The Myth and Misconceptions of AAU
There was a time when AAU had a purpose and its purpose was genuine, that time has long passed us by. It's not oil that greases the AAU wheels, it's cold hard cash!
The original purpose of AAU was to provide a forum for the elite players to play against each other. It's where college scouts could gather and get to see how the better players fared against the better competition. It was invitation only and there was NO expense to the player when I played unless you made the national tournament in Vegas.
Now the AAU circuit is watered down. Anyone can call up several different places (Air Attack fires example) and buy uniforms and schedule and form their own team. There are multiple tournaments going on in multiple cities in every state all over the country every weekend, making it impossible for college scouts to be everywhere and thus making it impossible to predict when and which tournaments they're going to be at. However, the opportunity to be seen by a college scout is how they promote themselves.
It has completely taking over the summers, making local summer leagues obsolete. There's travel involved every weekend which is an expense, on top of what you paid to play in that tournament. Also they are very time-consuming and take away from the time that kids used to spend working on their fundamental skills. There are too many Division 1 basketball players and even Pros that can't make free throws and 15 ft jump shots. That used to be just a deficiency for centers now there are guards who can't shoot. Other fundamental skills overall are down as well. There are so many parents buy and coach teams for the sole purpose of featuring their child.
These tournaments that go on every weekend collectively are a billion dollar industry. Just in Ohio on an average weekend there are AAU tournaments going on at over 75 different sites. The quality of basketball played is average at best, and because of everyone's different locations you can only practice once a week, and sometimes not even at all. Also because most players are only playing to promote themselves to play on the next level, the team concept is rarely on the forefront of the athletes mind.
Because AAU has grown to be so big it's one of the only outlets you have for competition in the summer. It's okay to play it only if you are still putting in the individual hours in the gym. The AAU game should be used as a formum to test the skills that you've been working on that summer in a game like situation. NOT instead! A player can get more shots up in an hour in the gym than they would get in an entire summer of playing in AAU.
There is nothing that can replace the hours that you put into the gym, and there are only a handful of tournaments nationally that college scouts really give any creed to. If you talk to any Division 1 coach they place a much higher onus on what you do for your high school team and place far less significance on the numbers that athletes put up in AAU competition.
AAU has also affected the quality of high school basketball. Before it was so popular players got to play together all summer long and it helped the team chemistry and cohesion tremendously. However in the AAU format only two players from the same school can play together, so most of the summer teams are split up and players don't get to play together and build that chemistry that used to drive High School athletics.
If you really sit down and ask yourself this question: How much better has any player that you've known that's been involved with AAU gotten just by playing in the AAU games? Oftentimes the answer is not much at all, if any.....