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, an event-record of 240 teams with close to 2,800 players from 13 states and Canada will descend on the Albany, N.Y., area for games on Saturday and Sunday. Is there a better way for dad to spend a Father's Day weekend.
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 Siena, Skidmore College, Saratoga Maple Avenue Middle School, Gavin Park Athletic Center in Saratoga Springs, The Saratoga Recreation Center and Mont Pleasant Middle School in Schenectady.
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 20 Capital Region-based teams participating with close to 240 local players, and the proverbial best of the best from the east come to the event.
The tournament brings in numerous players who eventually wind up in the MAAC, and GymRat alums who are currently playing in the league include two-time defending Player of the Year Damika Martinez (Iona), Tehresa Coles (Siena), Briana Logan (Siena), Sydney Rosales (Marist), Tori Jarosz (Marist), Madeline Blais (Marist), Maeve Parahus (Manhattan), Lizzie Ball (Fairfield) and several others.
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 NCAA Tournament's MVP. Her UConn teammate, Bria Hartley, is another GymRat alum.
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.