Dave Telep and the Spurs's reaction to "the AAU culture"

Mike Ehrmann

A long time PtR reader wonders if Dave Telep's addition is more about the Spurs changing their scouting culture or if it's something else.

As we previously discussed, the San Antonio Spurs have added Dave Telep to their scouting department. I thought the signing was a move to bring in someone who is more familiar with the high school basketball scene because in a couple of years the Spurs are going to be in some sort of reload/rebuild process. Several of you gave us some excellent feedback on the article but one comment in particular stood out. It comes from Alamo:

Came across a chain of articles that turned out to be related. On realgm I noticed an article with a picture of Pop:

"The AAU System And How The NBA Could Fix It"

It quoted from another article:

According to a revealing article from Seth Wickersham, published during this year's playoffs, that is no accident. The Spurs have grown weary of the youth basketball scene in this country, preferring players who grew up overseas, untouched by a seedy AAU basketball infrastructure that has "ruined" many American kids.

Found that article:
"Made not in America: Is avoiding American players the secret to the Spurs' success?"

That article mentions:

Near a mural in his office, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has just finished reading an article. ...
The article that Buford has finished, printed from ESPN.com, sits on his desk. Its headline: "The Entitlement Culture of Elite HS Hoops." In it, recruiting analyst Dave Telep writes about not only witnessing AAU players complain about the food at a Ritz in California during a tournament but also what he calls the slow and steady crumble of American grassroots basketball: loafing, lousy fundamentals, a pervasive disinterest from players in showcasing anything but themselves.

Found Dave Telep's article here:
"The entitlement culture of elite HS hoops"

I'm not so sure that his hiring represents a change in the Spurs approach, versus Telep wanting to get in to a new aspect of the game.

Nice catch Alamo. Given their draft history, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the Spurs are weary of guys who are products of AAU. I would argue that the Spurs added Telep simply because he's looking to get into a new aspect of the game. That's not to say Telep wasn't looking for a change, but rather that both sides would need something to gain out of this partnership.

The fact is, it's unlikely that the Spurs will be able to continually avoid players who are products of AAU teams in high school. I believe the Spurs recognized they were going to have to dip their toes farther into college basketball recruiting in the near future and wanted someone not just with experience scouting the college game, but someone who follows players starting in high school.

Just because a player participates in AAU doesn't mean they exhibit the traits mentioned above. Telep's experience scouting these players from an early age will help him advise the Spurs on which players have succeeded in making it through the system without being molded into me-first ball hogs.

The closer the Spurs get to the top of the draft, the more likely it is they'll have to pick a product from the USA. There will be players like Dante Exum from Australia who are top tier talents, but overall the lottery is still stocked with American born players, most of whom participated in AAU somewhere along the way. They're not all selfish, they're not all lazy and they're not all entitled. Telep and the rest of the Spurs scouting staff will just be tasked with finding those players, or figuring out which guys are malleable enough to have those un-Spurs-like qualities worked out of them.

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