Las Vegas is a city known for making and breaking dreams, and that’s where hundreds of high school basketball players have converged this week hoping to lock up college scholarships.
For five days beginning today, coaches will be out en masse observing and scouting the biggest collection of teenage talent in the nation, with nearly 900 travel teams playing in four tournaments in dozens of high school gyms spread across the city.
In attendance will be the nation’s most recognizable college coaches and just about everyone else whose business is basketball, with shoe company and apparel executives, agents and professional scouts joining the Elvis impersonators.
The most important requirement for a coach: “If you don’t have GPS, you’re in trouble,” USC assistant Bob Cantu said.
A navigational system is a must because the three main tournaments -- The Main Event, the Reebok Summer Championships and the Adidas Super 64 -- are spread out across the city. And if coaches want to start tracking players for the high school graduating class of 2013 and beyond, the AAU West Coast national championships will be taking place at the Cashman Center near downtown.
“Organization is the No. 1 priority in trying to see as many kids as you can in one day,” Cantu said. “You have to be smart in how to schedule your day.”
Even though NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from speaking to high school players this time of year, observers shouldn’t have any problem identifying what schools are watching. The coaches want to be seen, and to do that they will be wearing shirts, hats and shorts covered with the largest school logos imaginable.
“The bigger the shirt logo, the better they can see across the gym,” Cantu said of potential recruits.
Entire coaching staffs will be in Las Vegas, producing the largest gathering of college basketball coaches since the Final Four in San Antonio.
Tournament schedules are posted on the Internet, helping coaches with planning, but there are so many gym sites that Cantu said, “As you’re getting out of your car, you’re saying, ‘What wristband do I need?’ You have to know the area.”
It’s also an expensive week, with coaches spending as much as $300 to purchase packets supplied by tournament organizers that include rosters and player phone numbers, plus costs for tickets to individual games, hotel rooms and transportation.
No one is complaining, though, because of the opportunity to see so many of the nation’s top high school players in one area.
“Every Division I school will be represented,” said David Pump, who is sponsoring several teams this week. “This is like the national championship. The next 10 days can really help a kid’s stock. This is a week a kid can really make a name for himself.”
The tournaments consist mostly of travel teams and the best of the best are scheduled to play, including 6-foot-5 Lance Stephenson of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln (for the Juice All-Stars) and 6-9 Derrick Favors of South Atlanta (for the Atlanta Celtics), who both will be playing in the Adidas Super 64, and 6-10 Renardo Sidney of Los Angeles Fairfax (for L.A. Dream Team), in the Reebok Summer Championships.
California Supreme, playing in the Main Event, has Compton Dominguez standout Jordan Hamilton, who led his team to the Southern Section Division I-AA championship last season. Also on the team is Jeremy Tyler, a heavily recruited 6-9 junior from San Diego.
UCLA and USC are battling it out for two prized prospects who will be seniors in the fall -- 6-8 Tyler Honeycutt from Sylmar and 6-9 Anthony Stover from La Canada Renaissance. Honeycutt is playing for Pump N Run Elite, with Stover on Double Pump Elite. Both are in the Adidas Super 64.
Also in the Adidas tournament is Demetrius Walker, a 6-3 guard from San Juan Capistrano J Serra who is being pursued by USC. He is playing for Pat Barrett’s Southern California All-Stars.
For all involved, it will be something more than a working vacation.
“This is the week of weeks,” said Dave Benezra, coach of Los Angeles Rockfish. “This is the main stage, and a lot of what they’re evaluating is going to be based on Las Vegas week.”
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Basketball in Las Vegas
* What: Main Event; Reebok Summer Championships; Adidas Super 64; AAU West Coast national championships.
* Where: High school gyms and Cashman Center in Las Vegas.
* When: Today through Saturday.
* Who: Nearly 900 travel teams with mostly high school boys’ basketball players.
* Additional information: Schedules are at visionsports.com; prepchamps.com/summerchampionships; adidassuper64.com; aauwestcoast.org.