Exposure inequality. In 1888, AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) was founded to create common standards and uniformity within amateur sports. In 2016, AAU basketball is anything but uniform, in fact, it has become unrecognizable. As sneaker sponsored teams (Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour) continue to create their own exclusive circuits and compete for top talent, it creates an exposure gap. An exposure gap is the difference found in the amount of exposure opportunities given to players who participate in sneaker sponsored events, compared to those who do not. As the exposure gap widens, players who do not participate in sneaker sponsored events have limited opportunities to receive collegiate exposure thus decreasing the probability of them receiving a scholarship.


From a business viewpoint, it only makes sense for the sneaker companies to want to widen the exposure gap. As non-sneaker sponsored scholarship supply decreases, the demand to play on a sneaker sponsored team increases. If exposure opportunities were not enticing enough, sneaker sponsored teams also provide their players with exclusive gear and the opportunity to play on TV. In an attempt to find the next Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or Steph Curry, sneaker sponsored teams are rolling out red carpets for the players who compete on their circuits.


But what about the other players, the players who do not play on sneaker sponsored teams, how do they go about getting exposure? These players must change the way they go about pursuing college exposure and scholarship opportunities. At the core of this change is a simple ideology, ‘coaches recruit players, not teams.’ Basketball may be a team sport, but scholarships are only rewarded to one individual. Therefore, players must seek the best opportunities available to them instead of searching for the next best teams to play on. Unlike sneaker sponsored events, the sole objective of these opportunities should not be to win, but to standout.


Non-sponsored players need to explore camps, clinics, showcases, and tournaments where scouts, recruiting services, and coaches will be. Playing a great game means nothing if no one is watching you. Scholarships are given to players who play at the right place, at the right time, and in front of the right people. Non-sponsored players must be consistent in their game play order to improve their chances of receiving a scholarship. Whether we like it or not, the business of AAU is here to stay. In order to address a widening exposure gap we must demand transparency and change the way players go about pursuing exposure.


5 ways to get individual exposure outside of AAU events:

  1. Camps, workouts, and combines are the easiest way for scouts, coaches, and spectators to see who’s the best individual player on the court.
  2. High school basketball due to the media following teams and/or players.
  3. All Star games and showcases that feature top high school players.
  4. Social media, phone calls, emails, and text messages. Have highlights and game tape ready.
  5. Playing in front of reliable scouting services that are well respected in your area.


Wes Rines / Sam Rines