Over 100 high school basketball players crowded into the PHHacility in Phoenix to show off their skills in front of over 40 college basketball coaches and scouts.
The event was part of the third annual Southwest All-American Basketball Camp, which took place July 23-24.
It served as a chance for many of the best players in Arizona, and even a few players from nearby states, to come together in an effort to woo college teams.
With a series of drills, games made up of even-level teams and several all-star games selected by the tournament scouts, the players had plenty of chances to impress. Despite the scores of each game not being the main concern of the scouts, each game was fierce.
“A lot of people here are a star on their high school or club team,” Mountain Pointe senior TJ Tigler said. “But, so is everyone else on these teams, so if you want to win you have to slow down and kind of just do what you can when the ball comes to you and focus on making the right play.”
Several players left the event invigorated by college offers or expanded scouting and interest.
Each team was led by familiar coaches. Almost all of them coach clubs, high school teams or both, and it behooves them to raise the standard for local basketball.
As former Desert Vista and current Valley Christian senior Jackson Risi put it, the encouragement he noticed from all the adults in attendance was inspiring. They all wish the best for Arizona players.
“All the coaches want you to get better, so that when you’re playing here, and hopefully in college, you’re representing well,” Risi said.
Many of the top performers believe club basketball tournaments in the high school offseasons are the best chances to have the most eyes on them. However, the club teams in the area often mesh most of the top-level players on the same teams, and leave everyone else without the same opportunities to get recruited.
The prospect of the event was admittedly nerve-wracking for some, including Desert Ridge senior Caleb Alonso, who recalls looking at recruiting highlight videos of several of the competitors in the days before the showcase started. He was a bit worried at first about how he might fit in skill-wise.
But, with the scoreboard reading 0-0 and nobody receiving extra hype or recognition until the conclusion of a game, the players who found success – Alonso was recognized as a Top-20 All-Star – felt a boost in confidence.
“It’s a little intimidating, looking at a lot of these guys on YouTube, but when you’re on the court, they’re just like everyone else, and none of that matters,” Alonso said. “You’re just people playing basketball.”
The event, unlike many tournaments, did not have a playoff bracket, or a decided winning team to hoist a trophy after the final buzzer. However, competitiveness and love of the game was what drew most of the players to the Southwest Basketball Camp in the first place.
Whether they ended the event’s two days with or without scholarships, scouting interest or even a nodding recognition from college coaches, players at the Southwest All-American Camp left with renewed passion for the game, not to mention several hours of training on skills and technique.
Each player learned valuable lessons, and confidence, that they can take into their high school and club seasons moving forward.
“There were a lot of good players here,” Tigler said. “That made me better.”