This year's ACCAC JUCO Jamboree took place over the weekend at Phoenix College and looked a lot different than in year's past. This exciting annual event has been the highlight of the beginning of the junior college season for Arizona junior college programs to showcase their teams to college coaches, while also gaining strong competition early in the season. This event has changed formats over the years, but nothing like what we saw take place this weekend, as the event was condensed by about almost (8) hours from what we saw in year's past. While the Jamboree always featured each of the teams competing on one main court, this year's version of the event utilized two different courts, which cut the event down in length a great deal.
This year's event also did not include all of the teams from the league in participation, as Eastern Arizona, Yavapai College and Central Arizona were each absent from this year's event for different reasons. Central Arizona will not be fielding a team this junior college season, as their athletic program considers the program's future. Yavapai Junior College was also not in attendance for this weekend's event, as the program deals with major budget cuts to their basketball program this season due to going well overbudget last season.
Eastern Arizona is considered to feature the conference's most talented roster this junior college season, but instead of attending the ACCAC JUCO Jamboree, Head Coach Cameron Turner took his team to the highly acclaimed Mullens/Mitchell Dallas Blowout Juco Jamboree in Dallas, Texas. This event was well attended by top-rated junior college programs from around the country (from 14 different states), and included a large number of college coaches in attendance. While featuring the conference's top returning prospect also in sophomore wing Raysean Seamster, Eastern Arizona's omission from this year's ACCAC JUCO Jamboree was significant. While the Arizona Jamboree was filled with spectators and still was enjoyable to observe, it definitely lacked star power from previous years and was a much smaller version of the conference, as a result of each of these team's absences this year.
It has become increasingly more difficult for junior college prospects to maximize their exposure to college coaches these days, due to the rise in the NCAA Transfer Portal. While once juco prospects were essential to a Division-I program's success annually, and a high priority for college programs to land the nation's best juco prospects, things have now changed. Even top-rated junior college prospects today still struggle to reel in college offers, while D-I and D-II college programs look to land Division-I transfers to fill their rosters. JUCO prospects can still provide immediate maturity and playing experience for college programs, so they definitely get recruited higher than high school prospects, but it is still a challenge.
For Arizona junior college prospects in the ACCAC, it is even more of a challenge to get recruited, as college programs have not seen Arizona's juco league as a hotbed for basketball talent for many years. While the ACCAC once was regarded as one of the top juco leagues in the country, the league has really lost its luster over the years. Our league still produces quality college prospects annually though from all different levels, and is worthy of much more college recruitment. While the league is not a hotbed for Division-I college programs, it still does produce numerous Division-I prospects annually and loads of NAIA and D-II prospects for college programs. Our league just needs as much promotion as it can get to college programs to improve the overall exposure for our top student-athletes. While high school and prep school programs around the country, and definitely in the state of Arizona, have raised their level of marketing and promotion for their programs and athletes, many juco's around the country are still a step behind. In the ACCAC, there needs to be a revamping of the marketing and promotion to help take our league to another level over time, so that our student-athletes have a fighting chance to be recruited.
I have covered the ACCAC since 1995, and have done as much as I can to personally promote our top prospects to college programs, and will continue to do so. The top-rated prospects in our conference need and deserve the attention, as many very good college players have come from our league and will continue to do so. It was nice this weekend to see some of the state's top social media video producers in the gym this weekend, looking to promote the top performers from the day. We need more of this promotion for our league and it's players, and more coverage for the conference, although this is an expense, and many programs in the league lack the serious financial support required to take the promotion of the league to another level. It is still difficult for our programs in the conference to have enough finances to reel in top-rated talent and compete with other national juco's that have much bigger recruiting budgets. Our league needs the support and requires an investment to help us take it to another level.
In the meantime, I will continue to do all I can with my staff of volunteers, to promote the ACCAC and work hard to help take it to another level, but it takes a village and we need help. The ACCAC players and coaches need the support and are very well deserving. This league has been around for many years, and I have attended junior college games in the state since I was kid. I also played in the league as player, so I completely understand the value of our league and, of course, our annual Jamboree, which is a very exciting experience for the players involved. For some of the current players in the ACCAC, the Jamboree may be the only opportunity for them to get seen by a college coach, and before the season, which can do wonders for a prospect's recruitment, if they have an excellent showing at the event. It can set up recruiting opportunities for a prospect throughout the season, after a strong performance in two games on a Saturday.
Overall, I would like to see more fanfare around our annual Jamboree. More teams, more games, more college coaches, more media and a longer day with one court for maximum exposure for our athletes. The Jamboree should be a major promotion of what our conference has to offer, and we need to maximize this opportunity to promote our conference's best coaches, teams and players. If we are going to raise the level of respect for our conference, back to where it was in year's past, more has to be done. The ACCAC coaches and players deserve it.