Spring travel season recruiting primer

Basketball’s spring travel team season is officially in high gear. We’re right smack in the middle of April’s two open evaluation weekends, which means top prospects are on display and college coaches are crisscrossing the nation to see them play.

But what does it all mean and why is it so important in recruiting? To help the average fan make heads or tails of the busy -- and often confusing -- travel team season, here’s a handy guide to the spring period, which from a recruiting and evaluation standpoint is much bigger than the high school season itself. Think of this as an FAQ for all things spring recruiting. Note that the vast majority of this applies to the 2014 class and beyond, as few seniors play travel team ball.

Is there a difference between travel teams and AAU teams?

Though often used interchangeably in the spring, yes, there is a distinction. AAU teams are actual registered squads with the national Amateur Athletic Union office. Travel teams do not have to be registered. Many of the games we cover in the spring are technically played by travel teams, not AAU teams.

What’s an evaluation weekend?

The NCAA allows two weekends in April (19-21 and 26-28) to be open to college coaches. This means that beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday at 4 p.m., three college coaches per staff can be out on the road evaluating sanctioned travel team events. The key here is NCAA-approved and sanctioned events only. Four staff members can be on the road, but only three at any given time can be out in April.

What does the spring mean from a recruiting standpoint?