Just about every notable college basketball coach in the country was standing along the sideline as the national anthem played before a semifinal game at the Nike Global Challenge on Saturday afternoon in Chicago. They were there to watch a game featuring several of the best players on Nike's EYBL circuit, top recruits like Miles Bridges, Troy Brown, Jarred Vanderbilt and Gary Trent Jr.
The national anthem blasted loudly out of the speakers at Whitney Young High School. When the last note played, the Spotify playlist controlling the music went to its next song. It was Future's "F*ck Up Some Commas."
Only in grassroots basketball can you get John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo sitting in the same room listening to Future at punishingly loud levels. Only in grassroots basketball does it feel appropriate to hear Future directly following the national anthem.
It was, pretty much, a perfect snapshot of AAU. The pace of the game was incredibly fast -- in four 10-minute quarters, the West won 103-98. Mixtape-worthy dunks and sloppy turnovers were hitting at a 1:1 ratio. And at halftime, between games or even during dead balls, the Whitney Young gym played pretty much every popular hip-hop song of the last few years.
It seemed a good opportunity to ask college basketball coaches about their thoughts on Migos, Chief Keef, Drake and the other rappers they hear at AAU events every weekend they're allowed to be in the gym during the offseason. Take it from a huge Meek Mill fan like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski: the coaches are paying attention!
"I really like Meek Mill. I play it all the time."—Coach K— Duke Basketball (@dukebasketball) April 7, 2015
Put that quote on Coach K's Hall of Fame plaque so future generations can remember it forever.
The question: You have to listen to a lot of contemporary rap songs at AAU events every summer. Are there any of these songs or artists you particularly like or don't like?
Tom Izzo, Michigan State: "It's all fine to me. I just don't like the language."
John Groce, Illinois: "I love music. Music's one of my hobbies. I play music all the time."
-- Do you play any instruments?
"I play The Groove on Sirius XM in the car. Earth, Wind & Fire. The O'Jays. Our players, they like Drake, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, stuff like that."
Lon Kruger, Oklahoma: "You're asking the wrong guy. Toby Keith is a big supporter of OU, so let's say Toby Keith."
Hottest rapper in the game:
Roy Williams, North Carolina: "I don't really pay any attention to it. I'm more of a Marvin Gaye fan."
John Calipari, Kentucky: "If I'm listening to anything, it's Drake. That's my guy."
Two players were notably absent from the Global Challenge: ESPN's No. 1 recruit, Harry Giles, and No. 2 recruit Jayson Tatum. It makes sense. Giles and Tatum have been jetsetting around the world this summer, going from Colorado Springs for USA Basketball U-19 trials to Greece for two weeks for the tournament, then immediately to South Carolina for the Peach Jam two days after they got home.
They deserved a break and there wasn't a real incentive for either of them to play. Tatum was still listed on the roster for the USA Midwest team, and he showed up to Whitney Young and hung around the event each day. Just to make sure he wasn't hurt or anything, I asked him: "Why aren't you playing this weekend?"
He gave a one word answer: "Chilling."
Jayson Tatum: DNP - Chilling
With so many high profile coaches in the gym, the Global Challenge really was a tremendous opportunity for the players. During a live period weekend, a couple of good games can skyrocket you up the rankings and bring in a flood of new scholarship offers.
One player who rose to the occasion was Jarron Cumberland. Cumberland is a 6'4, 215-pound shooting guard from Ohio ranked No. 77 in ESPN's class of 2016 rankings. He was solid all weekend, but exploded in particular in the first half of the semifinal game with 20 points on 6-of-9 three-point shooting.
Cumerberland committed to Mick Cronin and Cincinnati on July 1, but his performance was so impressive that I joked about it causing a DeAndre Jordan-like situation with a bigger program trying to change his mind. Guess who retweeted it:
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