The NBA Players Association created a unique event 13 years ago, complete with a limited number of invitations, on-and-off the court lessons taught by former and current players and a focus on what to do when basketball careers come to an end.
They also created a scouts' fantasy.
The 13th annual NBPA top 100 camp, which begins today at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., features another tremendously talented and deep field. Fifty-two members of the Rivals150 (the top 150 prospects in the class of 2007) and many of the biggest names from the class of 2008 have been invited as well. Rivals.com will be providing in-depth coverage when games begin on Wednesday.
The camp, which includes 113 players, has actually had even stronger fields in the past – alums include Kobe Bryant, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson – but the ongoing trials for the USA U-18 national team in San Antonio, Texas, have decreased the number of elite recruits showing up.
"This is a great opportunity to evaluate the top talent in the country because the players come from all three major shoe companies (Nike, Reebok and Adidas)," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said. "You typically get to see some great head-to-head matchups.
"You also get to see these prospects in a well structured style of play. It's not just a one-on-one fest. Players are put in different types of setting with an emphasis on remaining disciplined."
Eight of Rivals.com's 25 five-star prospects are part of the field (seven others are vying for a spot on the U-18 national team), including four commits: point guard Nick Calathes (Florida), shooting guard Austin Freeman (Georgetown), small forward Jamelle Horne (Arizona) and center Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) and four who haven't yet made their college choice: small forward Herb Pope, point forward Evan Turner, center Anthony Randolph and power forward Julian Vaughn. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Vaughn was one of the players recently cut in San Antonio.
Those big names will be surrounded by a wealth of talent regardless of which team they land on. Thirty-five four-star prospects have accepted invites, including some of the best players in the nation at their respective positions.
Teen Akol, Solomon Alabi, Braxton Dupree, Rick Jackson (Syracuse), DeAndre Jordan, Nayal Koshwal, Dallas Lauderdale, Anthony McClain, Keaton Nankivil and Patrick Patterson are ranked among the best big men.
The point guards are led by Corey Fisher (Villanova), Jai Lucas, Demetri McCamey, Jamelle McMillan, Rico Pickett (Alabama), Edwin Rios (Miami) and Isaiah Thomas (Washington).
The crop of shooting guards and small forwards is particularly strong and is highlighted by James Anderson, Lacedarius Dunn (Baylor), Jon Diebler (Ohio State), Daniel Hackett (USC), James Harden, Senario Hillman (Alabama), Dorenzo Hudson, Antonio Jardine (Syracuse), Eshaunte Jones, Jeff Jones, Alex Legion, E'Twaun Moore, Tony Neysmith, A.J. Stewart, Chace Stanback (UCLA), Corey Stokes, Darquavis Tucker, Antwaine Wiggins and late addition Billy White.
Fifteen of the campers are from the class of 2008, including possibly the top prospect in the entire class in combo guard Tyreke Evans and some ultra-talented big men: Ed Davis, Samardo Samuels and Al-Farouq Aminu
But, it's not just the wealth of talent that makes the camp such a great scouting opportunity. It also has to do with how the talent is used.
Former McDonalds All-American and eight-year NBA veteran Tim McCormick, who has been running the camp since its inception, didn't want the games, to resemble the fast-paced, offensive-minded style so often seen in AAU tournaments.
McCormick and his staff wanted to prepare the prospects for the more organized systems seen at the highest levels of college and the NBA. How do you create such an atmosphere when you're dealing with 16 and 17-year-old kids who are used to jacking up 20-plus shots a game for their own high school teams?
It started with eliminating NBA scouts and college coaches. Neither is allowed to attend, so the players don't feel as strong as a need to impress someone in the stands.
A loose set of rules were also set in place, including a trip to the bench for any ball hogs.
"We talk a lot about the importance of utilizing big men," said the 6-foot-11 McCormick, a former center at Michigan. "In every other trip down the court, we want a big man to get at least one touch and we want to see someone run a pick-and-roll too."
Former coaches and players teach the basics of running pick-and-rolls and other set plays. This year's list includes: Boston Celtics assistant coach John Carroll, former St. John's and New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla and 11-year NBA veteran Kermit Washington.
Twelve other current players will also be speaking to the campers and the group is also made up of veterans with plenty of experience, including NBPA president Antonio Davis, P.J. Brown and Bobby Simmons. The trio has played a combined 33 seasons in the league.
Their message will deal more with what they have done to prepare for life after basketball. They get into discussion groups with the campers and talk about the importance of academics and dealing with peer pressure.
"Obviously teaching fundamentals is an important thing, but we want the campers thinking beyond the game," McCormick said. "We want them to realize how important their decisions are and how they have big consequences. It's vital that they understand that 95 percent of retired NBA players get another job after they retire. Even if you're dreams come true you are still going to have to do something else. We tell them that if you are a one-dimensional player on the court, meaning you can only shoot or can just drive, than your potential is limited. It's the same thing for your future after basketball."
Return to Rivals.com throughout the week to find out the latest on the top performers and all the emerging storylines that come out of the camp.