I couldn’t quite wrap my head around a statement I recently heard, so I decided rather than be angry about it, I would attempt to make sense of it or hopefully share helpful knowledge to others regarding it.

An 8th grade kid recently told a fellow 8th grade kid that he would never play for a certain AAU program because “they don’t get enough D1 looks”. (Quick side note: the aforementioned program has played a role in helping seven kids in their program the last two seasons receive full scholarship offers to play at the NCAA Division I & II levels).

Where is this information coming from? How are kids this age that focused on “D1 looks” already? It makes me sick to my stomach to know that there are numerous adults feeding kids information like this. I’m not sure if it’s coming from a blatant lack of knowledge or if it is a ploy for personal interests. My guess is that it’s probably a combination of both.

We’ve created a basketball culture in which many players and parents place exposure at the forefront of their priorities as opposed to holistic development. That exposure, as opposed to relationships and development, is believed to be the key to unlocking the coveted D1 dream. The fallacy in which this is has become more widely-accepted by parents and players trickling all the way down to the youngest levels. I always tell parents to caution highly against those who make guarantees of scholarships and starting positions, and who talk more about jerseys and exposure as opposed to the building of a relationship with their child or the structure of their practice plan.

Some reading this may think this is about sponsored vs. non-sponsored AAU basketball- it’s not. I firmly believe there are programs across the country both sponsored and non-sponsored who do a terrific job and equally who do a poor job. What I will say, however, is that many sponsored shoe circuit programs sell exposure in a way that parents and players believe (see example mentioned above) that there is only one route to the coveted end goal. I could give you numerous examples and stories to illustrate that this is simply not at all true.

For those reading this thinking that I’m saying that “exposure” isn’t important- I’d say that’s partially correct and partially incorrect. What I’m ultimately saying is that it is way overvalued. The number one pre-requisite to play at any level is you have to be good enough; that’s surely the case when we talk about collegiate basketball. Players and parents need to worry way less about whether or not they’re being seen and worry way more about if they’re ability aligns with the level they desire to play at. Exposure should never ever be the number one priority for players and parents. This ESPECIALLY is true when we are talking about kids who haven’t even finished puberty yet!!!

The bottom line is that playing athletics at the collegiate level is hard. Earning a scholarship to play athletics at that level is even harder. What will allow a player to be in position to get to that level isn’t exposure, it’s ability, which I think we could all agree is built through work, coaching, competition, and genetics. Depending on where you are as a player will help you determine what you need from a program, but once again, at the forefront of EVERY players’ list should be development & relationships, not exposure! When your priorities are aligned, then and only then will you give yourself the best opportunity to take advantage of whatever else may come next.