Once upon a time Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Memphis Grizzlies high-flyer Vince Carter and former Detroit Piston Richard Hamilton played on the same team. No not in the NBA, but as a part of Amateur Athletic Union basketball, better known as AAU. Made up mostly of high schoolers, these teams gather some of the best young talents in the country.
The team is called the Northern Michigan Drive and it is an all-star team made of the best high school players in the U.P. The practices are intense and involve everything from shooting to one-on-one drills. And the players love the idea that they can still play basketball ball long after the season is over.
“It’s weird because you play against them you’re whole life, trying to compete against them and you finally get to play with the best. They understand how to play, they put in all the time that you put in. They’re on the same level as you and they want to be as good as you,” Gray said.
“The thing about this team is we play as a team. We know each other’s weaknesses and we play off that. We help defense and we know how to run the offense and you’re playing high-level basketball so you’re getting to know all of the talent. You’re not playing with just people you’re better than. You’re playing with people that are better than you,” said Beaudry.
The team is set up through contacts from the local high schools, who send their best players to tryout for the team. Coach Tyler Geary says many of the players benefit greatly from participating in the program.
“Everything we do, we try to become better every single year, whether it’s traveling, how we do practice scheduling, how we select the team…and we think that we just trying to improve it every single year to make it the best opportunity for these kids to get chance to get summer exposure and get to play in front of some college coaches,” said Geary.
This is the fourth year for the program, which travels throughout the Midwest during the summer playing in different tournaments. They competed down in Holland this past weekend and will be heading to Chicago next week. They will also compete in Grand Rapids and Milwaukee in mid-July.