Another challenge with AAU tournaments is finding time away from work. A few of the parents own their own businesses or are independently wealthy, but those are the exceptions. Most of them — including Kevin Nixon — work full-time jobs, but have understanding employers.
“They just know what I do every summer and I use it as my vacation time,” said Nixon. “You have to put some money aside and save up for all of this, but I feel — all of us — feel that it’s well worth it with all the experience and exposure the kids get.”
Playing in a quality AAU program is also key. Considering the amount of resources involved with playing full-time on the AAU circuit, parents aren’t given to having their kids play for just anyone.
Fortunately for most local prospects, Utah has developed some very good AAU programs. Salt Lake Metro blazed the trail for quality AAU ball and has been followed up by programs such as Utah Pump-N-Run and Utah Hoops.
“Utah Pump-n-Run does a great job and has been able to pump out some great talent,” said Kevin Nixon. “They’re consistently finding great opportunities for players and have really been key to their development. I’m very happy to be part of this organization and it’s just one of many great AAU programs in the state. The coaches around the state have really done a great job getting good development programs for their kids and we’ve really benefited from it.”
For BYU commit Braiden Shaw, finding a quality AAU program had unique challenges given his stance of not playing on Sunday. Shaw is a 6-foot-8 prospect from Eagle, Idaho, who was able to find a program that worked around his decision to not play on the Sabbath.
Shaw played this past summer for Idaho’s Hoop Dreams and coach Ed Boyce.
“Our coach, who is not LDS, has done great to honor his commitment to not play on Sundays and they just go on without him,” said Shaw’s father, Kelly. “He’s been wonderful respecting our beliefs and working with us that way, so I couldn’t be more happy to have Braiden as part of his AAU program. It’s a quality program and they lose a lot of size not having Braiden play on Sundays, so I’m very grateful for the sacrifice they’ve made.”
Braiden played in the Bigfoot Hoops Classic in Las Vegas which was the seventh tournament he’s been a part of since early April. Braiden has played AAU basketball since his eighth-grade year and, like most parents, Kelly Shaw sees his participation as an essential part in his son’s development.
“I don’t know how they could make it to college without AAU ball,” said Kelly Shaw. “This is the time when coaches can see what the kids can do and if they’re not out there, then you really run the risk that they won’t be noticed. Fortunately Braiden got noticed and will be going to BYU, which has been a dream for him. It’s very important to find the right program and then to put in the time necessary.”
“The general public never sees the amount of countless hours spent to achieve a college scholarship. I don’t know if that aspect is appreciated by most,” added David Dastrup. “It’s the same as someone perfecting their talent in a musical instrument or in academics — it all takes a huge commitment and a lot of time and it’s certainly the same with an athlete. These kids earn it with the hard work they put in and dedicating yourself to playing AAU ball is certainly part of that.”
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