July is showtime for thousands of skilled athletes driven by hoop dreams as they participate in AAU summer basketball tournaments.
July’s also critical for hundreds of college coaches who flock to hot gyms and arenas from California to New York to in search of playmakers.
Bowling Green State University men's assistant basketball coach LaMonta Stone is familiar with the annual July drill, bouncing from one AAU basketball tournament to the next in search of the next impact player. It's all part of a recruiting routine that has college coaches spending most of July on the road.
It's a make-or-break time for coaches, even though they're not allowed to have direct contact with players they're scouting.
"It all starts here in July," Stone said. "We see the kids who we like, and see them go against better competition than who we might see them play against during the school year."
Stone is in his 23rd year as a basketball coach, including the last nine as a BGSU assistant.
However, this summer his tournament circuit is a little more complicated.
His oldest son, LaMonta II, will be a junior at Bowling Green High School and is regarded as one of the better point guards for the class of 2015.
So, a busy July for the BGSU assistant basketball coach has become equally busy for LaMonta II, a talented 5-foot-7, 135-pound point guard.
Stone, 16, who averaged 10 points for the Bobcats as a sophomore, heads into AAU action as the No. 28 point guard in the country by ESPN for the class of 2015. Hoop Scoop lists him No. 89 among its Top 100.
LaMonta averaged a school single-season record 6.2 assists per game last season. His 156 total assists were also a team record.
Yet, the Falcons coach welcomes the opportunity to see his as a potential college recruit.
"I enjoy what I do and the aspect of me getting out and enjoying what I do with my son is a blessing in disguise," the elder Stone said. "It's truly a blessing."
More than a dozen college coaches have expressed interest in young Stone, who will play in as many as four AAU tournaments with his AAU team — All-Ohio Red.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Providence, Air Force, Detroit, Akron and Lehigh have indicated interest in Stone II.
Both Stones began the summer basketball adventures at a three-day tournament in Dearborn, Mich. Two weeks of tournaments in Milwaukee will be followed by a trip to an AAU tournament in Las Vegas.
The Stones are sharing the same schedule. Some of BG's recruits are playing in the tournaments where All-Ohio Red plays.
Stone said BGSU coach Louis Orr has allowed him to attend his son’s tournaments. That doesn't mean that he'll get to watch all of his son's games.
"I have to do my job first," Stone said. "I've seen him enough as a player and I'm his dad. In a situation where he has a game and one of our recruits has a game, I have to go see that recruit."
It's something his son clearly understands.
"I think I play better when he's at my games, but I understand when he can't be there because he has his job to do," young Stone said.
Bowling Green’s decision to not extend Von Graffin’s contract as the Bobcats boys coach surprised the Stone household. The news concerns them about Stone’s future there and they're waiting to see who fills the position before deciding how the change will affect his final two years of school.
The Falcons' longtime assistant coach said Graffin, the most successful Bobcats coach in school history, deserved better than being told about his status on July 1. Stone said the late announcement could limit Graffin's chances of finding another coaching vacancy.
"The disappointing thing to me was the timing," the elder Stone said. "I'm a coach and I understand our profession. I thought Von did a heck of a job. He's been here 11 years and he's won a ton of games.
"As an educator, our job is to prepare young men and young women for college and I thought he did a really good job of that. ... and he's shown that guys can play for his program and be successful at the collegiate level. Those are things that you're evaluated for as a high school coach."
In the meantime, the Stones are focused on this summer, when high school athletes are being evaluated by college coaches.
"This is a time of the year when you get better as a player, but it's a time to showcase your skill-set," Stone said.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.