DMV Live, DC Live basketball events draw college basketball coaches

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The area by the back entrance of the DeMatha Catholic High gym buzzed with people as a balmy June Friday reached its hottest late-afternoon stage.

A Fairleigh Dickinson coach talked loudly into his cellphone about a wing who can “really shoot it.” A group of lanky high school players discussed whether it would be possible to attend that night’s Lil Baby concert in Washington. New Xavier coach Sean Miller approached a check-in table and gave his name — not to be confused with his brother, Rhode Island’s Archie, who would also be present.

It was the first day of DMV Live, one of two big basketball recruiting events held in the DC area each summer and an event that will continue next weekend. In 2019, the NCAA opened a window for scholastic events in what is normally a month dominated by AAU basketball. Now in its third iteration, the event at DeMatha featured 32 private schools from Maryland and Virginia — but was open to schools from other states as well.

DC Live, a similar setup at Sidwell Friends, is staged for DC teams and Virginia public school teams.

“The biggest change this year is that the demand to get in is overwhelming,” said DMV Live director Marc Stern, who mentioned applications from high schools as far-flung as Colorado. “Logistically it’s just not possible to accommodate everyone.”

More than anything, these events are a place to watch and be watched. College coaches pepper the sidelines, each wearing his school’s gear so he can be noticed by the area’s best prospects. But coaches are not allowed to speak with players: NCAA rules limit them to contact by text or phone call during this time period.

“It’s a bit weird, not being able to talk to anybody,” Jackson-Reed star Robert Dockery said. “But I always see who’s here. I definitely notice.”

Sean Miller was among the many Power Five coaches present this weekend. Also spotted at either event: Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel, Miami’s Jim Larrañaga, Butler’s Thad Matta, Maryland’s Kevin Willard, Indiana’s Mike Woodson and Virginia Tech’s Mike Young.

Not every coach was there to scout the top prospects. Early Friday afternoon, Davis & Elkins’s Daniel Harris sat in the bleachers at Sidwell Friends munching on a granola bar as he watched Patriot take on Coolidge. Representing a small Division II program in Elkins, W.Va., the young assistant hopes to find players on the fringe of Division I talent and convince them to come about four hours west to the Mountain State.

“This is my first time [recruiting] in the DMV area actually,” Harris said. “The reputation of this area is that you can find anything that you want here. There’s plenty of Division I talent, but it’s more than that.”

Harris watches mostly for intangibles. He pointed out a player in the game before him and said he liked his length and athleticism. “Maybe he’s not a shooter or a playmaker right now,” Harris said. “But it’s about what we can see in two or three years. It’s all about potential.”

From the player’s perspective, all of that studying can have different effects. Arguably the most buzzworthy team of the weekend was Paul VI, which flaunted a bevy of new talent and depth as it blew past four tough opponents at DeMatha.

But, even within the Panthers’ roster, there is a range of emotions at a showcase like this. For rising senior DeShawn Harris-Smith, the top-ranked 2023 prospect in attendance, events such as DMV Live no longer create butterflies.

“It doesn’t bother me much anymore,” he said. “I don’t pay too much attention to the coaches; I just try to lead my team to a win. … [College] coaches want winners.”

Paul VI’s incoming freshmen, meanwhile, were thrown into the madness of DMV Live before they could attend a single day of high school.

“I was really nervous,” Anthony Brown Jr. said after his first game. “It probably took until the beginning of the second half to get comfortable. First half, you just keep thinking about how this is your first high school game. … The main goal is just to get better. I’ll get used to it.”

DMV Live continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10.

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