More than 500 college coaches attended the Nike Peach Jam last year, and Nike representative Ed Meyers expects comparable numbers for this year's basketball tournament.
But when the Peach Jam cranks up for the fifth time Saturday at North Augusta's Riverview Park, a new breed of talent evaluator will be there.
Meyers said Monday he expects at least five representatives from NBA teams will be present when play-in games begin Saturday, an aspect of summer-league basketball that has emerged as a result of high-schoolers' increasing willingness to skip college in favor of the NBA.
"They've got to identify the talent earlier, because the kids are coming out earlier," Meyers said of NBA personnel.
In the past six NBA drafts, 12 high school players have been selected. Two players made the jump in this year's draft -- Darius Miles of East St. Louis and DeShawn Stevenson of Fresno, Calif. Both were taken in the first round, and Miles was selected third, the highest pick ever used to take a high-schooler.
Meyers said 14 NBA scouts were at the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis last week to see Tyson Chandler, a 6-foot-11 center from Compton, Calif., who reportedly is a virtual lock to go straight to the NBA.
Chandler will be in North Augusta for the Peach Jam, as will several others who appear capable of early entry.
Meyers said NBA representatives will go through the same process as the legions of college coaches that will descend upon Riverview Park: They pay a $100 entry fee and receive a booklet with addresses and phone numbers of players.
"They're going to get treated the same as everybody else," said Meyers, who says he thinks players should attend college before making NBA forays. "You can't stop them from coming."
The biggest issue confronting summer basketball camps such as the Peach Jam is the NCAA's plan to develop a new model for summer recruiting.
Following a rash of incidents that saw high school players receive money from summer-league coaches -- a violation of NCAA rules -- the organization instituted major changes to the summer scene for the next two years.
College coaches will be allowed 10 fewer days of recruiting next summer and, as it stands now, none in 2002 as the NCAA seeks to rid camps of "unsavory" influences in coaching and the shoe industry.
So concerned are college coaches about the developments that their organization -- the National Association of Basketball Coaches -- called an emergency meeting for July 16 in Las Vegas, where the adidas Big Time Tournament will be held at the same time in the same city.
Meyers said most of the coaches will find a way to be in North Augusta, where the Peach Jam will run until Thursday, July 20.
"College coaching is a hard profession to be in right now," he said. " College athletics is taking a beating."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.
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