Athletes happy to be back on the court through AAU circuit

Halle Collins, Trinity Rowe and Carly Smith all had a chance to compete on the AAU circuit this summer.
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 4:50 PM EDT
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Even without high school summer basketball, athletes from the Commonwealth were still able to play basketball during the summer.

“It felt really great to get back,” North Laurel 8th Grader Halle Collins said. “I mean, it was like a few months actually where you couldn’t get in the gym or anything like that.”

Collins, along with Pikeville freshman Trinity Rowe and Owsley County’s Carly Smith have all been back at work on the AAU circuit.

“In AAU, the man-to-man just forces you to learn to play the game, learn to create your own shot,” Smith said about playing this summer with Kentucky Ballers Elite.

Normally these players would play AAU while getting time to compete with their high school teammates. But due to COVID-19 and regulations on high school workouts in Kentucky, they now spend their summer playing with and against other top players in the area and in the country.

“All these girls that have the same mindset and have the same goals, like to go play Division I basketball, you just get to play together and play against other really good players,” Rowe said, whose West Virginia Thunder 2024 team won the ATL Summer Slam championship.

As one could imagine, playing with and against other top players helps these young players grow.

“I’d say each of the girls were the best on their high school teams, so you can just imagine how good they were. And them all being on one team and my team getting to play them, you get better as you go,” Collins said, who plays with Kentucky Premier 16U. The team won the Windy in Indy championship over the weekend.

Though college coaches can’t be in attendance, a number of them can still watch. This gives players the opportunity to be seen and make a name for themselves.

“AAU is one of the few ways you can get college coaches to see you and just get your name out there,” Smith said.

As with any other year, athletes hope to take the momentum they’ve built into the winter, a season they hope will happen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we just need to keep working cause a lot of our younger girls, like in my grade, have been working really hard,” Rowe said about her teammates at Pikeville, where the Lady Panthers will go for their third straight 15th Region title. “I think they’ll shock some people this year.”

Collins and North Laurel won the 49th District championship and made it to the 13th Region final this past season. Smith and Owsley County won the 56th Region and reached the 14th Region semifinals.

All three girls have their whole high school careers ahead of them, as both Smith and Rowe will start as freshmen this year and Collins enters her 8th grade year for North Laurel.

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