Growing in AAU

Fallon's Brandon Turner dribbles down the court during the Fallon Longhorns AAU practice last week.

Fallon's Brandon Turner dribbles down the court during the Fallon Longhorns AAU practice last week.

Nearly every sport has turned into a year-round commodity, especially basketball.

For about three months per year, prep players hoop it up for their local high school team. Once the high school slate concludes, however, the second season begins.

AAU teams are just as valuable as a high school team when it concerns exposure. Most collegiate players competed in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit, and now, Fallon has joined those ranks.

“My goal is to make Fallon basketball better,” Fallon AAU coach Tommy Thomson said. “I want all these kids to be seen (by college coaches).”

Thomson along with Chelle Dalager, Paul Harmon and Anthony Tisdale lead six teams in Fallon’s second season competing in AAU. The teams, though, are not associated with the Churchill County High School athletic department or the school district.

Instead, Thomas created a nonprofit entity — the Fallon Longhorns — where coaches and players pay their own way to numerous tournaments.

“We had played in several of the Native American tournaments … and we won like eight of those,” Thomson said. “I felt like the competition wasn’t where I wanted it.”

Last year, Thomson visited Quincy and spoke with one of the Susanville AAU coaches. Shortly thereafter, Thomson brought several teams to a tournament there against Northern California competition.

“We did really well,” he said. “We decided to venture out and see what we could do.”

The team then competed at tournaments in Reno and Santa Cruz, Calif., coming back with respectable finishes.

“After we did all that, we sat down and talked about how many kids wanted to play,” Thomson said. “We even had enough for a girls team.”

This season the Longahorns will travel to five California tournaments (Oakland, Susanville, Chico, Orville and Santa Cruz) in addition to events in Reno and Las Vegas.

The players, meanwhile, range from seventh grade through seniors in high school and allow the athletes to face tough competition in the offseason. The Longhorns have five boys teams and one girls (eighth grade).

Thomson and company will face some of challenging tasks this offseason beginning this weekend at a tournament in Oakland.

The team, though, is comprised of promising and/or developed players invited by the coaching staff. The goal, Thomson said, is to provide great exposure for the players with the end resulting perhaps playing in college.

AAU tournaments are where most college recruiters visit and identify potential prospects such as Jeff Evett, a 6-foot-5 guard for Fallon.

“There are a lot of college coaches at these things,” Thomson said. “We go out and compete. It’s about the kids playing. They see some really good competition.”

While many AAU clubs can be controversial, Thomson and his staff have a more laid back approach. Many of their high school players are currently competing in various sports at the high school level.

As a result, Thomson only practices once per week and emphasizes those athletes involved with CCHS keep their spring sports as the No. 1 athletic priority.

“We don’t punish any kid who misses practice or games,” Thomson said. “My son, Tristen, isn’t going because he has a track meet at McQueen, so he has to be loyal to that.”


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