Kansas freshman combo guard Quentin Grimes, a former member of the Houston Hoops and Basketball University AAU programs, remembers the thrill of playing before some of the same college coaches who sat in the end zone bleachers at the 2018 Hardwood Classic at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.
“It was kind of surreal to see all the coaches you see on TV. You want to show them what you can do, not what you can’t do, try to go out there and work hard, play your heart out to get a scholarship,” said Grimes, who chose KU over Texas, Kentucky, Marquette and many others in recruiting.
The 6-foot-5 native of The Woodlands, Texas, was speaking to media at the Thursday-through-Sunday AAU event, which was attended by several college head coaches including Dana Altman (Oregon), Tad Boyle (Colorado), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State), Cuonzo Martin (Missouri), Sean Miller (Arizona), Porter Moser (Loyola), Fran McCaffery (Iowa), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Bruce Weber (Kansas State), as well as coaches from smaller schools such as Jeff Boschee of Missouri Southern and Brett Ballard of Washburn. Many college assistants attended, including KU’s Kurtis Townsend.
As soon as next summer, the many AAU tournaments around the country may be closed to college coaches. FBI’s investigation into college basketball recruiting led to a commission chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The commission recommended a model that would shut out coaches from AAU events in favor of regional USA Basketball-run camps that would open its doors to the colleges.
“I started playing when I was in third or fourth grade. I really started getting serious around middle school and high school,” said Grimes, indicating his AAU coaches were quite important in his development.
“They focused on the little things,” Grimes said. “How to shoot the ball, to focus on the principles out there. It was really helpful. Playing against the best competition all across the country, you have no choice but to get better. You always want to go out and compete against the best.”
One of the blue-chip prospects in the 2018 Hardwood Classic, Malik Hall of Wichita Sunrise Christian Academy, acknowledged he and his Mokan Elite AAU teammates especially enjoy playing in tournaments during open recruiting periods.
“I mean it’s a blessing obviously. Not a lot of kids get a chance to do what I’m doing. Being here is pretty amazing,” said Hall, a 6-8 senior wing who is ranked No. 49 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com. He’s received offers from Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, Purdue, Oklahoma State, Northwestern, Iowa, Oregon, DePaul, Butler, Texas A&M, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Saint Louis and others.
Some of the spring and summer AAU tournaments, such as the Hardwood Classic, hold three-point and slam dunk contests. Grimes was one of the celebrity judges of this year’s Hardwood slam dunk event (along with KU teammates Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett and Dedric Lawson). The competition was won by Andre Jackson of City Rocks of Albany, N.Y.
“When I participated in the dunk contest at McDonald’s it was kind of the same thing,” said Grimes. He finished runner-up to Zion Williamson at the 2018 McDonald’s All-America game dunk contest in Atlanta. “It’s was fun to come out (and judge). It’s good to give back to the kids, see all the fans here who want to see (wild dunks). To judge a dunk contest is fun,” Grimes added.
Grimes — he said he first completed a dunk in eighth grade and dunked in a game for the first time in ninth grade — said at the McDonald’s game, “I tried to do whatever came to mind, tried to be creative, have fun with it.
“I threw it off the side of the backboard and dunked it and went between my legs and dunked it. He (Williamson) missed some dunks. He had solid dunks. It was a good time.”
Grimes has been busy practicing with KU coaches four hours a week and playing in daily pick-up games with his new KU teammates since reporting to campus in mid-June after playing for USA Basketball’s Under-18 championship team. That squad, coached by KU’s Bill Self, won the FIBA Americas U18 tournament in Canada.
Asked which player he’s been dishing to the most at practice, Grimes said: “Probably Dedric if he’s on my team. He can go finish out there, or I’m probably making a play for either myself or my (other) teammates, kicking it to whoever is out there on the three, whoever is the open guy, just making plays out there.”
Asked who is the best passer on the team, Grimes said: “Probably Dedric for sure. He can make some pretty good passes. His IQ is off the charts.”
Grimes said the KU team’s fastest player is “probably Devon (Dotson, freshman guard). He gets downhill a lot. He likes to put his head down, get downhill.”
Grimes said the team’s recent addition, senior guard Lagerald Vick, who returned to school in early July after removing his name from the NBA Draft, has been playing well.
“He’s been a good leader on the court. Since he has come in, he’s helped us a lot,” Grimes said.
Mokan Elite, which reached the final four of the recent Peach Jam tournament in Georgia, defeated City Rocks, 71-54, in Sunday’s final of the Hardwood Classic. KU is recruiting two players off the Mokan team: Hall as well as N’Faly Dante, a 6-10 junior ranked No. 5 in the recruiting Class of 2020. Hall and Dante attend Sunrise Christian Academy.