Part 1 of the 4 part series, “Taking the city back”, exploring how Houston basketball can take its rightful place as one of the biggest, most unified, brands in the country.
When was the last time a Houston based shoe team won a national level, major platform event like an EYBL, UAA, or Adidas Gauntlet championship…? Not have a good record, or won some big games… I mean have a TEAM full of talented players, THAT FIT, and work together and win a major event?! Let’s just say it’s been a while. Now, winning the GASO (Mike Kundstadt’s Great American Shootout) is really big deal, the talent level increases every year & Sam Lowe and Blue Zertuche have done a tremendous job with the event, making it one of the major independent live events in the country. But I’m talking about winning an event that would make the country pay attention. Houston is the 4th largest metropolitan city in America, and its estimated by 2020 it will overtake Chicago and become the 3rd largest. Only New York City has more Fortune 500 headquarters. Houston’s population density is estimated to be 3,662 people per square mile!! That’s a lot of people, and people come with kids, kids who have talent…
In the late 90’s, early 2000’s there were 3-4 Shoe teams in Houston. The HOUSTON HOOPS, HOUSTON JAGUARS, HOUSTON SUPERSTARS, & HOUSTON SELECT. There was also a hand full of non-shoe or independent teams like HAAY Select, Houston Lynx, Jr. Hardballers, Houstonians and Houston Raptors. Back then playing on one of the shoe teams, you had to be one of the elite players in the city, no questions asked. There were no tryouts for these 3-4 shoe sponsored teams. The coach or director would come to your high school games, talk to you & your parents & then that was that… you were on the shoe team. The non-shoe teams, that I mentioned previously, were very competitive, even beating some of the shoe teams in certain events. But with their being only 7-12 teams in the city TOTAL… The talent pool was abundant, and teams got their pick of the litter of the talented players.
These non-shoe team coaches, & directors would willingly let a kid leave their team to play for a shoe team because the coaches understood that the shoe team had a bigger platform. There were more media members, & college coaches at these “Shoe Circuit” events compared to a non-shoe event. Coaches knew the value of the platform and understood that it was best for the kid to leave and get an opportunity to play against the best competition in the country. Although it may have hurt their team, the non-shoe coach’s top priority was doing what was best for the kid and not best for their team. Which is essentially is what you should do & how you should feel… If a team has a better platform for a kid than you do, it’s your responsibility to let the kid go. Let me define better platform… A better platform is visible to more members of the national media, college coaches, elite camp (Top 1oo, Nike, Steph Curry, etc) voters, McDonald’s All American game voters & USA basketball. Also, a better platform could mean access to better training and development, due to the funds that the shoe companies provide the shoe teams. The city had one of my favorite words, “LEVELS”, in summer basketball… There were developmental teams, which were teams that were just starting out, and hadn’t really established themselves in the city. The next level was competitive, which were teams that had been around for a few years, had a few players who might have made all-district teams, and the kids played hard. They would have kids who weren’t quite considered elite but would have kids who weren’t developmental. Then there were the elite teams, which were the shoe teams. These teams were compiled of kids who were all-city, all-state, and all-americans. Some of the players even had NBA potential. This was a much simpler time, before social media, and right after the internet had become mainstream. Everybody seemed to fall in line and respected the boundaries… until the shit got real, and bags started getting dropped, clout started getting guys more notoriety, and then the structure changed. We’ll discuss this in part 2… But here’s the million dollar question.. Would this formula work in the city now?
What if there were levels of summer teams broken up like this, Elite- (Shoe Teams), Competitive (Top Independent teams), Developmental (New teams, Teams with kids with little experience)? I’ll explore this in the second part of this series!