July 22, 2005

True Midnight Madness

LAS VEGAS, NEV. - Attention basketball parents. It's 1:30 in the morning in Sin City. Do you know where your high schooler is?

He's probably at the Pangos Midnight Madness at the Tarkanian Basketball Academy. That's where 32 AAU teams gathered for the second annual event that kicks off a basketball frenzy in the sweltering desert.

Recruiting has become a 24 hour business. It's non-stop work. For college coaches, recruiting has drawn them from their beds to the sidelines, especially on the first night of action from Vegas. For the kids, it's just another part of the game called AAU and exposure.

The NCAA allows coaches to evaluate players on certain days and July 22 was the first day of the last week of evaluations for coaches this month. Why not start right at 12:01 a.m. for the Midnight Madness event?

Nearly 100 coaches showed up for the event and watched guys like Spencer Hawes, Earl Clark, Davon Jefferson, Harrison Smith, DeAndre Jordan, Willie Walker, Jerryd Bayless, Gani Lawal, and others.

Hawes told Rivals.com he has cut his list down to size and Washington, North Carolina, UCLA, Connecticut and Stanford. Four of the five schools had head coaches there to see Hawes. Jim Calhoun was not present.

With the event allowing more face time for coaches and more playing time for coaches, several recruiters are asking themselves if it is really worth it to attend the late night gala.

"Is this a place where I'm really going to get a chance to evaluate a player? Probably not," a high-major assistant coach said. "So my problem is just being there for the games so the guy I'm recruiting sees me and everyone else does too."

The coach is right. Take 2008 stud Tyreke Evans for example. Just how good is he? Some say he's the best player in the country in his class. But will he prove that at the Midnight Madness event? Doubtful. The 15-year-old probably didn't even play his best game. The Philly native is still working on East Coast time. His 12:30 game feels like 3:30 a.m.

Nearly every high-major program had at least one coach at the event. The real madness begins on Friday when the Main Event, Reebok Big Time and the adidas Super 64 all have games running from sun up to sun down. Coaches will bounce from gym to gym. Some wiping the sleep from their eyes.

One coach on his way out of the gym may have said it best.

"The one positive that I've tried to remind myself is that when I walk out to my car in the middle of the night, it's only going to be 87 degrees outside instead of 107 degrees," one assistant said. "I gotta be here, don't I?"

It almost seems that way.


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