Summer success stories

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Taliek Brown and Kenny Adeleke have a lot in common. Both basketball players, from different areas in Queens, wanted to play big-time Division I college basketball.

But Brown, a LeFrak City resident who attended St. John's Prep in Astoria, and Adeleke, from Rochdale Village who is heading into his senior year at Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn, were not being noticed by some of the elite names in college basketball by just playing with their respective high schools.

Each needed a way to get more exposure. Each found that playing AAU basketball during the summer.

For Brown, who along with Omar Cook from Christ the King and Rice's Andre Barrett made up the highly touted point guard triumvirate, it meant a full scholarship to the University of Connecticut, the 1999 NCAA National Champions.

And while Adeleke, a 6-foot-9 forward is still undecided about his choice of college, he has a lot more to pick from after just completing a fantastic summer.

While the pros and cons of AAU basketball has made national headlines and has been one of the hottest topics of conversation lately, the fact that both Brown and Adeleke have gotten a better chance at a college scholarship by playing on the summer circuit is undeniable.

"In the summer you travel and try and make a name for yourself," Adeleke said. "During the summer, everyone is going to be there. Duke and North Carolina are not going to be at all of your high school games. If you have a dream college like Florida, for example, they will have a chance to see you at some point during the summer."

Brown played his high school ball at St. John's Prep, one of the most well-respected teams in the Catholic High School League, but a team that plays in the league's B division. As a result, the Red Storm did not play the same quality of competition on a daily basis as teams in the A division, such as Christ the King, Molloy, Rice and St. Raymond's. And that hurt Brown's chances.

Instead of resting or playing ball in his neighborhood during the summer, Brown for two straight years sought out tougher competition by playing big-time AAU basketball. The 6-foot-1 point guard played nationally for the Houston Jaguars AAU team and locally for Aim High and BQ Express. He also played in the ABCD Camp each summer, which draws the attention of hordes of college coaches.

Calls from lower Division I schools were being replaced by some of the nation's top institutions like St. John's, Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas and Connecticut. And when he garnered co-MVP honors in the 1999 ABCD senior all-star game, Brown had his choice of almost any school he wanted.

"It benefited me a lot," Brown said. "Everybody saw me on the AAU circuit. I felt it was real important to do well during the summer because my school wasn't that big of a name. AAU basketball can help and hurt. If you have a bad summer, you can get ranked low and if you do good, like [Toronto Raptors forward] Tracy McGrady, you can get ranked high."

Nor was Adeleke drawing attention by just playing high school ball. While Robeson is a perennial powerhouse in the Public School Athletic League, it did not pack the punch of playing for one of the top Catholic School teams.

So Adeleke also took to the road for what seemed like an endless array of tournaments in front of numerous top-flight coaches throughout the nation. The combination of playing for Gary Charles' Long Island Panthers, making the senior all-star game at the ABCD Camp and being named the MVP of the Eastern Invitational boosted Adeleke's stock immensely.

"During the high school year I got letters from all kinds of big time schools, but letters don't mean anything," he said. "Once they get a chance to see you play during the summer, that's when you get the offers."

Based on his performance in the Eastern Invitational all-star game, Adeleke said he received an immediate offer from DePaul. His list also includes schools like Boston College, Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, (University of New Mexico, the University of Massachusetts and Hofstra, schools that more likely than not would never have entered the Robeson gym in Brooklyn during the season.

Because of their experiences during the summer, both Adeleke and Brown said the NCAA, which will cut down the evaluation period from 24 days to 14 next year and may abolish the summer recruiting scene altogether in 2002, should leave AAU basketball alone.

"It wouldn't make any sense to cut it out," Adeleke said. "I'd still get [scholarship] offers, but just not as many high offers."

"I think it should stay the way it is," Brown added. "It's just more competition for kids to work hard."

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