Make no mistake about it, there are major basketball pipelines on the grassroots level.
College programs are clearly locking up players thanks to connections to AAU teams.
Of course, colleges will do their best to sign the best in-state players. The natural relationships are there. Some are just deeper and tighter than others.
But who has the deepest AAU-to-college connections?
D.C. Assaulting Kansas State
With Michael Beasley leading the way, the D.C. Assault to Kansas State pipeline is quickly emerging as one of the strongest in the nation. Life around the nation's capitol is quite different than life in the Little Apple.
Beasley, last year's top prospect in the nation, was lured to Manhattan thanks to a lifelong relationship with K-State assistant coach Dalonte Hill - who worked with Beasley in the past within the D.C. Assault AAU organization. Beasley is now playing the pied piper. AAU teammate Dominique Sutton followed Beasley to the Big 12 school.
Jamar Samuels committed and signed in the 2007 recruiting class, but he failed to qualify. He still remains a K-State pledge.
The Wildcats are taking full advantage of the connection this weekend. Five players in the D.C. Assault program are making unofficial visits. Wally Judge - a five-star junior - will be joined by Rodney McGruder, James Stewart, Terrance Boyd and Daryl Traynham.
Perhaps the best pipeline in recent memory has been with the Spiece organization to Ohio State. Mike Conley coached - and now represents - Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden and Daequan Cook. All three dominated the AAU circuit, then played their one-and-done year for the Buckeyes. The latest Spiece star is 2010 standout Deshaun Thomas. He's considered an OSU commitment.
SYF talent boiling over
Matt Painter and his staff have found a nice in-state pipeline through the SYF Players AAU club. It makes sense. The travel team runs an unselfish and gritty style of play, and so does Painter.
The Boilermakers landed a trio of SYF prospects in 2007; E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin all inked with the team last year.
Teammate Greg Hill also committed, but he failed to qualify and is now playing at the junior college level. The Boilermakers have already got a jump on the 2009 class as Kelsey Barlow has given the team a nod. He plays for the SYF 16-and-under team.
Gators sweeping the swamp
The Florida Rams program has been good to the University of Florida. The Gators have commitments from five-star center Kenny Kadji and wing Ray Shipman in the class of 2008.
Rams founder Matt Ramker has also worked with Marreese Speights, Taurean Green and Chris Richard at the AAU level.
The Gators have done well recruiting within the state and have a pipeline of sorts with Team Florida. Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons and [/db]Walter Hodge[/db] all played for Tom Topping's club in the spring and summer.
Other notable connections
Mississippi State has had tremendous success with players from the Mid-State Ballerz. Current high school senior Scotty Hopson, a five-star prospect from Kentucky, played with the club over the summer. He'll be the fifth player from the program to head to Starkville.
Barry Stewart and Jarvis Varnado both played for the Mid-State program before MSU. Twins Richard and Reginald Delk have since transferred.
The Illinois Warriors connection to Kansas is impressive. Julian Wright, Sherron Collins and most recently Mario Little, a junior college player that committed to the Jayhawks within the week, were on the travel club.
Five players on the Memphis roster graduated from Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute or the Patterson School (N.C.). The common denominator is coach Chris Chaney. He coached at Laurinburg before moving to Patterson. Antonio Anderson, Hashim Bailey, Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Pierre Niles all squared themselves academically at the North Carolina prep schools. The Tigers don't have any targets at Patterson currently.
Stoneridge Prep in California is a short trip to Southern Cal. The Trojans have made the quick drive plenty of times - three players from the school hail from the program. Taj Gibson, Angelo Johnson and Mamadou Diarra all finished their pre-college days at the school.
High schools, AAU teams, regions and states are certainly pipelines to the college games, but what about the next level? Which teams are pipelines to the pros? What conferences produce the most first round picks?
No. of first-round draft picks since the 2000 NBA Draft:
8 – Connecticut
7 – Duke, North Carolina
6 – Michigan State, Florida
5 – Georgia Tech, Kansas, Stanford
4 – Texas, Oregon, Illinois
3 – Ohio State, Washington, UCLA, DePaul, Arizona, Syracuse, Kentucky, Boston College, Oklahoma State, Fresno State, Villanova, Missouri, Cincinnati
Since the 2000 NBA Draft, Connecticut leads the charge with most players select in the first round. The Huskies have produced eight players that were selected in the first round of the draft.
Duke and North Carolina have both produced seven first-round picks in that span, while Michigan State and Florida have had six players each chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Not surprisingly, the five programs won six of the eight national championships in that span.
Georgia Tech, Kansas and Stanford boast five players each that have heard their names called out by David Stern. Texas, Oregon and Illinois come in at four.
The Big East has the slight edge with 31 total first round picks in the draft while the ACC comes in a close second with 28 first-round selections.
The mid-major conferences have performed well in the last 10 years in the NCAA tournament, as well as providing the NBA with quality players. Twenty-five players were drafted in the first round from the mid-major level. That's as many as the Pac-10 and more than the Big Ten (20), the Big 12 (20) and the SEC (18).
As basketball has become a global game, the college game has started to show an international flavor.
Of the 73 teams that play in the six power conferences, 52 of them have an international player on the roster. For those that love numbers, that is 71.2 percent of all high-major teams.
Nigeria is the hottest spot for the high-majors; 10 players hail from the African country. Lithuania has six representatives playing high-major basketball at the moment. So does talent-rich Puerto Rico.
Australia may have the best collection overall of international players in the college game. Like Australia, Serbia has five players playing high-major basketball.