Alexandria head boys’ basketball coach Forrest Witt knows a lot of high school coaches see two sides to AAU basketball.
“I think it can be a positive thing for kids in outstate Minnesota to be seen,” Witt said. “From a standpoint of, do they learn how to play team basketball? No. That’s probably the downfall to the AAU scene because you have everyone from a different town and a different system, that can be hard. There’s not a lot of continuity. But from a standpoint of being seen by college coaches, it’s certainly a good opportunity.”
Witt’s 6’8″ soon-to-be senior forward Logan Doyle is a prime example of that. I wrote a story in today’s Echo Press on how Doyle went from no offers at the beginning of the summer to now nine, including a DI offer from Western Illinois University, after a strong AAU season.
“With Logan, he has improved so much over the past year,” Witt said. “With him not playing varsity as a sophomore, a lot of coaches didn’t really know about him. I was telling coaches, ‘I think this kid has a chance to be good going into his junior year.’ With the improvement he’s made, coaches are taking notice.”
Doyle even caught the eye of the University of Minnesota coaching staff, who invited him to campus for an unofficial visit earlier this year. He shot in Williams Arena and got a tour of campus and the basketball facilities as the coaches talked to him about walking-on with the chance of earning a scholarship in the future.
“I know my AAU coach, [former Gophers big man] Jonathan Williams had a big smile on his face,” Doyle said. “Not many outstate kids get unofficials there, so I was really happy.”
It was just part of a life-changing summer for Doyle. He said his goal and dream was to play college basketball at the highest level possible. But after averaging more than 13 points and 11 rebounds per game this past winter, coaches still weren’t paying attention to him.
“I didn’t really even have coaches calling me or talking to me about anything,” Doyle said.
That changed this summer as he proved himself with the Minnesota Lockdown 17U team out of the Twin Cities. They played at tournaments around the Midwest, including stops in Sioux Falls, Aimes, Iowa and Wisconsin Dells.
Doyle said his strength and his ability to hold position down low has improved a lot since last winter after getting in the weight room. He also feels more comfortable with his jump shot and at the free throw line. This summer was an opportunity to showcase all that against other quality competition.
“It’s been like the only thing you can do to get noticed now,” he said. “I’m kind of a late bloomer skill wise. Big men tend to take longer to develop, so this summer was kind of make or break for me.”
Witt remembers what it was like playing AAU ball himself as a high school player in Morris. At the time, Witt said there were two big programs in the state – Minnesota Select, which Witt played for, and the Minneapolis Streaks, which is now Howard Pulley, the most well known AAU team in the state. Witt went on to star at St. Cloud State University from 1999-2003.
“The biggest thing for me was it gave me a lot of confidence going against players, not only at the state level, but the national level,” Witt said. “From a player development standpoint, it wasn’t the off-season where I made the most improvements in my game, but it was certainly a confidence boost.”
That’s exactly what Sari Noga told me after signing with the University of Minnesota women’s team in 2010. The former Parkers Prairie star had an even bigger jump to make going from the Class A level to the Big Ten. She said her ability to play with her North Tartan AAU team gave her confidence in making that jump.
NOTES* Doyle is one of many players in the area who take advantage of the AAU season in both boys’ and girls’ basketball. Ashby’s Tanner Langlie is listed on the Minnesota Lockdown 17U roster. Alexandria junior John Vogeler also travels to the cities to play for Minnesota Lockdown on the 16U team.
“John’s doing well,” Witt said. “His recruitment will pick up over the course of this year I’d imagine.”
*Doyle said he is pretty sure he will make his college decision by the early signing period, which runs from November 14-21.
“I want to play my senior year and not worry about who’s in the gym and make sure that’s taken care of,” he said.
* Division II schools that have offered: Doyle’s Division II offers include the University of Mary, Bemidji State, Northern State, St. Cloud State, University of Minnesota-Moorhead, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Minnesota-Crookston and the University of Sioux Falls.