In news that is enormous for both the city of Louisville and U of L basketball, the AAU has decided to move its Division I National Championships and Gold Super Showcases - the elite AAU competition - to Louisville for three years starting in 2014.
The events will be held at Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC). The Louisville Sports Commission estimates that the tournaments will have a $3 million annual economic impact on the community.
As for U of L basketball, the perks are quite obvious. The best high school basketball players in America will all be spending a chunk of their Julys in the city for the next three years. That's a gift.
Here's a portion of the official release from the AAU:
Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Boys Basketball President Henry Forrest and Louisville Sports Commission Executive Director Karl Schmitt announced today that the AAU has awarded its high school boys grades 10 through 12 Division I National Championships and Gold Super Showcases - the elite AAU competition - to Louisville, Ky., for three years starting in 2014. The AAU Boys Basketball events will be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC).
"Louisville is a perfect location for the AAU Boys Basketball Division I National Championships and Super Showcases for so many reasons," Forrest said. "We will be in the heart of basketball country where there is tremendous fan avidity and enormous media interest in the sport. Louisville is centrally located in the US and easy to reach for a large number of our teams and their families, fans and college coaches; and the Kentucky Exposition Center is a premiere, event-friendly facility located in close proximity to hotels, inter-state highways and the airport.
"Besides location and facilities, another reason we're coming to Louisville is the experience and cooperation of our partners in the local community," added Forrest. "We are working closely with the management teams from the KEC, the Convention & Visitors Bureau and Louisville Sports Commission, all experts in staging major events. In addition, we forged a tremendous partnership with Eddie Ford, one of the longtime, premiere promoters of youth basketball in the Midwest and South."
Ford, owner and operator of the 31-year-old Kentucky HoopFest, the nation's oldest travel team basketball tournament held annually at KEC, will provide 12 hardwood courts as well as his expertise and operational support for the AAU event.
"Hosting the AAU Boys Basketball National Championships and Showcases is a huge win for Louisville," Schmitt said. "Sports fans in the local community and the region will have a chance to watch the best high school basketball players in the nation every summer. Additionally, the event will generate more than 8,400 hotel room night stays every year, and attract significant media, high profile coaches and sports personalities to our town. We look forward to the opportunity."
"When it comes to high school and college basketball, our city and region is best in the world, so it's fitting and exciting that the AAU Boys Basketball competition is coming to Louisville," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. "Many of the super players we've cheered and appreciated in recent years in our local programs have been showcased at AAU, so it will be great for our local fans to see them compete at these elite Championships and Showcases."
The 2014 AAU Boy's Basketball National Championships is expected to attract 340 teams, 200 officials, more than 900 college coaches and scores of national media and will generate more than $3 million in annual economic impact. Detailed information regarding general admission tickets will be announced in January 2014.
"Our national championships and showcase events attract the best-of-the-best AAU teams and elite high school players in the US and several foreign countries," said AAU Treasurer Ron Crawford. "Alums of these games help fill the rosters of the leading college programs and NBA teams on a regular basis. Our championships take place during an open recruiting period for colleges, so representatives from nearly every team in all divisions of the NCAA and the NAIA will attend, including the biggest names in the coaching business."
Players participating in the event the last three years have included:
2012 - Andrew Wiggins (Kansas); Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Dakari Johnson (Kentucky)
2011 - Nerlens Noel (Kentucky/Phil. 76ers), Anthony Bennett (UNLV/Cle. Cavs), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky/Phoenix Suns), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Alex Poythress (Kentucky)
2010 - Chane Behanan (Louisville), Austin Rivers, (Duke/NO Pelicans), Bradley Beal (Florida/Wash. Wizards), Ben McLemore (Kansas/Sac. Kings), Andre Drummond (UConn/Det. Pistons), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse/ Phil. 76ers), Wayne Blackshear (Louisville)
"AAU Boys Basketball has worked diligently and successfully for several decades to develop young players and promote basketball," said Marcellus "Boo" Williams, Jr., AAU's National Chair for Boys Basketball. "Our national championships have helped bring together college coaches and elite players in a positive environment, and we believe the move to Louisville will help us grow the tournament and better serve the game."
The AAU national championships will be held in the South Wing of the KEC, which is comprised of more than 420,000 square feet of modern convention center space and amenities. KEC is located one mile from the Louisville International Airport, three miles from downtown Louisville and within a five-minute drive from 13,000 hotel rooms.
"We're elated that the AAU Boys Basketball has selected Louisville and KEC to host its most high-profile events," said Kentucky State Fair Board President & CEO Rip Rippetoe. "Along with the Sports Commission and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, our team at KEC is dedicated to delivering a great experience for all the AAU participants, fans, coaches and media who come to Louisville. And we appreciate Eddie Ford working diligently to help us put all the parts in place to ensure a seamless transition for the AAU."