The 2017 Ballislife All-American game played host to some of the most exciting up-and-coming Division I collegiate basketball players in the country this past weekend, and the PREHEATER was there with media access to encapsulate the Ballislife All-American experience.
Thursday night, fans were treated to the usual team practice and open run full of spectacular dunks, no defense, and comedic trash talking. The atmosphere was very relaxed and light-hearted, with players sharing tons of laughs, clowning one another, rekindling old friendships from past summers, and genuinely being happy to be invited to the showcase.
The practice was a closed-off media-only event where those in attendance were treated to an up close and personal experience with the players. One nice surprise for everyone in the building was the appearance of former Ballislife All-American, ex-Kentucky freshman point guard standout, and future NBA first-round draft pick De’Aaron Fox. The support of former BIL All-Americans helps guide these high schoolers as they prepare to head into a world of fame and expectations in college, and for some, the NBA.
Although the open run resulted in a an entertaining overtime finish, the highlight was the one-on-one battle between UCLA-bound guard Jaylen Hands and highly-touted Alabama-native Collin Sexton. Sexton ended up besting Jaylen almost every possession by being crafty with his shot selection and locking down on the defensive end. This matchup would continue to heat up as the two would meet up on Saturday for the actual game.
After the official practice and scrimmage on Thursday, the guys traveled to Venice Beach to play ball against some YouTubers and explore the beauty that Southern California has to offer. One of the more interesting anecdotes from the weekend was the players’ visit to the Facebook & Instagram headquarters for a seminar on branding. This showed that the Ballislife organization is interested in setting these young men up with the right business skills and knowledge for their professional lives, whether it be on or off the basketball court. Some of these young men have already started marketing and branding themselves by donning shirts of their own logo, family-owned brand, or collective squad.
On game day, there was a lot of anticipation from the fans to see if these young players would live up to the hype. The three-point contest kicked off the Saturday festivities, which could have been a little more exciting if the championship round wasn’t restarted due to a ball being stuck in the hoop. Also, the transition time between shooters was dragged out longer than they should have been, but overall the show entertained the crowd. The slam dunk competition brought the crowd much needed energy with creative dunks from Ira Lee and Jaylen Hands (champion).
When it was time for tip off, the players were ready to give the fans a show they would be talking about long after the weekend was over. The game was high scoring, as expected, with guys opting to not get back on defense and trade highlight play for highlight play. By about the five minute mark in the second half, the crowd was chanting and fiending for another Jaylen Hands-Collin Sexton showdown on the bigger stage. Although Jaylen was able to respond on back-to-back possessions with jumpers, Collin stole the show for the entire weekend. His playful interaction with the crowd, MVP-winning performance, and dance moves during intermissions let everyone outside of Alabama know exactly what kind of passionate and charismatic star he is.
Overall, the players didn’t really spend that much time with one another as much as the media and public would initially think. Since most of these players have already committed or signed their letters of intent, they were granted more freedom from obligated event activities in their leisure time unlike the McDonald’s and Jordan Brand Classic All-American weekends. This gave them ample time to spend bonding time together with their loved ones and attend to any media before heading off to school.