Most youth athletes finish out their athletic careers at that moment the clock ticks down the final seconds of their last high school game. Then there are the elite high school athletes whose time on the playing court is just heating up their junior and senior years. They’re pursuing the dream to play NCAA college hoops and maybe even make a pro career of it. The Dells is attracting more and more of those types of players and where there are elite players, college scouts are never far behind.
On a warm summer day in Wisconsin Dells, hundreds of high school b-ballers were running the boards at the JustAgame Fieldhouse, playing to impress the likes of University of Wisconsin-Madison head coach Bo Ryan and a slew of other college coaches as part of the Fieldhouse’s annual Exposure Classic. Standing out among the swarm of players was Sam Dekker, a junior out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and a member of the 17U Wisconsin Playground Warriors, an AAU-sanctioned program. Dekker had already committed to playing for UW-Madison. His teammate Jean Pierre (JP) Tokoto, a junior hailing from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin and widely considered one of the top 25 recruits in the country from the class of 2012, was still undecided as to his college plans. Then there was teammate Nick Arenz from Onalaska, Wisconsin, another Division 1 hopeful who made it clear that merely taking home the Exposure Classic trophy wasn’t enough. “We want to win this convincingly.”
This tournament’s timing is important - it’s an opportunity for college coaches to have one last look at players before they can officially initiate communication.
Sam’s dad, Todd Dekker, who coaches Sam’s high school basketball team, said his son “always wanted to be a basketball player and we make these tournaments a family thing.” That seemed to be the case for most of the players, with parents and sibling cheering on the team before taking off for the Wisconsin Dells waterparks and amusement parks between games.
Playground Warriors Coach Ritchie Davis had praise for both his players and the tournament organizers. “These are great kids and they’ll be friends for life. And the owner here, Dave Royston, is working hard at this. He’s created a really nice venue for Wisconsin.”
By the way, the Wisconsin Playground Warriors did win the tournament. And they did it in convincing style, which should have impressed all those college scouts in the stands.