|For many AAU programs who travel to Vegas in July, this is the coaching audience they see. (Jeff Goodman)|
LAS VEGAS - As the college coaches flocked to gyms throughout this city in order to evaluate and babysit prospects, Collin Host patiently waited for bodies to fill the chairs along the wall of the cramped, back gym at Valley High. This was Host's chance, the opportunity just about everyone talks about to be seen and, hopefully, secure a Division 1 college scholarship.
As he and his Minnesota Fury teammates strolled out to start the game against Spirit-Team House out of California, Host took a glance across the court out of the corner of his eye, looking to see which coaches had made the trek to 2839 Burnham Avenue, just a couple miles down the road from the Strip in Vegas.
It wasn't a pretty sight, though. There was just one coach: Southern Illinois-Edwardsville assistant Deryl Cunningham.
"It's pretty depressing," Host admitted after the game.
Host is a rising senior at Mound-Westonka High, about 30 miles west of Minneapolis. His goal, like just about all of the players that have come to Sin City for the bevy of AAU tournaments: To impress college coaches.
"My dream is to play Division 1 basketball," he said.
He's a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who averaged 19.8 points per game last season in high school and made the move from the more high-profile Minnesota Magic to the Fury because he said he felt more comfortable with his new group. He went for 18 points in the 69-54 victory on Wednesday night -- and buried a trio of 3-pointers in the process.
But no one was watching -- except for Cunningham.
"It's tough," Host said. "Really tough."
Host's situation is actually more the norm than the exception with so many summer teams coming out to Vegas to participate. There's the adidas Super 64, the Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic. The high-profile teams attract dozens and dozens of coaches, so many that it's standing-room only. But teams like the Minnesota Fury are often tossed in an obscure gym, playing in front of only friends and family.
Host said he's received some level of interest from Illinois State. He's received a letter from Utah State and one from San Diego. But Illinois State head coach Dan Muller was somewhere else. So were Stew Morrill and his assistants from Utah State -- and Bill Grier and his crew at San Diego.
Cunningham walked out midway through the second half so he could make another game, one featuring a team sponsored by Derrick Rose and his brother, Reggie. Before he left, I stole a glance at his notes on Host:
"Decent catch and shoot guy. Shoots it well. D-II."
D-II as in Division II. It's just one evaluation, though. Host's family has paid for him to come out to Las Vegas with his new team, so he's not willing to give up on his dream just yet. Host and his teammates return to the Orleans Hotel after the game and intend to get some sleep so can perform at a high level again on Thursday for his first game at noon local time.
"This is a business trip for me," he said.
He is optimistic that they'll be more coaches in attendance when they play KC UpTempo Elite, but it's unlikely. His opportunity will come if he and his team can advance past pool play and somehow be tossed against a high-profile team like the Florida Elite squad that features a pair of Billy Donovan commits in Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.
"The further you go, the more college coaches show up," Host repeats what I tell him with a smile.
That's all these kids want. A chance to be seen.