Reflecting on Vegas 2016

Its the 5 year anniversary of my 1st trip to Las Vegas.  The Adidas Super 64 has fallen off the map, the Fab 48 and Bigfoot Hoops have exploded since being in 2nd year and 1st year respectively back then and now NY2LA is putting on a new quality event out there.  Quite the set of changes in a short time.

The overall showing
The Minnesota teams were impressive in their events.  Howard Pulley in their 1st Vegas appearance in my time made a run all the way to the top bracket championship game in Bigfoot.  Heat Vang was the runner up in a 2nd bracket there as well.  6 of the 7 17U teams swept their pools at Bigfoot.  Heat Reese 16s were 2nd place in pool and a runner up in there 16U bracket.  At Adidas, D1 Minnesota was the Creators Cup runner up and won a showcase game on ESPNU.  They avenged regular season losses to Team Loaded (VA) and Eric Gordon during that run.  D1 Minnesota 16s reached the semifinals.  Finally, Comets Lewis won the NY2LA event.  Grassroots and Select Ohnstad winning their pools there as well.

Individual Games
Its rare to see Minnesota teams take on each other in an event in Vegas.  And while that's a generally a good thing, we did get a very significant matchup.  In the 2nd round of the championship bracket at NY2LA, Comets Lewis knocked out the MN Warriors in a fantastic game.  Thanks to Bryce Irsfeld, the Comets rallied from 7 down in the last 2:45 and down 4 in the last 24 seconds. One of those games where you hate to see a team lose.  Knowing that the Warriors are a team that over the years closes games like that, its was hard to see their era end on that note.

Howard Pulley had no trouble in the 3 games I saw them.  The black court with white lines setup was pretty unique and the crowds turned out for it.  Heat Vang also got to play their final game on that court which had to be a thrill.

Adidas stepping up their game with the showcase court online and shown on a huge projection screen in the Cashman Center.  Cashman is the nicest setup in terms of enough room for fans and to move around.  They had all of the premier 17s and the top 2 16s pools plus their bracket play under that 1 roof.  Fun local tie there as Isaiah Stokes who played in the Timberwolves Shootout this year busted a backboard during Thursday's play.

Biggest surprise of the individual teams was that the both Fury 17s were done after the 1st round of bracket play.  No shame in that especially for Fury Zurn who got stuck with uber talented Georgia Stars in the 1st round.  But after the great results they've had in Vegas the last couple of years, you would have to classify it as surprising.  Doesn't diminish the seasons those teams had though.

When we talk about individuals, Race Thompson immediately comes up.  He was an absolute monster for the entire tournament and his offer list blew up in response.  I saw his worst game there in the 2nd game on Thursday.  Even in that game he came up huge at the end to help D1 get a W.

Matt Hurt was playing in front of UNC most every game and had John Calipari watching at some point as well.  He was fantastic in that game with coach Cal watching.

Gary Trent and Tre Jones outstanding as expected. Trent missed Sunday and Theo John had injuries.  That gave Daniel Oturu a chance to shine.

Chase Grinde was a stabilizing point forward for the Heat Vang roster.  Dom Bledsoe and Sean Sutherlin also giving the Heat quality minutes when I watched.

Great matchup of point guards in that Comets Lewis vs Warriors game with Bryce Irsfeld taking on Jameson Bryan.  Bryan played well but Irsfeld would not let his team lose.  2 clutch bombs late brought the Comets back when it looked like they were done.   Luke Loehr also playing well in that game.  Glad to see his twin brother Alec there on the bench to support the team after a nasty injury last week.

It wouldn't be Vegas if we didn't mention food.  No special lunch this year on Wednesday.  I hit the buffet on the way to the Comets vs Warriors game.  Not terrible but not a great choice either.  Especially when I get to NY2LA and they had what looked like excellent menu options available.  Best concession item?  Ice Cream Bars at Spring Valley.  No brainer choice to have that in Vegas and it did not disappoint.

So after that Comets vs Warriors game and the ending of the Heat Vang 2nd round game, I had a little spare time with the local crowd back at the hotel before my scheduled red-eye flight home.  Only to be informed by another local coach on that same flight that I didn't pay enough attention to my email.  Flight cancelled!  So with a mostly dead phone I manage to get the flight rescheduled for the morning but via Seattle.  With no where to stay it was up all night with 6 hours of flight time ahead.  And after my 1st year in Vegas, I knew what to expect at 6 AM at McCarron Airport (its a zoo of epic proportions).  So I didn't get back until Sunday night.  Let's just say Monday was a nightmare of recovery.

Now on to the important stuff.  So did I take time on the extra night to hit the tables again?  Answer, absolutely NOT!  Night 1 was a reasonable up tick.  Night 2 was even.  Minor loss on night 3 with idiots splitting 10s at my table.  Then the final night, I got taken to the cleaners and lost the entire gambling budget for the trip.  Sad part was it wasn't because of bad play. Bad cards and I can't say I've ever seen a dealer stay that hot for that long.  Incredibly disgusting to end up down 25 hands in under an hour of play.  Blackjack odds aren't supposed to be that way.  Am I bitter, indeed I am.  Next year I shall be ready to go again.

July 2016 Pack your bags

Its the 4th of July holiday and that means local AAU squads are ready to head out on the road for the annual July recruiting periods to hopefully set off their own fireworks.  The college coaches will be focused on the southeastern part of the US this week.  You have The Peach Jam (Nike's championships) in N Augusta, SC and the Adidas Gaunlet Finale in Spartanburg, SC.  While Under Armour has their finals in Atlanta next week, they are hosting their star players for a camp in Charlotte, NC.  But the Midwest is full of events too and you'll find most of our locals teams there.  So here's who's playing where in the 1st July 2016 period from Wednesday thru Sunday.

Howard Pulley's 17s are at The Peach Jam.  They open play on Wednesday night as the top seed in Pool D.  Then they'll play twice Thursday and Friday to finish round robin pool play.  The top 2 teams out of 6 from each of the 4 pools qualify for bracket play starting on Saturday.

D1 Minnesota's top teams are at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale   The 16s and 17s avoided the pigtail round and will open Thursday afternoon in the round of 32.  Both teams could play Texas PRO in that opener.  2 wins for the D1 16s could put them up against the Iowa Barnstormers in the quarters on Friday afternoon.  Very interesting possibility there.  The 15s division is just 2 pools of 4.  So that means they will play 3 pool games and then 1 final game on Saturday. 

Milwaukee (NY2LA Sports Next Level Invite)
Crossfire Weege and Swanson
Grassroots 17s
Top MN Comets teams, 3 in 17s, 2 in 16s and 15s
Top 2 MN Select 17s plus their top 15s and 16s.
WOTN will have 2 17s plus a 16s and 15s.
2 Real Athletics 17s and a 16.

Indianapolis (Adidas Invitational)
What used to be a super event has gone down hill with Adidas revamping their structure.  But the Minnesota Heat will still send their 3 Sanford teams plus Heat Wright in 15U.

Then you have the group of events starting on Friday.

The Chicago Summer Jam is a noteworthy event for Minnesota teams.  In the 17s you have Powerhouse, Fury Kallman, MN Warriors, Heat Bui, MN Phenom and MN PREP.  But Powerhouse may see Trae Berhow miss sometime.  He'll be at the Powerade camp in Charlotte (not the same as the UA camp mentioned above).  Howard Pulley's non-17U teams will be here along with the MN Eagles and Powerhouse in 16U.

There will be no championship game here as it would be the 4th game of the day for the teams.  What's more disturbing is that Howard Pulley had to skip the championship game in this same event last year for the exact same reason.  How does the NCAA not catch this in post review and why does this event operator continue to not follow the rules and get away with it?  What about all the other questions it raises?  What happens if they do play the game during the live period (some play it after 5 PM which is OK), can you punish the teams?  If so, how?  Could you penalize a college coach for watching it?  If so, how?

Also in Chicago you have all 3 D1 prospects teams playing the Chicago Summer Challenge

Kansas City (Mullen's Invite)
Minnesota Fury sends their Sanford teams to the quality Mullen's Invite again.  This year the event moves from St. Louis to Kansas City.

Iowa cleans up what hasn't yet been mentioned.  3 Crossfire and a couple of MN Rise teams there.  MN Fury's 2nd 16s and 15s also there.