Ways to Clean up Summer Basketball

In my last post I shared with you some of my observations of non scholastic basketball. Nothing is perfect as everything will have some issues in it. I got my start in club basketball in one of the best eras that you can eve start in. Most of the teams that we faced were very good comprised of mostly scholarship players. Club basketball wasn’t in the main stream like it is today.

There were probably 80% less teams when I started in 1994 than there are today. As I stated in my last post players that weren’t good enough to make club teams went to camp to get better and play against great competition. In this environment basketball’s middle class was in great shape as more players worked on their game and didn’t play nearly that amount of games as they do today. Today with the the spike in the amount of club teams increases the amount of players playing games and decreases the need for development camps hurting basketball’s middle and lower classes.

In this post I am going to put some ideas together on how summer basketball can be improved. Elite teams and players will always for the most part be in great shape. What gets hurt in this landscape of summer basketball is the sport’s middle and lower class. When I speak in classes I am referring to mid level and small college basketball prospects. All the ideas that I mention could be implemented, but I’m not holding my breathe by any means.

A Combined Effort From Multiple Organizations

If anything is going to get done in club basketball there needs to be a combined effort from USA Basketball,National Federation of High School Associations, and the NCAA. All three need to get involved to hold all involved accountable to ensure that club basketball produces the best possible product.

USA Basketball or FIBA can be the association behind the initiative. Like other countries that have FIBA govern all of their rules, USA Basketball or FIBA could do the same to help govern non scholastic basketball. The other two organizations will help enforce the rules for event organizers, coaches, and players.

The NFHSA will enforce rules for players participating in non scholastic events. Players that break rules or participate in non sanctioned events/activities could face suspensions or eligibility issues. Having the NFHSA involved legitimizes the movement and will help enforce player issues in the summer keeping them form jeopardizing their eligibility partaking in negative activity with their club.

The NCAA will enforce their membership to only attend events that are certified by the governing body. If events or event organizers aren’t in compliance then they can stop coaches from their members rom attending events. If there are teams that are also not in compliance they can threaten event organizers not to let them in their events or get their certification pulled by them.

With in infrastructure with all three organizations together you can really put a great summer program together. Without a team that can enforce all parties involved it would really be tough to get anything done in cleaning up non scholastic basketball and keeping it in check.

Have A Governing Body Keep Track of Everything

Now that there is an enforcement component in place the governing body can now put in rules as far as age, eligibility, event formats, and other legislation. All teams must follow the rules or face penalties. Also event organizers will have rules in place on how to run their events. If anyone is out of compliance with these rules will suffer sanctions and or suspensions.

All teams, players, and event organizers must register with the governing body. They will track participation of their members and make sure they comply with the rules and regulations that were created. Now that an infrastructure is in place real changes can be made.

The governing body will communicate with event organizers and will receive teams that participated, player numbers of participants, and results of every event. The governing body will keep track of records to keep on every team throughout the year.

Coach and administrator background checks will be handled by the governing body with their information be submitted to the NCAA for certification during the July. All player and team registration would be handled by this organization as well. The small handling fee that could be charged can help fund the organization to put a staff together for these checks and balances.

Classify Teams

Like I stated in my last post I love the way european professional leagues are run. There is a first division and second division that play in separate leagues. At the end of the year the top second division teams will compete in the first division in the following year. In the top division the last place teams will move down in the second division for the next season.

There should be a ranking of teams in each age group for an A,B,and a C. AAU state officials, scouts that cover the state, and other media can help the ranking of each team. The top 33% would be in the A division, the next 50% will remain in the B division, and the remaining teams in the C. Throughout the year you can only play against teams that are in the same division as you. You can enter events in other states, but only play teams are in the same division as you.

One of the biggest problems, especially locally is that there are too many bad games out there. There are too many teams that have no business playing other teams and consistently lose in average events by 30-40 points. Being in games like that does nothing for either team and is just a waste of time. You will get teams that are on an elite level and they will beat everyone convincingly, but to cut down on that especially locally would be very beneficial.

New teams that just start up are not allowed to play in the A division and would need to start at least in the B division for their ago group. This will cut down on the number of one and done teams and will force teams to be in it for the long haul. If you participate in any event that leads up to a national championship like an AAU or other organization it will be ok to enter with different classes of teams.

Event organizers will be forced, unless a national organization to have A,B, and C divisions to their event. Other states will have advantages because of bigger talent pools to have dominate teams that can’t compare to smaller states which will be fine. There will never be a perfect way, but this eliminates a lot of bad games, especially in lower divisions.

Based on the number of events that a team enters and record for the year they will have a ranking in that age group for the end of the year. The top 10% of the B and C Division would move up the following year. The bottom 10 % of the A and B group will move down a division in the following year.

This will clean up some of the bad games as well as make teams earn their way in a little bit more, rather having a bad team and only entering brackets filled with teams that are out of their class. I’m a fan of this system and it would take some work to incorporate, but would be a great way to organize the system.

Players Are Not Allowed To Play Back to Back Weekends Unless In The Live Period

As I stated in the last post,players are playing in too many games. There are plenty of weekends to participate in enough events for exposure and great competition. It isn’t a question of giving time to players to work on their games, but also get the proper rest that they need, and to focus on academics.

There is an average of about 28 weekends to compete in events throughout the club basketball season. Some states allow their players to work with their high school teams for a period of time throughout the summer, but for the most part it leaves at least 24 weekends for events to compete in.

In the non contact period for division one coaches there really isn’t much reason to play every weekend. Teams need to get better and play with each other to improve without question. There is plenty of time to hold practices and workouts for when they aren’t playing which is better than playing 6 games in a weekend and not practicing every weekend.

The exceptions to this rule would be the two weekends in a row of evaluation time in April and the three in July. I think teams should be able to play in as many live events as possible. Exposure is important and teams spend their springs working up to those 5 weekends during their season. Playing every weekend in May, June, August, and September to me doesn’t make sense. You can still play upwards of 70 games in each age group by skipping every other weekend during quiet periods.

This will cut down on nagging injuries as well as quiet the people saying that club basketball doesn’t allow players to work on their games. This is a win win for all people involved. Player burnout will decrease and the quality of life for high school players will improve. Some players spend every weekend traveling to games ,hanging out in gyms, and eating bad food for over twenty weekends a summer. This gives them plenty of time to play in basketball events as well as just be a kid and enjoy their time away from the game. A lot of kids who played a rigorous schedule from ages 12-18 would tell you when it’s over that they wished they had more time to be a kid. It’s enjoyable to be with your team and play games, but by giving them their off time would be very beneficial.

Event Rules and Accountability

Every event should have the same format to it. This is very important as to have every event comply so it flows the same way at every event. If you go to enough events you’ll notice that a lot of them play by different rules as far as stop time/running clock, amount of time outs, high school/federations rules, and others.

Having every sanctioned event in the live period or dead should play the same rules. Other countries do it and I think it is time that the United States has it as well. Maybe we can even make Paul Biancardi happy and use a shot clock, although I wouldn’t hold my breathe (Sorry Paul).

All events should have at least two people (18 years or older) that aren’t affiliated with any of the teams unless it is the host team man the table at every game. Having one person per team operate the scoreboard or keep the book. It is established that the tournament operator is going to make a profit and they can afford to pay table operators on every court.

All officials/referees must be board certified with proof to be given to event director. A minimum of 2 officials must be used and if the director wants to use three it is up to them. All names must be given to the director and they must sign the scorebook at every game showing proof of games worked.

A maximum of 64 teams will be allowed in each age group. This will put a cap on games that a team would play over the course of an event. It’s ridiculous to have more than that as teams that make the finals would have played 6 playoff games, plus pool play. The only exception would be grand fathered in AAU State/National events where teams have to qualify to get to. Since AAU Sanctioned events have been going on for decades that grandfathering them in to keep their same format would be fine. Any other event that chooses to have more than 64 teams would have to start separate bracket for more teams.

With a 64 team field that would mean 16 pools of 4 teams giving a team 3 pool games plus the playoff rounds. Only the pool winners would advance into a playoff. If directors wanted to have a separate playoff for second place pool teams they would be free to do so, but their couldn’t be more than 4 games played post pool play. In this format you can also put a cap of no more than 3 games be played in a day which would be a great positive tool for players.

Teams will appreciate the smaller venue the cap on the amount of games here is most important. There also should be a cap on the distance from one gym to another. War stories of teams traveling over an hour to another gym to play have been growing. This isn’t as important, but should be looked into.

If the event organizer is selling a book to college coaches there must be a format to it which every director must follow. A minimum amount of information must be present on the list to be able to sell it. Information such as: Name,Height,Weight,High School(Address and Phone#), AAU and HS Contact Information must be given for every player. Information such as personal email and phone numbers are not always given out for good reason, so at minimum the school and coach information must be provided.

There will be a cap of what you can charge for the book and separate price must be given for division 1, 2, and 3 institutions as their budgets are far different in most situations. If a coach chooses not to purchase a book then a weekend pass must be bought, but coaches can never be turned away from the door for not purchasing a packet.

Event Directors must abide by the rules given to them by the governing body. Information such as teams and players that participated must be submitted to the governing body following their event in the dead period or live. All score books, pool results, and brackets must be submitted as well. There should be protocol like this for all tournament directors. Any directors that do not comply with the rules and protocol will lose their certification to run events and any team or player that attends future events of theirs would be subject to sanctions/suspensions by the NFHSA and/or NCAA.


The only way that you can change the culture of summer basketball is to have accountability. The only way that you create this accountability tis to have all of the organizations in place and on the same page as one another. If the NFHSA and NCAA can work together with holding their members accountable then you can put together a great organization.

Once you have the infrastructure in place then having one governing body that works in conjunction with the NFHSA and NCAA could make some great strides in cleaning up our game. Ideally USA Basketball would be the perfect organization to take this on, but if not them mane FIBA or someone else. It is time that someone stands up and says this is enough.

I am not here to condemn all of summer basketball, there are some GREAT teachers, mentors, and role models that come out of this landscape. I cut my teeth on summer basketball and would be a total hypocrite if I would tell you that we need to get rid of it. It is a great tool for coaches to work on their craft as well as players to play against great competition and get exposure to scouts as well as college coaches. Just like anything else there are great people involved with the game of summer basketball and not so great people. The same goes for high school coaches as there are ones that do a great job for their kids and some that are really bad.

It is time for summer basketball in this country to fall in line with the rest of the world. A governing body for all teams, coaches and players must be put in place sooner rather than later. Every other country has rules and regulations that all teams, coaches, and players must follow. It keeps the competition on par with every one else as well as holds people accountable that don’t comply. We have accountability issues in summer basketball and a bunch of buck passers that want to pass the blame on someone else.

I don’t put the blame on the shoulders of club coaches, not the majority of it anyway. Everyone including the kids are partly to blame of the mess that it is in. It is time to make changes to the process to make the product serviceable again. The culture needs changes made to it right now as the more time that passes the worse it will get.

Some of the ideas that I presented may seem far fetched and impossible. I tend to think that all of it could be integrated within a five year period. People always tend to think that dramatic changes are crazy until they are made and people adjust. There can be no change and structure formed without people coming together and accountability. With unity and accountability I think a lot can be done to change the culture to improve grassroots basketball.

Our game in this country has taken a big hit. The international game is quickly catching up. We can sit here and lie to ourselves and think that we are a superpower in basketball and rule the sport. As someone who has traveled globally to work with coaches and players I can tell you that we can be overtaken in the next 10 years. This is possible because there is great infrastructure created in other countries to create development in success. This is the same infrastructure that we have ignored and now are paying the price ten fold. Lets start making some changes of the better.

Related Posts

Leave a comment