Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't believe the hype!

Nike Presents
Southern California All-Stars
Traveling Basketball Team
4th & 5th Graders
*Sponsored Program
*Professional Coaching
*Team Discipline
*Fundamental Exercises
*Private Training
*Knowledge of the Game
*Exposure for College
*Plays against top talent in the country
Free Nike Gear
This advertisement is featured in the book "Play Their Hearts Out", a must read for parents  with players in club basketball, primarily the boys game.

(Side note: In a recent conversation a parent stated that he did not like the "seedy" side of club ball on the girls side. He talked of envelopes filled with cash exchanging hands. I had to enlighten this father that few women's basketball program consistently operate in the black at the collegiate level. There are no Cam Newton fathers in girls basketball because there is no money in girls/women's basketball. Men's football/basketball programs pay for almost all women's basketball programs. The rookie pay scale for a WNBA player is equivalent to what a teacher makes in most states. Money stuffed envelopes for a revenue losing sport with meager salaries! Hardly! A more detailed blog to come.)

Back to the subject, the above verbiage was included on a flier and passed out to parents. The brilliant marketing ploy was the brainchild of Joe Keller. He realized that the name Nike is golden in basketball. He set up an alliance with SCA basketball club, led by Patt Barrett, for some free shoes and uniforms. Joe Keller took free shoes and turned it into a perception that Nike was now his benefactor and many parents fell for the creative embellishments. I had intimate knowledge of the now famous strategy since a relative of mine was drawn to Joe Keller's team through these claims. Unfortunately, he found out what many in South/Central Texas girls basketball will soon find out. Like Joe Keller, NO team in this area is a Nike Sponsored program. Here are the facts:
  • Nike Sponsors 22 Teams. The list can be found here.
  • The only teams in the entire state of Texas that are sponsored by Nike are Cy-Fair Shock and DFW Elite. These two organization prominently display the Nike name in front of their name.
  • Just because a program puts Nike on their site, does not mean that they are sponsored by Nike. Just because the organizations leader wear nothing but Nike, does not indicate Nike sponsorship.
  • Only Nike teams attend Nike Nationals! Many club directors promise kids the opportunity to play at Nike Nationals by being invited. If a club is not Nike, they can not be invited to Nike Nationals, unless Nike changes this policy this year. Please review ESPN Hoopgulrz very extensive coverage of all things Nike Nationals in 2011 here. Please note that the ONLY teams in the event are also included on the BlueStar link above. NO non-Nike sponsored teams are at the event.
  • Boo Williams is arguably the most powerful man in girls club basketball. The Boo Williams Invitational is a great event and features a large number of Nike teams. However, while most teams can get into the event, very few teams can attend the event and get the main stage. Here is an example, my child played with a Nike team a couple years ago. She played in a game vs Arkansas Mavericks. The game featured these players: Tank Youngblood(LSU), Recee' Caldwell(2014 #8), Jessica Jackson(2013 #13), Imani Wright(2013 #36), Roshunda Johnson(2013 #50), Marche Amerson(Univ of Houston), Sylvana Okde(Louisiana-Lafayette). With all this star power, the game featured a whopping 4 scouts in the gym. The other couple hundred scouts attending the event chose to view a different game. Many club coaches are falsely claiming that they will take teams to Boo Williams and play on the big stage. Not true, expensive lies!

    "In a back gym at the Boo Williams Sports Complex in Hampton, Va., last April, Curtis Ekmark was fit to be fried. "I'm so mad at Boo," Ekmark said of the tournament director, albeit in a gentle tone most reserve for, say, conversations with a loved one. "He promised we'd be in the elite division." This a quote from an ESPN Hoopgulz article on one of the best clubs in the country, featuring some of the best players and yet they did not get a chance to play in the top division of Boo Williams. This team plays together in high school and is the #1 High School team in the country, St Mary's. If they can not get the top division of Boo Williams, fat chance for the lesser known area teams.
Why does all of this matter, because anything Nike matters, even though it may not matter much. Take a look at the ESPN Hoopgurlz or Blue Star Report top players in 2013. The top 4 players in 2013 for Hoopgurlz did not play at Nike Nationals in 2011. Four out of the top 5, 7 out of top 10 did not play for Nike Teams according to Blue Star. Moving on, here are Nike connections of local teams in recent history.
TeamXpress: Had a major Nike connect through one of the most powerful men in girls basketball, Mike Flynn. While many presumed TeamXpress was a Nike sponsored team, they were not. They were a Blue Star sponsored team. Being a Blue Star team afforded them a lot of Nike affiliations but they could not play in Nike Nationals.
Sophia Young Elite: This organizations director used to direct Overtime Select, primarily boys teams. A change of name and a WNBA player as a sponsor gave them an automatic boost in prestige. Sophia Young is a Nike sponsored player, the club is not. Free or discounted Nike gear is essentially the extent of the relationship with Nike. The only WNBA star affiliated with a Nike Sponsored program is Diana Taurasi with her Cal Storm Team Taurasi.
SA Finest: Was a feeder program into Nike Cy-Fair Shock two seasons ago playing under the name Cy-Fair Shock-Caldwell. Is currently the only local team with a player that has participated in the prestigious Nike Regional Skills Academy. Obviously is not a Nike sponsored team.
Nike Regional Skills Academy: Only three local players have participated in Nike Regional Skills Academy, Recee' Caldwell(twice) Chamaya Turner(once)and McKenzie Calvert(once).Turner was included two years ago before she officially played a game for SYE. Both Caldwell and Calvert are the only current players to have suited up for a Nike Sponsored team, Nike Cy-Fair Shock(Caldwell) and Nike DFW Elite(Calvert). TeamXpress was able to get more than a few kids into the NRSA last season due to the relationship with a Nike power, Mike Flynn.
This blog was prompted by misleading practices and a call from a Central Texas club director. This coach went on to say that an upstart club in that area is pulling a Joe Keller, and exaggerating Nike ties to recruit talent. This is the type of stuff that led that previously mentioned parent to complain of "seedy dealings". As the saying goes, "The bigger the lie, the more they believe." The problem is that "they" are lying to parents, but hurting the kids!