Friday, July 18, 2014
The Nike Peach Jam is as much of a major showcase for the players participating in the championship basketball tournament as it is for the coaches watching.
Every July, North Augusta’s Riverview Park Activities Center is packed with the biggest name coaches in college basketball. They’re on hand to see and be seen, scouting the best junior basketball players. Although they can’t talk to the players, or about them, the coaches make sure certain recruits know they’re on hand to watch them – letting their presence speak in the greatest volumes.
“This gives us a chance to see a lot of kids in one place,” Syracuse University head coach Jim Boeheim said Thursday, taking in the first full day of action at this year’s championship event for the Elite Youth Basketball League. “It’s a great facility, and we don’t have to travel all around the country. It’s a great event.”
The value of a tournament like the Peach Jam is clear for the college coaches. But it can also be a boon for high school coaches. That’s the belief of new South Aiken boys’ basketball coach Jared Adamson.
Adamson works at the Peach Jam, something he also did when he was the head coach of the North Augusta girls’ basketball team. After moving back to the area for the position at South Aiken – following a two-year coaching stint in his native Michigan – Adamson was happy for the opportunity to help out again at the Nike Peach Jam. Adamson said he does everything from swap out team signs on the scoreboards, to supply water in addition to other gym management responsibilities.
While the work is nice, that’s not the primary way Adamson sees that he – and his team – can benefit from the tournament. Adamson isn’t recruiting any players to add to the Thoroughbreds’ roster, but he won’t be shy about taking some ideas.
“It’s a great environment. You see the big coaches and what they do,” said Adamson, who told his new players at South Aiken to make the trip to Riverview Park to try and glean as much positive information from the elite players in action.
“During summer practice, I encouraged them to come out. To see how they prepare and how they play. They can sculpt their game on players at the highest level.”
While the T-Breds might not be ready to run with the squads in action at the Nike Peach Jam, Adamson was optimistic about how things have gone since he was introduced as head coach in late May. He said that he’s been able to establish a foundation of basketball fundamentals with the players that came out for summer practice.
“Summer basketball went well. They showed improvement and got some groundwork on the basic things,” said Adamson, who doesn’t have any long-term projections for his team. “It’s too early to say. The biggest thing is that guys improve individually and we can do better as a team.”
School is still about a month a way and basketball practice won’t pick up full steam until November. That’s all right with Adamson, at least for this week.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Adamson said of the Nike Peach Jam. “You can’t go anywhere else in the country to see this talent and all these top coaches in one building. It’s a great experience.”
Plenty of big-name coaches were on hand Thursday. Among others taking in the action were Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Georgetown’s John Thompson III, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan – fresh off a run to the Final Four.
Another coach who was at Riverview Park and knows a thing or two about an unexpected berth in the Final Four is Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall. In 2013, Marshall guided the Shockers to the national semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Louisville in a back-and-forth game. Last season, Marshall guided his squad to a perfect record in the regular season.
Marshall will look to continue Wichita State’s unprecedented success by restocking a roster that will be without one of its top players, Cleanthony Early, who was selected in the NBA Draft. He’ll look to find his next wave of stars at the Nike Peach Jam, something he’s done in the past.
“It’s a great event. I’ve been coming since it started,” Marshall said. “There are tremendous players, a packed environment and a who’s who of the coaching world.”
Attending the Nike Peach Jam also offers Marshall a chance to return to South Carolina, his home state. The 51-year-old was born in Greenwood and he’s no stranger to North Augusta, saying he recruited Tyrone Walker, who helped lead the Yellow Jackets to their first outright region title in 1998.
“It’s great to be back,” said Marshall, who has been rumored as a candidate for several high-profile coaching positions, should they come open – including South Carolina. For the time being, Marshall’s happy to represent Wichita State at the Peach Jam. “I get to see all the fine players and rub elbows with friends.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.