The GymRat CHALLENGE AAU basketball tournament, played in New York's Capital Region, has a reputation as a showcase for rising stars. The boys' version of the event was played three weeks ago and, now, its the girls' turn to play in what is the largest tournament of its kind for females on the east coast.
In all, 228 teams with close to 2,500 players from 13 states and Canada will be in the area this weekend for games on Saturday and Sunday.
Games begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday and continue until the wee hours and, then, resume at 8 a.m. on Sunday. Each team plays three "pool round" games, and teams that advance from pool play begin championship brackets Sunday afternoon with champions determined in four age brackets Sunday evening.
Games will be played at UAlbany, Skidmore College, Schenectady H.S., Niskayuna H.S., the Saratoga Recreation Center, Saratoga's Gavin Park Athletic Center and Maple Hill Middle School in Saratoga. There are age divisions for players 16-under (traditionally rising seniors), 15-under, 14-under and 13-under.
Admission is $10 per day or $15 for both days and covers any game at any venue. Reasonably priced concessions, merchandise and game programs with full rosters are also available at every site.
There are 16 Capital Region-based teams participating with close to 180 local players, and the proverbial best of the best from the east come to the event.
Recent participants from MAAC schools include Sydney Rosales (headed to Marist), Tehresa Coles (at Siena), Briana Logan (headed to Siena), Damika Martinez (Iona, this past season's MAAC Player of the Year), Maeve Parahus (headed to Manhattan) and dozens of others. Other Capital Region-team GymRat alums include Julie Forster, Sarah Royals and Keyenna Williams, who played on this past season's UAlbany NCAA team.
The event also draws considerable talent from elsewhere, including Epiphany Prince, who played in the GymRat in two different years and is annually among the WNBA's leading scorers. Four years ago Breanna Stewart, then a 6-foot-4 center who was rated the top high school player nationally, was here. Stewart, this past season, led UConn to a national championship and was the first freshman since 1986 to be the MVP of the Final Four.
Stewart's teammates, Bria Hartley and Caroline Doty, UConn's starting backcourt this past season, are also GymRat alums.
Your Hoopscribe is involved, helping organize and being part of a group of talent evaluators who watch games over the weekend and pick all stars. After the event I'll be writing about the top-level all stars selected as well as producing a report on the championship game at each division. It will all be available at the event's website (as are past all-star teams), www.gymratchallenge.com
Is all of that well received? In past years, there have been more than 1.2 million hits to the site within two weeks after the reports get on line. Reports will be on line, this year, no later than next Wednesday or Thursday.
We'll also keep track of players who are being recruited by MAAC programs, and post that information here, at "Keepin' Track of the MAAC" by late next week.
Better yet, though, fans of terrific basketball can get out to get a first-hand look at the sport's future stars and, in many cases, future MAAC standouts. The event truly is a basketball junkie's paradise.