The boys had their turn, and now it’s time for the top girls’ club basketball teams in the nation to take over Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta.
Beginning on Sunday, the Girls Elite Youth Basketball League, in its first year organized under that name, will hold the Nike Nationals at the four-gym facility, with 24 elite 17U teams competing for the championship. In addition, 16 of the best 15U teams will be competing for the Junior Nationals Crown.
North Augusta superintendent of Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services Rick Meyer said that another week of teams and fans coming into the area is good for the community at-large.
“I think the biggest winner every time we do a tournament like this is economic impact for the entire area,” Meyer said.
Because the Team USA 17U and 18U teams have either just completed or just begun their efforts in the FIBA World Championships, four of the top five recruits in the HoopGurlz rankings are likely unavailable for the event. That doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of players to watch.
Just on the roster for the Cy-Fair Team Ogwumike team, which won the championship a year ago, are the nation’s No. 8 recruit Jordan Hosey and No. 11 Lashann Higgs. Hosey is a 6-foot-2 wing while Higgs is a 5-9 point guard, and both have committed to the University of Texas.
“That’s what draws people to the event, draws the coaches and the spectators,” Meyer said of the top-tier talent.
As a result of that elite competition, plenty of coaches will be on hand to lay eyes on players. From in-state programs like Clemson and South Carolina to as far away as Connecticut, Division I coaching staffs across the country are usually represented.
USC Aiken’s Mike Brandt said he’ll be among them again this year. While the Division II program doesn’t often bring in the type of recruits that play at the Nike Nationals, he said it’s the perfect opportunity to build bridges with the bigger programs without having to travel outside of Aiken County.
“At our level of coaching, it’s a great experience to be around those type of coaches,” he said, noting that those relationships can result in future exhibition opponents.
In addition, Brandt said that it’s important for all of the coaches to be “visible” while the nation’s top players are on the court. Even though it’s against recruiting rules to contact the players directly, just having your face and school logo seen in the crowd is enough to plant the seed in a player’s mind.
“I think part of it is, they check out who the coaches are that are watching their games,” he said.
While the higher-level coaches are seeking freshman recruits, Brandt and any other D-II coaches are mindful of the reality that some of these athletes may eventually transfer from their initial landing spot and could wind up in their programs later.
Games will kick off for both the Nationals and Junior Nationals on Sunday at 9 a.m., with pool play in the 17U division dividing into Gold and Silver brackets. The event will culminate with the Nationals Gold Championship at noon on Wednesday.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.
At a glance
WHAT: Girls EYBL Nike Nationals
WHERE: Riverview Park Activities Center, North Augusta
COST: $5 daily admission