Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
After Helping Takeover Win Atlantic City Title, Josh Hart Says IU, ‘Nova May Have ‘Pipelines’ to His AAU Team
GALLOWAY, N.J. — Minutes after helping Team Takeover win the 17U title at “Live in AC,” Josh Hart was talking about how Indiana and Villanova could establish a “pipeline” to the fertile AAU team because of their new coaching hires.
Indiana head coach Tom Crean hired former Takeover assistant Kenny Johnson in May, and Villanova head coach Jay Wright is set to bring aboard Doug Martin, a coach with Paul VI High School and the Takeover 16U team.
“It’s a pipeline,” the 6-foot-5 Hart said after scoring 14 points as the Takeover 17U team downed Sports U, 63-50, in the championship game at Stockton College.
“It’s kind of who you know, like where you feel more comfortable,” added Hart, a shooting guard who attends Sidwell Friends in the D.C. area. “A lot of us we like coach Johnson so that will definitely be taken into consideration when we’re kind of making our decision.”
Villanova would be in a similar boat when they bring Martin aboard.
“I like Villanova’s coaching staff,” Hart said. “They seem kind of genuine and that kind of thing. And also my 16s coach I think is going to be at Villanova so that’s never a bad thing.
“I know I will be taken care of with him there.”
The trend of Washington-area AAU coaches being hired by college programs was documented in a terrific piece by Mark Giannotto in the Washington Post on Wednesday.
The story pointed out that “the DC Assault AAU program has had at least 13 of its coaches ascend to the college ranks in the past decade, including Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill. Team Takeover, which began its AAU program in 2007, already has seen at least four of its coaches promoted to college jobs, and more could be on the way.”
“D.C. is a hotbed for players and coaches now,” Villanova’s Wright told the paper. “Obviously they know the players, but they’re also really good coaches. The old stigma of an AAU coach is not there anymore.”
Though two college coaches told the Post the phenomenon is “legalized cheating,” it is well within NCAA rules.
If a program hires an AAU coach as an assistant coach, there are no restrictions on recruiting. If, on the other hand, a school hires an AAU or high school coach in a lesser capacity, the program cannot recruit from that team or school for two years.
That was the rule that prevented former Rice High School star Lamont “Momo” Jones from heading to St. John’s from Arizona. He played for St. John’s Director of Basketball Operations Moe Hicks at Rice, and thus couldn’t attend St. John’s for two years after leaving Arizona. He ultimately landed at Iona, and helped them make the NCAA Tournament last season.
For schools like Indiana, the move has worked out well so far.
Takeover guard Stanford Robinson of Paul VI High School committed to Indiana, and now he’s working on bringing big man Beejay Anya of DeMatha Catholic and Takeover with him.
“Yeah, I’m trying to get Beejay to go with me [to Indiana],” Robinson told SNY.tv.
“Me and Beejay have been playing together since elementary school. We’ve been playing on the same AAU team for a long time, so it would be nice to have him in college with me as well.”
How’s it going so far?
“With Indiana getting the No. 1 spot for preseason, I feel like that helps a lot with his decision,” Robinson said. “Beejay, he’s the kind of guy who likes to run with guards and Indiana, they like to run a lot, so I feel like Beejay can fit well in that system.”
Once Anya, who had 11 points in the final, walked over to the conversation, Robinson added, “He’s going, he knows he’s going [to Indiana].”
The 6-foot-8 Anya said Johnson being at Indiana could play a role in his recruitment.
“”It’s just the fact that I know somebody when I get there,” he said. “I’m not really concerned about whether they’re there or not, it’s more like that I have friends there.”
Still, Anya — who said he holds offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Syracuse, N.C. State, Kansas, Maryland, Georgetown, UCLA, Rutgers and more — maintains he’s open.
“I’m still wide open in my recruitment,” he said.
Rutgers, it should be mentioned, has former DC Assault assistant David Cox on staff as an associate head coach.
“I have good relationships, but it’s not nearly what David has,” Rutgers coach Mike Rice told the Post. “We don’t get three or four of the kids that we have — three or four of my starters, to be honest with you — without David being on my staff. . . . Right or wrong, AAU is where you get your assistants from now.”
Anya mentioned that he also has ties to both Syracuse and Pittsburgh despite them not having any D.C.-area assistants on staff.
Syracuse is bringing in wing Jerami Grant of Takeover, and Pitt will add former Takeover guard James Robinson.
“Coach [Jim] Boeheim is a great coach, one of the best coaches in college basketball,” Anya said. “And I think that’s a good system for me to play in. And my teammate from last year, Jerami Grant, went there and he’s a very good player and a very good friend of mine. So that’s another thing, he’s in my ear a lot.”
So is Robinson.
“James Robinson is in my ear a lot about going to Pittsburgh,” Anya said. “Me and James go way back, so it’s been rough at times listening to both of them at the same time telling me about Pittsburgh and Syracuse.”
While the recruitment of Anya and Hart remains open, the hirings of Johnson and Martin gives Indiana and Villanova a foot in the door.
And in recruiting, that’s a good start.
Hart listed offers from a slew of schools and then said he planned to visit several in August.
“Definitely Villanova, Indiana, Rutgers, Temple, Memphis, Cincinnati and UConn,” he said.
It’s probably no accident that Villanova and Indiana were the first two schools he mentioned.
Asked about the Takeover players potentially having to decide between the two “pipelines” of Indiana and Villanova, Hart smiled and said: “It will be difficult but I think this is kind of like the one selfish decision that we all have to make.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.