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Boo, staff, chase top regional players to form elite teams
HAMPTON — Sometimes the team is set in September. Sometimes, well, sometimes players shake hands with each other on the court before the first game.
Putting together the four traveling Boo Williams Summer League basketball teams is a cross between completing a jigsaw puzzle and outfoxing your opponent in a chess game.
From the extensive BWSL program, Williams sponsors top-level boys traveling teams. Two play at the 17-and-under age level, one at the 16-under and the other at the 15-under level.
Williams expects all four teams to be competitive, especially the 17-under elite team. So does the program's primary sponsor, Nike.
That means a constant quest for the best players available with the Amateur Athletic Union rules.
Here's how it works. The "territory" for the BWSL is the state of Virginia, minus the area of suburban Washington past Woodbridge.
Any basketball player in the territory can play for Williams' teams, plus he can have three "import" players from states or territories that touch Virginia, such as North Carolina, Maryland and the Northern Virginia area. And the player's residence is what counts, not where he goes to high school.
From there, the coaching staff goes to work.
"We want to get the right mix, the right chemistry, the right players," said Williams. "We see what we have coming up throughout our program, then we see our holes, such as do we need a point guard?"
Harry Rest, a former high school coach in Virginia and the District of Columbia, is a longtime aide to Williams.
"It's a lot different now," he said. "In the old days, we could pretty much snap our fingers and we got kids. Now we've got competition. We've created our own monster."
That's because other programs have sprung up, such as the Richmond Squires, and they're competing with Williams' team for the same players.
"We've lost a couple kids in the last few years that we would liked to have," said Rest. "We wanted the kid from GW-Danville, C.J. Barksdale, this year, but he selected the Richmond Squires."
Said Williams: "We do lose some, but we don't lose that many."
So from last year's 17-under team, the only returnees are point guard Kendall Marshall of Bishop O'Connell in Arlington and shooting guard Andre Dawkins of Atlantic Shores Christian in Chesapeake.
That meant 10 open spots had to be filled, through a series of invitations and preseason tryouts.
And a lot of scouting by Rest and assistant coaches Maxie Anderson and Robbie Williams.
"Our staff does a great job of scouting. You've gotta have people put time in and evaluate talent," said Williams. "And it's different now than it used to be. Now, since we have four teams, you have to come up with 60 players.
"When it comes time to pick the elite team, it's a cross between invitations and tryouts," said Williams. "We do tryouts, but most of the kids, we know enough about them. We'll have 15 or 16 kids, not 100 kids. You don't have that much time, you have three weeks to prepare yourselves."
Dimitri Batten, who played for one of Boo's younger teams last year, knew he probably would be on the the 17-under elite team this year.
"Boo told me last fall," he said.
So up from the younger teams are Batten, Travis McKie of Richmond's John Marshall, Terrell Allen of Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach, Jezreel DeJesus of Bethel, James McAdoo of Norfolk Christian, Reggie Williams of Landstown and Justin Anderson of Fredericksburg and Montrose Christian in Maryland.
That left three open spots for the import players.
"We check with the college coaches to see who they're recruiting," said Rest. "When we do, we're trying to find the big people."
That led Williams to Luke Cothron at a small private school near Fayetteville, N.C., and to John Manning at Chantilly High School in Fairfax County.
Brian Richardson of Wilson, N.C., is the third player, but because of family obligations, he hasn't suited up for the BWSL yet.
Cothron is a 6-foot-8 power forward who is listed as one of the top recruits in the country for next year, while Manning is a 6-11 center.
Cothron played for a different AAU team last year, but decided to play for Williams' program this year.
"It was recommended to me that I play for Boo," he said. "Everybody knows Boo Williams. He's a national figure."
He didn't meet his current teammates until just before last week's AAU state qualifier.
"We shook hands with him before the game," Dawkins said.
Manning, currently a sophomore at Chantilly, also switched from a different AAU team.
Williams started a second 17-under team a few years ago to give more players exposure.
That team isn't competing this weekend, but played in the AAU state qualifier last week and gave the top 17-under team a game before losing by 18.
"This is probably the third year we've had that team. There is so much talent in the area, so we want to pick up more local kids. All of them on the second team are local kids. And we had a lot of kids on the second team last year get scholarships."
Online Daily Press writer Lynn Burke is blogging from the Boo Williams Invitational with frequent updates. Log on to HRVarsity.com/prepsplus for more from the event.