Stories of July's past

The evaluation period for college coaches tips off Wednesday and we are sure to see a fair share of funny moments, big-time matchups and emerging stars. In preparation for a long and busy month, here is a look at some of my best and worst July experiences over the years:

Marquee matchups

The King and his Cooke
I'll never forget the matchup between LeBron James and Lenny Cooke at ABCD Camp. Cooke had been running his mouth and the game was essentially on his turf, outside New York City in Teaneck, N.J. James embarrassed Cooke, outscoring him 24-9 while hitting a game-winning 3-pointer over him that I swear stopped the entire camp in its tracks. Cooke was three years older and since that one game was never the same player. LeBron, well, we know how that worked out.

Triplet towers
The 2003 Atlanta Celtics owned the greatest front line in the history of AAU basketball with the likes of Dwight Howard, Randolph Morris and Josh Smith. They crushed people. At the Big Time that year, they ran into Marvin Williams, who almost single-handedly beat them in a classic. In the final they beat Drew Neitzel and Al Horford. The image of Horford fouling out and sitting on the bench crying with a towel over his head is one I'll never forget. As for the Celtics' front line, Smith and Howard turned out to be pretty good in the pros, too.

Stars emerged
The AAU Nationals have always been a memorable spot for me. I can remember watching the Illinois Warriors bring a guy named Dwyane Wade off the bench. Yes, that happened. Another year, a pint-sized Chris Paul battled Andrew Lavender for the national championship. Paul was so good that game and he orchestrated the offense so well, he forced UNC to offer Reyshawn Terry, who was on the receiving end of a lot of Paul's assists, a scholarship. At the time, Maryland assistant Dave Dickerson was sitting in the stands biting his lip in agony. Had Paul not played so well and set up Terry, UNC wouldn't have offered and Maryland would have gotten him.

The LeBron Tour

James is responsible for some memorable moments. His "tour" was every bit as riveting as "The Decision." James couldn't play the summer before his senior year because of an injury and he had a cast throughout the month of July, but it didn't stop him from visiting Nike Camp and ABCD Camp. At Nike, he had an entourage with him and the swoosh was clearly courting him -- not to play in camp but for future endorsements. He was treated like a king with a court. However, he didn't stay at Nike for long. After a day or two, he went over to ABCD, where adidas took care of him as well. He conducted a press conference -- and it was a biggie -- wearing a "King James" T-shirt. The guy had just come from another camp, wasn't playing in this one and he's got his own gear and press conference! There may come a time when there will be another LeBron, but the stories he was a part of might not be matched.

Funny moments

Wragge playing too well
One time I was with a coach who was tracking this big shooter named Ethan Wragge at the AAUs. Wragge had just hit seven 3s in one game and was blowing up, much to the coach's chagrin. So, before the game, the coach attempted to pull a referee aside and I hear him ask the guy to give him a break and help him get the kid by fouling him out. The coach wasn't kidding. He was pleading. He knew what he was doing. Wragge is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter at Creighton.

Long hours
I had just taken a red-eye from Las Vegas to Orlando and headed straight for an early morning game at the AAUs. I'm not a great sleeper on planes, so I was pretty exhausted. I walked into the bathroom only to startle a woman who was washing her hands. It took me longer than it should have to realize I'd walked into the women's bathroom. Calmly, I gathered myself and headed for the door. I get outside and look around, noting that I don't think anyone saw me. A half-hour goes by and East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo calls me over. "Dave, do you really think no one saw you coming out of the women's bathroom?" Busted. After that I think I left and took a nap.

Living up to the hype
At the right time, I'll divulge the name of the player but, trust me, this happened. I'm at ABCD Camp and Shaun Livingston is about to play. I'm in the media section and a father of a recruit sits a few rows behind me. He's acquired a media pass and tells me "I'm here to see if Livingston is a true point guard." His son was considering a school that was on Livingston's list, so he's managed to get a courtside view with a false media credential. Anyway, Livingston proceeds to go out and set the ABCD Camp record for assists in a game. It was priceless and left little doubt if Livingston was indeed a point guard.

Always fight to stay awake
My best lack of sleep story doesn't even involve me. I went to an early morning game at a remote gym in Las Vegas. There weren't many people in the stands and frankly, the ball was bad. Over my shoulder, a few rows up, is a CAA assistant coach who couldn't take it anymore. When he came in, I thought he might be hung over. By halftime, I was positive. He didn't even make it through the first 10 minutes of the game. He slept during the whole game and didn't even wake up when it ended. He's no longer employed by the school he represented at the time. The moral of the story is no matter how tired you are, you fight through it.

Vegas, baby!

I go to Las Vegas every year to watch hoops July 22-26. What's funny about the trip is that every year I'm astonished at the growth of Sin City. It must have been 1997 when Kentucky and Tubby Smith were recruiting Tayshaun Prince. I remember being on a not-yet-paved road, driving to an outpost at the foot of some mountain in the middle of nowhere in the desert. I was cruising along when out of nowhere a black Crown Victoria shatters the speed limit and passes me. Seconds later I catch a glimpse of South Carolina coach George Felton in another Crown Victoria, so I surmise Smith was the first to pass me. At this point, my car is covered in dust and I'm wondering how late I am for the game. Now, I don't know if it was another Kentucky lieutenant or not but a third sedan dumped more dust on me as it zipped past my car. We're on a road so remote there was no way UK was getting pulled over, so they had that going for them. They also scored a signature from Prince, so I guess it was all worth the trouble. Me, I dusted myself off, dropped the gas pedal and followed them to the gym.

Speaking of Vegas' growth, there's a hill I go over that leads to Green Valley High. In 1997, I think just over the crest of that hill was a Dairy Queen, a high school and a bar in addition to vast desert. Now, there's the sprawling city of Henderson and all you see is buildings. Times have changed.

July 26, 2007

Kemba Walker's Gauchos were playing Rotnei Clarke's and Willie Warren's Team Texas for a championship in Vegas. My cell phone rings and it's someone asking me about Skip Prosser. I made a few phone calls and learned my friend died in Winston-Salem. It was surreal, we'd just spoken the other day. Ten days earlier, he sat a few rows from me and smiled as he watched Al-Farouq Aminu and Tony Woods play at the Peach Jam. At the time, only myself, Skip and maybe two others knew the pair had committed to Wake Forest. He was ecstatic when they made the announcement later that day. Now, it's 10 days later and he's dead.

I tried to go back into the gym and watch the game. I got back up from my seat and headed outside to process what just happened. I ran into Kelvin Sampson, whom I knew spent time with Prosser earlier in the summer. I told him the news and it buckled him. We were all taken back. As competitive a business as this is, Prosser reached across the aisle more than once. A few days later, my wife drove me to the airport to get on another plane for another city. My 2-year-old son was in the back seat of the car. We got to the airport, I never got out. I hugged my son and called it a month. That was the only time in my career I didn't attend the AAU nationals. Like many, I feared we were all pushing too hard on the road and Prosser's death was a wakeup call.

Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at espndt@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.