Summer Basketball, Las Vegas Style: Day 3

For those of you just tuning in, I’m in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps.

And neither do most of the people who visit here. If you’re a hoops junkie there’s no time to sleep. There’s too many games to watch.

There’s more than 10,000 players and 900 college coaches in town this week, attending four summer youth tournaments — the Reebok Summer Championships (once called the Big Time Tournament),  the adidas Super 64 Tourrnament, the VisionSports Main Event (it used to be called the Nike Main Event), and something called the StarVision Sports Center Stage.

They’re playing in 46 gyms throughout Vegas and nearby Henderson, Nev.

I’ve spent most of my time at the Reebok tournament because Bremerton-based Total Package is involved in that tournament. Total Package Blue won two games Friday, finishing pool play with a 2-1 record. They’ll play Saturday in the “A” Division at 1:15 p.m. I’m not sure of the opponent as I write this as pool play continued through Friday night. TP Blue beat Colorado Chaos 16s Red 68-43 in the late game after beating Branch West Orange (Calif.) 77-70.

Total Package Red lost it only game on Friday to finish 0-3. They lost 88-35 (ouch!) to Branch West Prep (Calif.), which features guard Ben Vozzola, a guy Gonzaga is recruiting. I wish I could tell you more about him but I missed the game. However, here’s a link to a feature on Vozzola that ran in the Las Vegas Journal-Review. The younger Total Package team plays Saturday at 10:45 a.m. in the High School Division.

Both brackets are single-elimination. If they keep winning, they could play three games on Saturday and a title game on Sunday.

ALSO

* I missed Total Package’s early games, opting to check out some action at the Main Event on the UNLV campus. UCLA coach Ben Howland was leaving the facility when I walked in. I was hoping to catch a Seattle Rotary game (Josh Smith of Kentwood and Tony Wroten Jr. of Garfield are among the stars on a star-studded squad), but the schedule wasn’t on my side. I missed their early game and didn’t have time to get back for their final pool game.

I did see the finish of a heated game between Mac Irvine Fire (Chicago) and Team Takeover (Canada). Good stuff. Lots of coaches were around for this one.

Rotary, by the way, was 2-0 before its late game on Friday and appears to be set on making amends for an 0-5 showing at the Peach Basket tourney in Georgia.

* Had a nice chat with Jeremy Landis — the father of Central Kitsap grad and Eastern Oregon-bound guard Cody Thurmond. Landis and his wife run Driven Athletics, which works in conjunction with Reebok in putting on this tournament and other Reebok-related events. Landis, a former Marine who works at Keyport, has a pretty good handle on all of this summer basketball stuff. I’ll get into more detail about his role in a story I plan to write about this summer traveling circuit. By the way, Landis plans to bring Westside Hoops back next year. It took a year off, but said he plans to organize and coach a couple younger-aged teams.

* Also had a chance to talk briefly with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. His face lit up when I told him I was from the area where his mentor, Jud Heathcote, hails from.

* North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Louisville’s Rick Pitino were among 100 or so coaches in the stands at Foothill High School when I stopped by to check out some of the action in the Create-N-Finish Cup, which includes eight invited teams based on reputation and how they’ve played this summer. I watched D-One Sports beat the Dakota Schoolers 95-90 in a consolation game.

* The Dakota Schoolers are an interesting story. Talked at length with coach Kent Mueller, who talked about how crazy South Dakotans are about basketball. Who knew? Mueller also offered some pretty good insights into summer basketball, acknowledging that it’s a booming business for some, but it’s important for kids who have a desire to play college basketball.

“All it takes,” he said, “is for one coach to see you and like you.”

* Troy Castle and Austin Jenkins made it to the court with about seven minutes left in Total Package’s late game on Friday. Both flew in a day late after completing a football camp at Gig Harbor. The 6-foot-6 Jenkins is a highly-recruited offensive lineman. He likes basketball, the TP could have used his wide body in the loss againt Petersburg (Va.) Elite on Thursday, but he’s a football player.

* One last note. I watched the Total Package Blue game while sitting with Nars Martinez, who at 15, is the youngest player to make the trip to Vegas. It’s his first trip to this tournament, although he’s yet to make it to the famed Vegas strip to do any sightseeing. The younger brother of former South Kitsap star Jake Beitinger has grown up with basketball. He tagged along with his brother, who played for Emerald City Hoops, as a youngster and spent time training with Emerald City, Seattle Rotary and Friends of Hoops before joining Total Package. He’s an interesting young player, one with hopes and dreams of playing Division I basketball someday. He’s currently 6-3 and seems destined to grow. Brother Jake was 6-8. You can read more about Nars, a real hoops addict, in my story.

* OK, one more note. As if there’s not enough basketball down here, Team USA is holding its three-day minicamp. There’s 20 young players working out, trying to make the 2010 World Championship and 2012 Olympics team. There’s a public scrimmage on Saturday and I might take it in. Like I said, you don’t sleep when you’re in Las Vegas.

Check back tomorrow for another update.

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