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Some NBA players pushing a reform of AAU basketball

Jun 11, 2010, 4:27 PM EDT

Virtually every American-born player in the NBA has come through the AAU program.

It is the “club teams” of high school basketball. The off-season traveling teams that are designed to let the best push themselves, and face the other best young players. It was envisioned as a way to boost the Olympic program, a way to improve American players.

It’s also the home to the ugly sides of recruiting, paid players, perks and everything that is seedy about youth basketball. Runners are befriending players they will later try to steer to specific agents or marketing firms. Some AAU coaches end up with undo influence over younger players, and ride their coattails. It has become a place where exploitation can thrive in the shadows.

There are plenty of cries for reform, but little happens.

Enter a number of NBA players, who are forming their own teams on their own terms, as Associated Press reports.

Terry is now among dozens, perhaps hundreds, of current and former NBA players with their own clubs, guys like LeBron James, Lamar Odom, Devin Harris and Mike Bibby…

“We don’t want the kids to be exploited at such a young age,” Harris said. “We want … to do it the right way.”

Harris and James are among those who’ve taken over the program they came through. James — whose AAU career was documented in the movie “More Than A Game” — sponsors fifth-graders to 16-and-under.

“I wanted kids to have that same experience that me and my friends had,” he said. “If you don’t have the right support system, the right guidance running the program, then it can get really bad.”

The needed changes to AAU could fill a book, not just a blog post. But this is a start. The key is players giving more than just their name, but taking an active role and following through.

  1. Anonymous - Jul 7, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    It’s a shame NBA players who think they are making a difference by wanting to reform AAU have to resort to cheating using ineligible players. Look at the ALL the facts before printing your “feel good” story delivered by what you think are ethical, upstanding NBA players.

  2. Big L - Sep 28, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    We just experienced 2 years of the coach riding the kids coat tails, did nothing for them to learn and advance in their game and outcome of this was stagnating the second half of the 2010 season and finishing terribly, while prior to that they a the team to beat (15U level). I believe we have found a good club alternative and my son is working with them this fall- drills, stations, scrimmage and will most likely play on this different team next season. Unfortunately for some it’s too late or they have a just become frustrated and disillusioned. I applaud anyone who steps up and tries to fox this problem that seems to be growing in AAU Basketball, especially the current and former players from NBA, D League, etc.

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