After a noticeable lull during the last major shoe company tournament, the hustle and bustle was back in full force during the Under Armour Association Finals Friday at LakePoint's Champions Center.
The second day of an open evaluation period for college basketball coaches led to a typical parade of the game's most well known names through the doors of Emerson's basketball Mecca.
During the 6 o'clock hour alone, there was Memphis' Penny Hardaway, fresh off securing the top-ranked recruiting group in the Class of 2019. Just down the way stood Baylor's Scott Drew. Later two of the game's most recognizable faces — Iowa's Fran McCaffrey and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall — passed within a few feet of each other.
Kansas State's Bruce Webber pulled into the LakePoint parking lot just prior to the 7:15 slate of games. A couple of his Big 12 contemporaries were seen Thursday, the opening day of the four-day event which will round out the UAA season, as Kansas' Bill Self and Oklahoma's Lon Kruger both watched five-star recruit Bryce Thompson.
A 6-foot-5, 175-pound combo guard out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thompson is considered the No. 20 prospect in the Class of 2020, according to 247Sports' composite ranking. He entered the final stop on the UAA circuit as the 17U league's leading scorer.
Under Armour's tour may not have the same volume of top-tier talent as its Nike and adidas equivalents. Both of those companies have also held stops at LakePoint the past several years, although this year’s adidas Gauntlet fell during a quiet period, which forced coaches to stay home.
However, the depth is clear based on the staggering number of low- and mid-major coaches in attendance Friday evening.
That's not to say the big-name coaches weren't keeping an eye on proceedings for a select few players. According to LakePoint's Dan McDonald, who also does recruiting work for Rivals, Kentucky's John Calipari, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Auburn's Bruce Pearl — all of whom reached at least the Elite Eight this past spring — were in attendance earlier Friday.
Even recently crowned NCAA champion Tony Bennett of Virginia made an appearance Thursday, proving the position of college basketball coach is truly a year-round commitment.
But as Drew mentioned, there are a lot worse places to spend a weekend evaluating the next crop of basketball stars. He even invoked the Goldilocks principle, when discussing the Champions Center.
"It makes it great when it's in one gym, and you're not driving around everywhere," Drew said. "This facility is a great facility. It's not too hot, not too cold. The temperature is great. You've got places to eat.
"I think every coach gets a little jealous when they come here that their state doesn't have a couple of facilities like this close to their university."
Drew floated between a few of the adjacent courts to catch glimpses of multiple simultaneous games.
"That's why it's great having a lot of games in one facility, so you can see more kids in a short period of time," he said. "... Summertime is one of the main times we get a chance to evaluate, because during the season, a lot of times, we're involved with our own games."
Drew, who has been the head coach of the Bears since 2003, comes from a basketball family. His father, Homer, won 640 games during his career, most of which came at Valparaiso. The younger Drew has seen a lot change in the many years he's been around the game, but he still seems to genuinely enjoy every aspect of it, including the recruiting grind.
"Every year players become bigger, faster, stronger," Drew said. "There's more length and athleticism. People start specializing at a younger age. The game is a lot more physical, but at the same time, the great thing about sports is that it's about teamwork, playing together and making each other better. You love watching tournaments and close games, because you get to see which players winning really matters to."
He added, "It's always exciting to get out in July and be able to recruit."