The Big Shots D.C. Assault AAU Basketball Tournament took over the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia) for the weekend, churning out 123 teams and a massive collection of parents, college scouts and local supporters on April 9 at the Capital Sports Complex.

With a host of teams ranging from 10- to 17-year-olds, several students and players were given the chance to showcase their talents while facing off against top-level competition among the area’s best prep players.

Patterson High School (Baltimore, Md.) sophomore Aquille Carr and Gonzaga High School (Washington, D.C.) sophomores Kris Jenkins and Nate Britt are just a few of the prep stars who showed up. “I definitely think it makes you better because you get used to playing at a high level,” Jenkins said about the impact of playing AAU basketball.

Jenkins, who plays for the D.C. Assault 17-and-under group, sat out the day’s action with a badly sprained left ankle but is anxious to return to the court to help prepare for what he hopes will be a successful junior season. “You go around and you play against all the great players. It’s a great experience; I wouldn’t trade it.”

The Big Shots program has grown into national prominence under the direction of CEO and President Jeff Schneider, who has guided the program across country, hosting tournaments in Chicago, Atlanta and New York among other cities. A former coach at California Polytechnic State University, Schneider has used his 17 years of coaching experience to turn his program into the top event for national exposure for prep players.

Although the tournament has traveled to several cities, Schneider believes the D.C. area has one of the strongest basketball backgrounds in the country.

“Personally I think the Washington, D.C. area is the mecca and grass roots for high school basketball,” Schneider said. “We started out last year and it’s just gone extremely well.”

The large turnout is also a sign of supportive parents, many of whom travel all over the country with their basketball-playing offspring. “They’re doing something positive in the community and being able to be involved with is something that’s going to prepare them to grow into fine young men,” said Torsheba Givens, mother of 14-year-old Aaron McFarland who plays for a local AAU team.

Tournament action resumed April 10 when winners will be decided for the 16- and 17-and-under teams.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO