It started with Salt Lake Metro several years ago, and then others followed suit to make Utah's AAU basketball programs competitive on the regional and national levels.
The trend has continued in 2013.
Several Utah AAU programs, including Utah Pump-N-Run, Utah Prospects and Xfactor Hoops, have made splashes in out-of-state tournaments this year, and they hope to end on a high note at the big AAU tournaments in Las Vegas at the end of July.
AAU teams have become powerful vehicles for prospects to showcase their skills and abilities in front of college coaches from around the country at regional and national tournaments.
“We want to get kids scholarships — plain and simple,” said Lynn Lloyd, the club head of Utah Prospects. “We also want to grow our players for the coming season and we believe we can do that by playing the best competition out there.”
Utah Prospects affiliated itself with the Under Armour circuit last year in hopes of raising the competition level for its players.
“You get to be the best by playing the best, obviously, so that’s why we joined with Under Armour,” Lloyd said. “The games are a lot tougher for our kids this year as a result and it took some adjusting to, but we’re showing, with most of our teams, that we belong at that level. I believe the players are also seeing better overall improvement this year than perhaps they did last year.”
Utah Prospects features some of the best talent the state in the state at the U-16 and U-17 levels. Utah Prospects' U-17 team includes Roy’s Brekkott Chapman, who has already received multiple offers and is regarded as a top 100 recruit nationally by ESPN. Other standouts on the team include BYU commit Dalton Nixon, Utah State commit Sam Merrill and San Francisco commit Jared Stutzman.
Utah Prospects’ U-16 team also looks to be highly competitive and includes Brighton’s Brandon Miller and Davis’ Jesse Wade, both of whom recently received offers from Utah State, along with Bountiful’s Zach Seljaas, who received recent offers from both Utah State and BYU.
“There’s a lot of talent on that team and we believe all the top players will be receiving college offers,” Lloyd said. “They’re all good kids who love playing together and it’s been fun for me to see them come together as a team, improve as players and get noticed by colleges.”
While the U-17 and U-16 teams generally receive most of the attention, younger in-state teams have exploded on to the scene this summer. Xfactor’s U-15 and U-14 teams are leading the charge after winning several notable tournaments, which boosted them in the national rankings.
The U-14 team is coached by former Utah State standout Kendall Youngblood and won the Reno Jam On It tournament over Memorial Day weekend. It was the third-straight tournament victory for the team, boosting its overall record to 35-3 and warranting No. 8 ranking nationally by Indihoops.com for its age group.
Standout players for the U-14 team include Marcus Draney, Dason Youngblood, Jaxon Brenchley, Trevin Knell, Wynton Lamar, Nate Harkness, Bracken Falslev, Ben Rigby, Jacob Whitehead and Mason Warenski.
Xfactor’s U-15 team has seen similar success and is currently ranked No. 14 nationally by Indihoops.com after winning a tournament in Las Vegas. The team includes Frank Jackson, Spanish Fork’s Jax Tobiassen, Timpview’s Gavin Baxter and American Fork’s Brendan Bailey, the son of former Jazz great Thurl Bailey.
“We’re 19-1 this year and the players are really doing well,” said coach Tim Davis. “It’s an interesting group we have this year that has been able to beat some of the best teams nationally. So hopefully the players are getting noticed.”
Utah Pump-N-Run exploded on to the scene a few years back with players such as current Ute Jordan Loveridge headlining the team. This year’s U-17 and U-16 teams don’t feature the star power of past teams, but are playing good, solid team ball.
“I really like our teams this year,” said Pump-N-Run director John Palica. “We don’t have as much star power like we had in recent years, but we have a lot of solid players who really play well as a team. We’ve also been able to help out a lot of kids who have already graduated get noticed, which is the goal we have with all our kids.”
Kearns’ Dayon Goodman (6-8 forward) finished out his eligibility with surprisingly little interest until a stellar session with Pump-N-Run earned him the attention of Utah Valley University and a scholarship offer. Other players, including Bingham’s Brandon Morley (7-0 center), are attempting to follow suit.
“It was great to see Dayon improve like he did and he’ll now have a chance to play for a quality program at UVU,” Palica said. “Hopefully Brandon can continue to get noticed because he’s a great kid with a lot of ability to play at the next level.”