With an eye toward increasing exposure of Prince George's County boys basketball and keeping control over players, coaches from a handful of the county's top high school teams have united to form their own teams to compete in Amateur Athletic Union tournaments and other out-of-season events. By creating their own program, coaches hope to enhance their players' opportunities to play out of season. Normally, AAU teams are operated independent of high school programs.
The new team, known as P.G. Select, made its debut with under-16 and under-17 teams in the Charlie Weber Invitational in September at the University of Maryland. The tournament, one of the most prominent of the fall, attracts AAU teams from across the nation.
According to the coaches who organized P.G. Select--Oxon Hill's Billy Lanier, Gwynn Park's Steve Matthews, Eleanor Roosevelt's Glenn Farello and Central's Walter Fulton--there were several reasons for forming their own teams. Normally, players from Prince George's spread out among several AAU teams, including D.C. Assault, the Silver Spring Blue Devils and the P.G. Jaguars.
"We were tired of seeing our kids getting yanked around by AAU programs," Farello said. "I didn't like how some of them would talk to our players, and I didn't like how they treat them. . . . Not to say they're all bad. They've got some good guys in AAU, but too many give it a bad name. I got to a point where I didn't appreciate the way things were being done."
Lanier said one motivation for the Select group will be to get more attention from college recruiters and attract more scholarship offers. He said he thinks that while Prince George's County has several recruitable players, college coaches do not recognize the county as a place to find talent because its players spread out among several out-of-season teams.
"We just thought we had a good opportunity to try to get an organization going and really identify some of the county's best players," Lanier said. "We wanted to make sure the players were noticed and the county gets noticed. . . . When it comes to recruiting and coming to watch kids play, we're not getting attention like a hotbed. Baltimore is a hotbed. Prince George's County is a hotbed, too.
"Keeping the best talent in P.G. in one group has never been done, a lot of times it is spread out. There is strength in numbers."
Another advantage of creating P.G. Select, Fulton said, is that Select can alter its schedule so that it does not interfere with the high school summer leagues.
In the Charlie Weber, the under-17 team won its pool, then lost on a last-second shot to the eventual champion from Tallahassee, Fla., in the first round of the playoffs. The under-16 team advanced to the quarterfinals.
Both teams featured the county's top players. Oxon Hill All-Met center Michael Sweetney and guard Richard Little, Eleanor Roosevelt forward Delonte Holland, Gwynn Park's Charles and Sharrod Ford and Central's Sean Brooks and B.J. Haigler--all seniors--were on the under-17 team. The under-16 team was led by juniors Phillip Goss and Lamar Butler from Oxon Hill.
Assistant coaches from Roosevelt and Oxon Hill did most of the coaching. Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules permit high school coaches to coach out-of-season teams provided no more than five of their own players are on that team. While almost all of the players came from the schools whose coaches organized the team, Matthews said other coaches have pledged their support.
"They pretty much liked the idea," Matthews said. "Some of them were not happy with the way things were done this year, but that has to be taken care of behind closed doors."
In the meantime, at least one coach says P.G. Select is just a starting point.
"If other coaches want to help and beat bushes and help with coaching and practice, that's fine," Farello said. "In the short term, what we offer is the opportunity for high school coaches in our area to know they can trust us with their players. I think that's probably the most important thing at this point."