Now in February, we’ve reached the final stretch of the high school basketball season. State champions will be crowned in the coming weeks and travel ball will start shortly thereafter. Given the number of new “circuits” who are “sponsored by shoe companies,” it feels like there’s no better time to shed light on the legitimacy behind the grassroots scene and unveil a series on independent organizations. In order to do so, let’s first establish the primary shoe-circuits for the sake of clarity: EYBL (Nike), 3SSB (Adidas), and UAA (Under Armour). Any program not under this three-way umbrella is on a secondary circuit (EYCL, Adidas Gold/3SGB, or UA Rise) or attempting to become reputable through routes like Pro16/NXT. This isn’t meant to discredit new options, rather offer transparency for folks to understand exactly what they’re getting into.

On the contrast, the independent route isn’t necessarily for everyone. Claiming otherwise would be irresponsible. However, playing on a grassroots platform arguably provides the most insight to an individual’s level and general recruitment. Every year, we see the updated statistical comparison regarding which shoe-circuit places the most kids into the NBA. Though fun to acknowledge, these numbers ultimately cloud the judgment of kids, parents, and coaches into valuing the wrong things. Not everyone has a chance to go to the NBA, but every kid does have a real chance to be recruited when playing at the appropriate level.

Over the next few weeks, we will take a closer look at several independent teams. Some of these squads have stood the test of time while others have rebranded, disassembled, or explored other avenues. That doesn’t matter. The objective is to identify what worked for these specific teams and how it ultimately benefitted the kids involved. We’ve shifted into a time where the optics have been drastically skewed from reality, and so many individuals are using their power to deceive, profit, and misguide the unsuspecting or unknowledgeable. Before the series begins, let’s reiterate that this is merely an exercise to show the levels of success achieved by grassroots/independent teams throughout the recent years.