Unable to showcase themselves in front of the watchful eyes of college coaches, AAU basketball players still have found a way to be seen during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
With AAU contests being suspended, players and their coaches have pivoted toward maintaining contact with collegiate programs by sending videos from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Normally, AAU contests held in the spring and early summer are ideal for evaluating prospective recruits in person.
Hidden Gems director Lucius Jones said college prospects should consult with their coaches about their options and promote themselves as best as they can during this time.
"For the average kid, it's (about) really going hard in modern technology," Jones said. "You've got to have game film, highlight films, you've got to have good academic records and you have to have people who can get that stuff into the right people's hands. Because coaches are getting flooded, the level of your connection to a college coach from an AAU director's perspective is more vital now than ever.
"Literally, all you can do is market yourself to colleges. The best thing you can do is get with someone that can give you a realistic perspective on what you're looking for and what you're eligible for, not only academically, but athletically."
The AAU planned to begin evaluating May 1 whether it could lift its March 12 suspension order in locations where "it has been deemed safe to do so" based on federal, state and local guidelines, the organization said on its website.
Rob Matthews II, a volunteer assistant coach with the Columbus State men's team and a coach and recruiting coordinator for Hidden Gems, said game film currently is paramount for the recruiting process. He said players also should consider sending in additional videos that they can make from home.
"From an athletic standpoint, there's guys out there getting creative; they're filming workouts," Matthews said. "You see guys like (former Alabama quarterback) Tua Tagovailoa, you see him doing his football workouts. Our basketball players can do the same thing. Thirty minutes, put some quick shots up, do some ball-handling, do some decision-making, do some defensive things and send that out to some coaches. Give them a chance to see speed, athleticism, what your shot looks like, how big you are, how quick you are."
It's not the same as scouts watching a game in person, but Matthews said sending game film and workout videos could open up opportunities for further communication and, eventually, visits when the pandemic subsides.
"For a lot of kids, it'll at least put them on these coaches' radars," Matthews said.
All-Ohio Basketball has used a similar strategy.
"What we've been doing with All-Ohio with our underclassmen, we've just kind of gotten in touch with college coaches that have been recruiting them and just kind of keeping them up to date," director Jerry Watson said. "And also get some schools, if they have a high interest in the kid, to give them (a scholarship) offer."
Katherine Weakley, a 5-foot-10 junior guard for Worthington Christian, plays AAU for Ohio United, whose coach, Rich Jeter, reached out to college programs on her behalf.
Weakley, who helped lead the Warriors to a 19-6 record and a runner-up finish in the MSL-Ohio Division this past season, announced April 20 that she has committed to Lipscomb, which is in Nashville, Tennessee.
"From an exposure standpoint, (Jeter) and I have been working on contacting coaches and schools that I'm interested in," Weakley said before committing to Lipscomb.
She also has been utilizing her time at home to keep her skills sharp and boost her strength.
"Our garage is set up as a weight room so I can get a lift in on most days," she said. "My high school coach (Jason Dawson) has sent me daily conditioning so I can stay in shape and be ready for when AAU comes around."
Olentangy Liberty junior Henry Hinkle, a 6-0 guard who averaged 18.4 points and 4.0 assists this past season to help the Patriots finish 18-7 and share the OCC-Buckeye title with Westerville South, plays AAU for Nova Village.
He's been taking it upon himself to send his highlights and game films to college coaches. He said he's heard from Robert Morris, Wright State, Wittenberg, Ohio Dominican, Indiana Tech and Concord, among others.
"I've been sending my highlights out to multiple coaches and trying to stay in touch with them as much as possible, because they may not get to see me play," Hinkle said. "But if they can see my highlights and then they'll ask for game film, I'll send them a whole game. And they can watch that and we'll talk after that."
Grandview junior Hannah Yochem, a 5-9 guard who led the Bobcats in scoring (16.3 points), steals (2.1) and assists (1.9) this past season, plays AAU for the Lady Dragons in West Virginia. She said Lady Dragons coach Chad King and new Grandview coach Kalee Seagle have been helping her send game film to college programs.
"(King) has really been helpful with that, because he understands us juniors need help getting recruited and everything," said Yochem, who also is considering playing volleyball in college. "(Seagle) also helps with recruiting."
Hilliard Bradley junior A.J. Mirgon, a 5-11 guard who averaged 10.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists this past winter to help the Jaguars finish 25-2, win the OCC-Cardinal title and reach a Division I regional final, has been reaching out to college programs with the help of his father as well as Mid-Ohio Pumas college recruitment director Matt Sliemers.
"Me and my dad have sent my film to a lot of schools," Mirgon said. "(And Sliemers) has a lot of connections, and he has us talking to coaches and players and all that. We've had some success with that."