop well-rounded skills.
While playing for your high school team, your role may be limited to a spot-up shooter, because you’re playing with a point guard who can break defenses down. In AAU, your team may rely on you to create your own shot or shots for others. This will only increase your chances of a college coach noticing you.
STACK: How important is it to play for a team that is known for winning?
PB: Winning should always be important, but it should not be everything. Players come first.
STACK: Discuss the importance of playing for a program that participates in high-profile tournaments.
PB: Where you play is almost as important as how you play. The getting noticed part becomes more and more important every year as college recruiting at high schools decreases. For a college coach who is recruiting multiple players at a time, it is much easier to see 50 to 60 AAU basketball teams at a tournament in July than to see two teams playing each other in a game in December.
You definitely have to be selective when it comes to venues. Not only for what colleges will be looking at your team, but the level of competition at the tournament. Go to venues where your players will be tested and pushed to be better.
STACK: How much does it cost to participate?
PB: Some say that AAU basketball costs too much. If you’re in a bad program, I would definitely agree. As a player, if you aren’t receiving instruction, experience or exposure that is helping you reach a goal, then your investment is being wasted. Research the program and its coaches or meet with the coaches and former players before investing not only your money but also a large chunk of your time into something that may not be right for you.
Being in the right AAU organization can actually save you money when it comes to college. Average college tuition cost per year is around $32,000.
STACK: Is it necessary to find a good fit in terms of the right coach, players and parents?
PB: It’s very important. If a coach is known for helping develop point guards, and you’re a point guard looking to take that next step, it should be an easy decision that you want to be in his program. You also want to find a team that has players that will both push you and complement you.
Most AAU organizations will hold an open gym prior to starting practices. Attend these and see how well you mesh with the players who are either already a part of that program or looking to join it.
STACK: Does team gear come into play when selecting a program?
PB: There are tons of AAU organizations around the country that have thousands of dollars invested into their program, from shoes to jerseys. For me, it’s all fluff! I’ve seen teams decked out head to toe in the latest gear come out and lay eggs on the court. I have also seen teams wearing their school shoes and reversible jerseys come out and dominate.
It’s not about what you’re wearing but about how much you are willing to work. If you want to wear the latest gear, that’s fine, but don’t expect it to make you a better athlete.
Editor’s note: for more information on the AAU, visit their website.