It's endearing when a fan posts on a message board that "our coach ought to go after so-and-so" because "so-and-so" is often spoken for long before any official letter-of-intent can be signed. It's a prospect/parent-uncle-brother/high school coach/club team coach/family advisor/in-between "runner" equation. Did we leave anyone out?
Story behind NCAA violations in Arizona basketball programGo here for the remainder.
February 9, 2010
At first glance, the inaugural Cactus Classic in May 2006 appeared to be like any other grassroots basketball tournament. There were 32 teams in Tucson, Ariz., for the three-day event. Games were played on the campus of the University of Arizona, split between three courts in the McKale Center and three in the school's intramural gym. Teams were grouped into pools of four and played three games within their pool.
The size, setting and format of the tournament were like any other, but the Cactus Classic was no ordinary grassroots event. It was not staged or sponsored by Nike, Adidas or Reebok, like most big tournaments. The organizer was a 28-year-old Tucson resident who had never held a major basketball tournament before. Also, the tournament was in the middle of an NCAA dead period, meaning no college coaches could attend. All the usual enticements that get teams to a tournament -- allegiance to a sponsor, a connected organizer, a chance to be scouted by college coaches -- were missing, yet the 32 teams were among the best in the country. With the exception of the big shoe-company events in Las Vegas in July, there was not a better assemblage of talent west of the Mississippi that year.
The Cactus Classic was special, and during its three-year run, which ended in 2008, it was the most talked about youth basketball tournament in America -- by college recruiters, AAU coaches, and later, NCAA investigators. Yet few people know the story of how the tournament came to be, how members of the Arizona coaching staff devised a plan to gain an edge in recruiting, and then brazenly toed -- and at times may have crossed -- NCAA boundaries to implement it...