HOMER, LA (KTBS) — One dad’s hoop dreams of helping his son develop on the court was rejected by a summer league team director who he says is just all about the money.
“It’s all about luring parents in, getting their money, and then we’ll just do what we want after that,” Michael Turner says of the Minden Tarheel club affiliated with AAU.
Turner hit his limit on paying for his son’s participation. And that’s when Turner says his son, Mikail, got boxed out from the team.
Mikail Turner has shown his skills for Homer Junior High, and received honors from his teammates following his 8th grade season –Most Likely To Beat All Of Michael Jordan’s Records and Most Improved Player.
Mikail’s dad says continuing his son’s development in summer league basketball was a slam dunk decision. But the Minden AAU team of incoming freshmen he joined has been a drain — emotionally and financially.
“It’s more about money than it is the kids,” Turner claims. “It’s definitely more about the money than it is talent.”
The Turner family lives in government housing in Homer. Michael Turner is a funeral home employee. His wife substitute teaches. They paid $500 in fees for the AAU team, plus $150 for his uniform and shoes. Plus travel expenses for out of town tournaments.
But the team’s director wanted more. Jerome Blalock wanted families to sell hot dog plates for a fundraiser. Turner and his family sat it out.
“They wanted you to go to 25 people and ask them for money. And so if you didn’t do that, they expected you to cover it,” Turner says. “When we wouldn’t give more money, then it became a problem. The man would walk in the gym, and not even acknowledge me. He would acknowledge other parents. But he would never acknowledge me.”
And, Turner says, his son wound up sitting the bench in the team’s opening tournaments. Turner asked Blalock about it.
“His thing was, hey, this is my program. I’ll run it how I want to run it. If you don’t like it, your kid can find somewhere else to play. He can find another team,” Turner recalled.
Blalock would not speak on camera. But in phone conversations, he said Turner is just disgruntled about his son’s playing time. Blalock claims that other players whose parents did not give to the fundraiser are playing, based on talent.
“Summer ball is very important. Obviously the more you can play, the better you’ll get,” says LSUS head basktball coach Kyle Blankenship.
He and other college coaches are always on the lookout for talent. And players could be discovered in summer leagues, like AAU, or basketball camps.
Blankenship encourages young players with hoop dreams for college — and maybe beyond — to play in summer travel leagues. But he says they should also do their homework.
“Make sure you know that the coach you’re playing for, what their reputation is, what the program’s reputation is, are they putting players into college, is it legit? That’s the most important thing,” Blankenship advises.
Unless it’s an elite travel team with sponsors, Blankenship says parents should expect to have to pay.
Mikail Turner left the AAU team, but is still getting experience with Homer High School’s summer league team. There’s no cost. But as a freshman, he’s at the end of the bench.
It’ll take more time and work to get closer to the dream.
The AAU’s Minden Tarheels have boys and girls teams of different age groups. A check of the Amateur Athletic Union website shows there are 15 basketball clubs just in the Shreveport-Bossier area.
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