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Yet they’re also aware that rule-breakers in that crowd can bring down a program. In 2004, the NCAA sanctioned Auburn after concluding that summer team coach Mark Komara was essentially a school booster who provided two of his players recruited by Auburn with extra benefits.

And a decade ago, Kansas City AAU coach Myron Piggie was convicted of federal fraud and tax evasion charges after he admitted paying five high school stars, often hiding the money in shoe boxes.

Both instances led to incremental changes in summer basketball recruiting rules _ along with calls for more forceful action.

“I don’t know that you’re necessarily going to be able to walk away from the summer,” Burke said. “The third-party influences aren’t going to go away.”

And even before the two July recruiting periods, top players do like to play together. At the Nike camp, college basketball’s next generation were paired with Nike instructors and well-regarded high school coaches at a Saint Louis University rec center.

Campers worked on fundamentals but also spent much of the four-day session in 3-on-3 games as well as daily 5-on-5 contests, culminating with a championship.

Mindful of the summer circuit critics, Nike has formed an “Elite Youth Basketball League” for 40 spring and summer 17-and-under travel teams that includes a regular season and concludes with a 24-team championship at the mid-July Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C.

“We’ve definitely put more of an emphasis on skills development,” said Vince Baldwin, Nike’s elite youth director of scouting. “Kids were playing way too many meaningless games.”

Like Garrett, who attended the St. Louis event as a parent, Baldwin said the summer circuit has a valuable, if misunderstood, role, especially for college programs with smaller recruiting budgets.

“It hurts the universities and it hurts the kids,” he said, referring to the likely reduction in the July evaluation period. “Colleges will make more mistakes about who they recruit. And kids will get overlooked.”

Similar to members of select soccer programs or summer baseball all-star teams, the basketball players at summer all-star camps are there to match their skills against other top talent, Baldwin said. Most high school games can’t provide that sort of environment.

“It’s about the competition,” he said. “You can watch them compete against other Division I athletes. If you watch a kid at his high school, he might be the only Division I athlete on the court.”

Burke acknowledged that “there are some good things to come out of the camps.” But he also stands firmly behind the NCAA’s effort to keep those influences in check.

“There are way too many people out there … selling a vision that only a few will realize,” he said.


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