7 Tips To Finding The Right-Fit AAU Basketball Program For Your High School Player

AAU basketball program

Written by Donald Watts

October 22, 2020


The following post has been adapted from the video shown above.

Youth sports has been shut down and for players looking to play in college the opportunity has shrunk dramatically for exposure,which puts increasing pressure on finding the right-fit program. The 2021-2023 class missed the ENTIRE recruiting spring and summer of exposure that they won’t get back, so finding the right fit, doing the right things at the right times and for the right reasons is more critical than ever.

All-time basketball greats, like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have spoken out about AAU basketball. What they’ve spoken out against is its lack of development, preparation and understanding of the game. But at the right times and in the right dosage it is necessary, and given the right set of circumstances it is productive and positive. From AAU I met my best friends, earned a scholarship because of its platform that allowed me to go on play collegiately and professionally. It was a positive experience for me, but I am disgusted in what I see it has evolved into.

Today I am bringing you 7 Tips To Finding The Right-Fit AAU Basketball Program For Your High School Player. Read on if you want to maximize your child’s basketball experience!


Review your results from the past, the work you’ve been doing and consider if it aligns with your goals. Refresh your goals and objectives, get clear about what it is you want to accomplish and refresh your spirit for how you’re going to attack those goals going forward. Consider the top 3 things you want to improve on in the next 6 to 9 months that will have the biggest impact on your game AND in relation to the skillsets coaches (high school, AAU, college) are looking for at your position.


Right now all kinds of AAU events are happening. As people start to get back into AAU, you dont want to just show up as you are and see what happens. As you gear up for the high school season give yourself a skills evaluation so that you can see where you’re at and where you need to spend the time to get to where you want to go. Make an intentional plan that will have you ready for high school and the following AAU season, when coaches will be recruiting. 

Give yourself a skills evaluation. Where are your skills at; where is your jump shot, your handles, your physical status meaning, how fast you run a mile, what do you bench press? 

Contrary to popular belief a lot of people’s skills are not following a mindful skill development program during a season. Which results in skills actually regressing, even though you’re spending more time playing basketball. Think about it. Between your AAU program and potentially some practices for your high school team, you’re going 4-6 days a week, but spending that time on the a programs schedule. You’re spending that time on the coaches program. You’re spending that time with the majority being dedicated to the development of the team. I find very few players understand the significant impact that actually has on your individual skills.


 In your development plan determine 3 areas that you want to improve. Consider what your long-term goals are and formulate a plan around the skills, actions and environments you need to reach them.

You want to make sure that there is a time period every year where your sole focus is on developing your skills. A period of time where you are not on anybody else’s schedule or program, and you’re focusing entirely on your skill development. This allows you to make significant skill developmental jumps where you largely stop playing games and focus all your time and energy on 1 to 3 areas that you really want to improve.

Even now, as you may be playing in tournaments and practicing with your high school team, intentionally dedicate time to consistently working on those 1 to 3 main areas of focus to keep your individual skills progressing while you’re in a team-centered environment.


This relates to what you were able to do last season, what you want to do long-term and where your skills currently are. From there, your individual development plan is a commitment to a daily, weekly, monthly, routine that is unique to you and to your skills, ability, goals and objectives.

Determine daily and weekly routines and solidify how you will attack those. Start by establishing individual goals for the next 2-3 months- write them down! THEN commit to what you are going to do. For example, “I am going to get 500 makes in everyday inside the 3 point line” or “I am going to run 2 miles a day with the goal to cut 20 seconds off my time each week”. Establish written routines that you are committed to and that align with what you need to go to the next level.


Now it’s time to get your off-the-court business in order! There are a lot of people who have goals and objectives and focus primarily on the basketball side of things, but neglect other crucial aspects of their goals. What I’m talking about here is your schoolwork. Immediately you need to meet with your school counselor to understand your progress  towards completing your 16 core classes. Know what your core GPA is. Get your SAT test scheduled. Get registered with the NCAA and make sure before you make commitments to anyone or anything, that you are actually on pace and eligible for the NCAA and qualify for the type of school that you dream of going to.


I see way too many athletes and families put so much attention on playing in competition, that when they earn that very opportunity they’ve been working for (ex: play in front of college coaches), they haven’t taken care of the most important business. That is dedicating significant time to purely skillwork, no serious, expensive competition, just working on your craft! 

Be mindful about the commitments you make so you can have a positive experience and accomplish YOUR goals. First be clear about your goals and then consider the travel time, costs, etc. that will align with your goals. Your goals and where you are at in your development right now, will determine your needs right now: do you need development over exposure? Then develop a plan that prioritizes your time and money towards developmental efforts. If you need exposure, make sure that you are in a program that gets you in the big-name tournaments and in front of college coaches.

What I don’t want is for you to sign up for a program and invest a lot of money, when you are looking for exposure and get an experience. Or when you need development and are getting exposure. That college coach is not going to call you because they saw you. They are going to call you because they saw you AND you have the skills that translate to the next level.


Find the right fit. What I mean by that is every AAU program is not the same, it’s not a one size fits all. They key is to align with a program that works with what your needs are and not fall for the name on the jersey. Consider what kind of opportunities and coaching do you need, as opposed to what you’re actually going to get from a particular program.

I encourage you to meet with the coach to ask questions:

  • What do I need to work on to be a college prospect?
  • What do I need to improve on to be a key player in your program (there’s a difference between those two)?
  • What will be my role on the team?

Even go watch the team play to see what their style of play is and how the coach ACTUALLY coaches. Do your due diligence to make sure you’re signing up for what you need out of the experience.

In conclusion, choosing an AAU program is just PART of the process to success. Focusing on developing your skills, constantly evaluating and improving your skill sets and then choosing an AAU program that aligns with your goals and needs, is critical to not just being successful but actually having an experience that you will cherish for life!

Are you preparing for High School Tryouts?

Email us at info@wattsbasketball.com to for details on our Tryout Prep program to dominate at tryouts and learn exactly how to achieve your goals this season!

Up Next…

Make sure to check back next week for our next blog post where we’ll cover Slick Watts’ Top 5 Tryout Tips.


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