In July, the race for college scholarships heats up with basketball camps galore.

No rest for best

July 18, 2006|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

INDIANAPOLIS -- All-Metro forward Sean Mosley guessed it was about nine hours - the time he spent at home July 10 between eight days at elite basketball camps in which he played nearly a dozen games in two states.

Not everyone got that break.

Unlike St. Frances' Mosley, Mount St. Joseph center Henry Sims didn't make it back to Baltimore that day from the Nike All-America Camp in Indiana. Sims flew straight to the Division I 16-under Amateur Athletic Union national tournament in Arkansas - 11 consecutive days on the road.

"That's a long stretch," said Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey, who was with Sims at the Nike camp. "Sometimes guys play too many games and don't spend enough time working on their game."

Instead, they're working on earning scholarships, and this is the month to do it.

For many high-profile recruits - and for the college coaches still shopping for a superstar - July has become more important than the high school season and averages about twice as many games. There are 222 NCAA-certified camps and tournaments this month, making just as much competition off the court to line up players, teams and dates. College coaches scurry to scout the nation's elite high school players before the NCAA evaluation period ends Aug. 1.

"I don't have a problem with it," said Towson Catholic coach Josh Pratt, whose All-Metro players Donte Greene and Malcolm Delaney were at the Nike All-America Camp. "I think it's great exposure. The month of July is the busiest month. The reason why is because these kids have aspirations to go to college, so they have to be out there or be seen in a workout."

Sherman Dillard, a former Maryland assistant coach who is in his second year as the Nike camp director, said he has seen young athletes make reputations for themselves during a four-day period at camp.

"A young man can really have a good week, separate himself from the pack and land himself a nice scholarship," Dillard said. "During that evaluation period is when a lot of college coaches identify some of the top talent and they try to develop relationships with the guys who are coaching that top talent.

"I'm not saying that in every situation the travel coach or the AAU coach has the most control, but, in a lot of cases, that does become the case. A lot of times kids spend more time with their travel team than they do with their high school coaches."

Maryland coach Gary Williams and his staff have been crisscrossing the country in search of "one great player," but Williams said it's just as important to see athletes play with their high school teams because of the structure and familiarity it provides them.

"Some guys don't show up well in an all-star situation like this," he said last week in Indianapolis. "Other guys really stand out. There's always that player who is really talented but needs to be in a system to really play well. You could probably see more of that in a high school."

There are players such as Jai Lucas, a top point guard from Texas, whom Williams didn't get to see play until the Nike camp. His father, John Lucas, was an All-American for Maryland and said his son has been offered a scholarship from the Terps.

"This is the most time [the coaches] get to see you," Jai Lucas said. "They really don't come out during the school year that much because they're in their own season. It's a big part of your career."

Mosley and Delaney played in the Nike All-America All-Star Game on July 9 before leaving two days later for the Peach Jam in North Augusta, Ga.

"I actually like it," Mosley said of his hectic summer, which also includes about 65 games with his AAU team, Team Melo. "It's [an invitation] that you have to receive as a player. You should be happy you have the talent to do it, because most people don't."

At last week's Nike camp, an enormous banner hung from the rafters in the National Institute of Fitness and Sport, welcoming "America's best."

Not all of them were there.

Two other shoe companies - Reebok and Adidas - were hosting camps in New Jersey and Georgia, respectively.

"Although you have a lot of talent out there," Dillard said, "you have three companies vying for the same talent pool."

There's still more to come.

The Adidas Super 64 tournament in Las Vegas (Saturday through July 26) runs concurrently with the Main Event Las Vegas Nike tournament and the Reebok Big Time tournament in Las Vegas.

There is also still Adidas' Double Pump Best of Summer tournament in Los Angeles, July 27-31, which happens to coincide with Nike's Las Vegas Summer Classic.

One of the biggest names behind the Nike-sponsored camps expressed the most concern about the sheer volume of camps this month.

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