If you're a basketball fan ... a real "gym rat," so to speak ... then there's no better place to be this Memorial Day weekend than in New York's Capital Region for the GymRat Challenge boys' AAU tournament.
The event is the largest of its kind in the east. This year an event record 240 teams with close to 2,700 players will be in town and, if past years are any indication, more than half those here will play at some level in college.
There are usually several dozen high-major prospects here annually, and this year looks no different. Beyond that, several hundred of this weekend's participants will wind up at the mkd-major level, and MAAC teams are stocked with GymRat alums.
Champions will be crowned in five age brackets: 13-under, 14-under, 15-under, 16-under and 17-under.
For Albany area fans, there are 14 local teams with about 150 Capital Region players represnting close to 40 high schools from the upstate New York area. In all, 11 states and Canada will send teams here.
The event has Emeka Okafer, a No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2004 NBA draft played here, as did Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft.
The GymRat has also had alums play key roles for the last two NCAA national championship teams. Cole Aldrich (the starting center on Kansas' national championship team) played here as did Shabazz Napier, a key player on this past season's UConn title team.
Also, this year's national player of the year Jimmer Fredette (Brigham Young) played here, as did Talor Battle (a 2,000-point career scorer at Penn State).
Much of Siena's current and past rosters includes players who have displayed their talent in the GymRat event, including current Saints Owen Wignot, Trenity Burdine. Your blogger also recalls other current or former MAAC standouts having been here, including Greg Nero of Fairfield, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons of Canisius, George Beamon of Mannhattan and Candon Rusin, formerly of Marist, just to drop a few names.
The tournament will be played Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and, then, on Sunday from 8 a.m. until Sunday evening. Championship games will be contested Sunday evening. About 26 hours of basketball will be contested, almost non-stop, over the two days.
Yes, indeed, a basketball junkie's paradise. In about 400 games will be played at five different sites in New York's Capital Region. Those are: the University at Albany, Skidmore College in Saratoga, Union College in Schenectady, Schenectady High School and the Saratoga Recreational Center.
Single-day admission is $10 and two-day admission is $15. Fans can see any game at any venue. Multiple games are contested simultaneously at each site.
Your blogger will be in attendance and taking notes, as will a "talent evaluation" staff that picks players for tournament all-star honors. That staff gets some input from the better players in attendance about their college interst, and, as one of the talent evaluators for the event, I'll have access to that material.
When the tournament concludes, this blog will have a lengthy report about the tournament with as much recruiting information that pertains to the MAAC that I can acquire, which will be plenty.
More information about this year's event, the playing schedule and past histories of previous years' tournaments (including all-star selections and much information about the better players here from past years) is all available on the tournament's website, which is: www.gymratchallenge.com
So ... attend the event; and, if you can't attend, then keep following this forum for post-tournament information. early next week.