Lack of AAU basketball impacting recruits amidst COVID-19

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HARRISONBURG, Va. -- AAU basketball is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it's impacting high school basketball players in the Shenandoah Valley.

AAU basketball is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm a little stressed about it just because that's a platform I am usually expecting to have and now we just don't know if it's going to happen," said East Rockingham sophomore forward Tyler Nickel, who is scheduled to play for the 17U Team Loaded AAU squad in 2020.

Nickel already has five Division I offers (Virginia Tech, Penn State, JMU, VCU, and Old Dominion) but is missing out on opportunities this spring and summer to play in front of some of the top college programs in the country. In the same situation as Nickel is Central High School star Dominic Strother, who is expected to compete for DC Premier in the AAU circuit. However, it's currently unknown if and when basketball will resume due to the ongoing global pandemic.

"I am kind of sad AAU isn't playing because I have played AAU all my life, since third grade," said Strother, whose garnering interest from a few D1 programs. "My coaches and family, we were saying this was going to be a breakout year."

To make matters worse for D1 recruits like Strother and Nickel, the NCAA recently announced a recruiting dead period for the organization's top division through at least June 30. It means coaches cannot see recruits in person at basketball events or host on-campus visits.

"You can have a lot of hype around your name but it doesn't really matter unless coaches can physically see you," said Nickel.

But the impacts of AAU's current postponement aren't just being felt by Division I recruits. Chad Seibert, who coaches for Harrisonburg-based AAU program Blaze Basketball, says it's also hurting potential D2 and D3 recruits.

"If you play well in the environment, that's how you can play your way into something and that's been taken away from them," said Seibert, who is the boys basketball head coach at Eastern Mennonite School.

But it's not just about recruiting. With no AAU basketball, players are also missing out on valuable opportunities to develop their game.

"AAU is about getting recruited...but the number one thing I tell players and parents if they are going to play for us, I mean our job is to make you a better player for next year with your high school team," said Seibert.

There is some thought that AAU basketball could return later this summer but as of now it is still on hold.