The object of AAU travel basketball during the live period is to make it to Championship Sunday.

The object of AAU travel basketball during the live period is to make it to Championship Sunday. You can tell a lot by a player, and their objectives, when they speak of their weekends. It is very telling whether or not they talk about the coaches in the stands or the wins from the team.

I wanted to applaud the two teams that made it all the way to the end in the 17U division. Consequentially, the two teams that made it to the finals are probably the two teams that had the most coaches at their games. The irony is that is kind of how it works out. In this championship, the Charlotte Royals defeated Pro Skills Elite 65-54. Pro Skills Elite Ray Kowalski led the way with 19 Points while Charlotte Royals Jordan McKenzie(15) and Marcus Thomas (11) also finished in double figures.


Charlotte Royals
The Royals had a tough road to get to the championship game, but they handled it with relative ease. They won game, leading up to the finals, by an average of 13 points. The Royals rolled out a very impressive team with 12 players who were all tracking around the same level. It is rare to find this kind of depth, but every kid on the roster was tracking from a D2+ level to a LM+ level. They had a lot of parity. Here are some of the standouts for them:

6’7” 2016 Nico Payne (Concord 1st Assembly)
Payne as a force in the paint all weekend long. He has a high motor and enjoys doing the things many bigs don’t like to do. Payne finished well around the rim and was able to get to the free throw line frequently. Payne, who looks like he has grown another inch, has interest across the Big South and SoCon. His first offer should come soon.

6’ 2016 Jordan McKenzie (JM Robinson HS)
McKenzie has a certain calmness to his game. He did a great job of running the team and doing what they needed to win. McKenzie was the team’s second leading scorer on the weekend, and was able to do so from multiple levels. He shot the 3-ball well and did a good job getting to the free throw line. McKenzie has crazy explosion, and is doing a good job of dictating pace. McKenzie’s interest is across the SoCon and Big South.

6’1” 2015 Derek McKnight (Gaston Day)
McKnight was the central catalyst for the team during the first two days. Coming off a first live period event that saw McKnight pick up an offer from NJIT, he carried that momentum here. McKnight showed to be a good leader and a true paint getter. This high GPA Unsigned Senior is a scholarship kid that had 3 D1 offers along the way. It will be interesting to see who jumps in and lands him.

6’7” 2016 Jacob Skidmore (Kings Mountain HS)
Skidmore is a new name on the scene. He had somewhat of a breakout at the NC Top 80 and has carried that momentum to the travel circuit. Skidmore is a very intriguing defensive player. He has great length and anticipation that allows him to block and deflect a lot of balls. During the course of the Grassroots Tip Off Classic, he also showed the ability to score. He was the team’s third leading scorer, and best 3-point shooter, making 12 throughout the weekend. Skidmore is a 4.0 student and his recruitment is just beginning.

Pro Skills Elite
6’2” 2016 Ray Kowalski (Concord HS)
Kowalski was the most consistent player on the weekend for his team, it was tough to take him off the floor. Kowalski handled the point for the team and also doubled as the team’s leading scorer. Kowalski picked up a Campbell offer during the event, his first. Look for that trend to continue as he has range and some stuff to his game.

6’7” 2016 Parker Julian (Charlotte Latin)
As the weekend continued, Julian’s playing time continued to go up. The skilled four man showed no fear on the weekend, as he attacked the basket and crashed the boards. While Julian needs more strength, the high motor, high academic prospect should gain interest from the academic schools along the way.

6’5” 2016 Mike Buckland (Wesleyan Christian)
This was a good showing for Buckland. He showed a dynamic game that may not have been seen before. Buckland relished the spot light, coming into each game as the known man. Buckland didn’t force anything, but was able to finish both in traffic and from range. Buckland carries six offers from the likes of High Point and Old Dominion, but look for the CAA to start getting involved.

7’1” 2016 Raekwon Long (Lincoln Charter)
Long has been a name on the radar since entering high school as a 7’ ninth grader. Being in the spot light for so long, his game has had the ability to be picked apart. However, Long has absolutely progressed each year adding to his game. Long is a very under rated passer out of the post, and has solid hands and footwork. Long has picked up a couple offers and has interest across the board from the LM to HM levels.

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