The AAU Problem

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Who was the last American born player to win the NBA MVP. The answer is James Harden in 2018. The last time the first team All NBA had more American born players than foreign born players was in the bubble season of 2020. That’s five years since an American won the MVP and three seasons since they had at least three players on first team All NBA. It seems like yesterday when the Dream Team was playing in the Olympics. Players on opposing teams during the Olympics were asking Dream Team members for souvenirs and autographs. That was 31 years ago. There are many reasons the world is catching up in basketball but today we will focus on the AAU problem.

How the AAU problem affected the NBA, let us count the ways:

  1. The players play more games in the summer than they do during their high school season. In some summer AAU tournaments they play six games in a day. It’s hyper-critical to play that many games when most states have restrictions on how many games high school teams play in a week and a season. When you play that many games in a day competing isn’t important. This also may be a reason why there is load management in the NBA. Compare how many games an athlete plays before he gets to the NBA with the games a high school athlete played thirty-one years ago before he got to the NBA. These games are played when a young person is still growing. Can the body handle playing this often while growing. Will there be repercussions physically for the athletes in later years. This is a major part of the AAU problem.
  2. The coaches in the AAU circuit aren’t really coaching. Teams rarely practice, European youth teams practice way more, so coaches are just making substitutions. The best players usually don’t come out so the coaches don’t sub often. If you don’t practice you don’t correct mistakes and without drills the athlete doesn’t learn fundamentals.
  3. The young athletes change teams at the drop of a hat. This means coaches have to go easy on their star players. This so they don’t move on to another AAU program. This AAU problem allows the athletes to rule the roost. Coaches must tread lightly when speaking to their player when mentioning something negatively. When these athletes get to the NBA they are already difficult to coach.
  4. Most, not all, of AAU coaches aren’t really coaches. When it is time to practice they have little understanding on how to conduct the practice. The limited practices don’t really help their athletes.
  5. High school player rankings are a problem. The athletes play for themselves winning becomes unimportant. The athletes concerns are how high they are ranked among their peers and what colleges are interested in them. This doesn’t help the athlete become team oriented.

These are just a few reasons why non US teams are catching up. The AAU problem isn’t going away unless we begin to regulate how the AAU organization operates.

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