That's really the big goal all of us have as coaches is to see these kids get good exposure, and I think we've been able to do that, but it's the kids that get the credit. —Prospect's 16U coach Tim Davis
Another AAU season is heading into its final stretch, and local clubs are again making their mark with the state’s brand of fundamentally sound and surprisingly athletic prep players.
Several Utah-based AAU programs have traveled the country this offseason, playing against some of the top teams nationally and usually holding their own. Most AAU teams will play three more tournaments this summer and finish out the last weekend of July in Las Vegas.
Standouts this year locally for upperclassmen-to-be include Utah basketball Club's Elite 17U squad coached by Todd Phillips and Utah Prospect's 17U team coached by Lynn Lloyd.
Both squads include some of the state's top prep players, including Hunter's Noah Togiai, Olympus' Jake Lindsey and Layton's Jariesse Blackmon for Basketball Club, and Davis' Jesse Wade, Granger's Makol Mawien and Bountiful's Zac Seljaas for Prospects, just to name a few.
"We've been blessed with some young players. Some of them already have offers, and offers are coming for even more, we believe," said Utah Basketball Club director John Palica.
Indeed, player development is at the heart of any AAU program along with the opportunity to be noticed by collegiate programs, both regional and national.
The University of Utah noticed Togiai's talent awhile back, offering him a scholarship, which the talented 6-foot-5 swingman accepted.
"He's really improved as a player in every facet of his game," Palica said. "He's really become close to a complete player and just has so much athleticism that he can beat and stay with just about anyone, and he's shown that throughout the summer playing against top competition."
Perhaps the fastest-rising prospect in the Utah Basketball Club is the 6-foot-5 Lindsey, the son of Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey.
"Jake has really come on strong, but it's not just him but everyone involved. We have a lot of kids colleges have noticed, and a lot of these guys should see offers very soon," Palica said. "Take a kid like Brayden Holker (Westlake.) We were nervous about having a real quality big man, but he's done great there for us, and he's going to get noticed very soon."
Utah Prospect's senior elite team is led by BYU commit Seljaas and Wade, who has committed to Gonzaga. Others, such as Mawien, have seen their recruitment blow up in recent months.
The talent and college prospects aren't exclusive to just the senior elite AAU teams — far from it. Take Utah Prospect's 16U team, which features Lone Peak's Frank Jackson, who has committed to BYU, and Bingham's Yoeli Childs, who blew up in the 5A state tournament last season.
"It's without question the best team I've coached in my four years here," said Utah Prospect's 16U coach Tim Davis. "The players are certainly talented, but more than that, they've just learned to play well together and really enjoy playing together."
Other standouts for Utah Prospect's 16U team include Timpview's Gavin Baxter, who has been offered by Utah State, and Connor Harding from Highland (Idaho), who has been offered by Idaho State. Both players are receiving interest from every Utah collegiate program, according to Davis, and will likely be met with more offers.
"That's really the big goal all of us have as coaches is to see these kids get good exposure, and I think we've been able to do that, but it's the kids that get the credit," Davis said. "I'm just fortunate to coach some of them and help in their development."