It's all about the eyes in today's recruiting game.
As college athletics continue to grow in popularity and revenues, the recruiting wars for high school athletes have only followed suit.
But the days of the college coaches going to the athletes are long gone. Nowadays, a high school athlete can't wait for the college coach to show up on their doorstep. Instead, they have to bring the doorstep to the coach.
NCAA certified Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) exposure events, such as Sunday and Monday's Battle of Fort Stephenson at the Fremont Recreation Center are quickly growing in popularity as hubs for numerous college coaches of all levels to see and evaluate local and regional talent.
The event put on by the Fremont-based, North Coast Showtime, LTD, is the first of its kind for the area. A total of 16 teams competed in the two-day event. It featured three area high school girls basketball teams — Clyde, Oak Harbor and Sandusky.
“I've gotten a lot of calls from Division I, II and III coaches, and I know a number of them are coming,” North Coast Showtime founder and Clyde girls coach John Cahill said. “I know Kent State is going to be here, as will Xavier (University) and Bucknell (University) for sure. For the first year, we're hoping the event goes well. I think if it goes well, it will only grow in the following years.
“It's something that's never really been done in this area. We're really excited about it.”
Ohio Girls Basketball Report was also on hand to evaluate the local talent, which included the likes of Oak Harbor's Andrea Cecil and Clyde's Kelsey Michaels.
Cahill loves local history, thus the name for the tournament was born.
Fort Stephenson, located in present-day Fremont, was a small supply fort overlooking the Sandusky River in 1813. Commanding officer Major George Croghan had just 160 men at the fort and one old cannon.
The British hit Fort Stephenson with over 500 cannonballs but the fort held. Old Betsy, a famous cannon, was used to force the British back as an American victory ended British efforts to take forts in Northwest Ohio.
“One of the things we're trying to do is showcase Sandusky County,” Cahill said. “We're going to have a lot of people from outside the county coming into the area. Everything we're doing is local. All the food we're serving the college coaches. We're buying locally from different vendors. The shirts we're selling are locally made, you name it.”
Other schools committed to play include: Reynoldsburg, Hathaway Brown, Toledo Central Catholic, Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic, Berlin-Hiland, Olentangy, Toledo Whitmer, Wadsworth, Lima Bath, Fremont Ross, Fostoria St. Wendelin, Old Fort and a squad of players from North Coast Showtime, which has become one of the 10 largest girls-only AAU programs in the state of Ohio.
“These are some of the teams that are the best in the state year-in and year-out,” Cahill said. “We also made a real effort to include our local schools, too. This will give our local kids more of an opportunity to be seen by college coaches from all levels.”
Going to offseason exposure events was a regular outing for Cahill and his daughter, Amanda Cahill, in her years prior to high school and during her stellar four-year playing career at Clyde. Raising Amanda, who will play at Indiana University this upcoming winter, gave him a new appreciation for what the events could mean to a player's future.
“With the kids we were blessed to have the last few years we got invited to a lot of exposure events,” coach Cahill said. “I started to see that these events really can make a difference in recruiting. If you've got kids that are being seen by colleges, it gives them so many more opportunities.”
The Fliers, as a team, attended the Under Armour Best of Maryland tournament in 2012.
“I think five of the 20 teams there were Ohio teams,” coach Cahill said. “It just got me thinking that this is something we could do in Ohio that isn't being done. I learned so much about these events from going to them that I thought this could be something we could easily run.”
The Fremont Recreation Center at 600 St. Joseph Street, had all the bells and whistles North Coast Showtime was looking for.
“I've been all over the Midwest and the East Coast for AAU, and I think the Fremont Rec Center is the nicest two-court facility around,” coach Cahill said. “It's all wood, it's big and it's spaced out. It's a beautiful facility.”
A full tournament schedule with game times can be found at northcoastshowtime.com.