I live in Washington DC and recently visited rural South Dakota. The culture shock between the two places is pretty extreme. In Washington DC, I don’t even know my next-store neighbors. In South Dakota, my wife can’t get her hair cut without running into the mom of one of her grade school classmates.

One of my favorite things is how different chain restaurants are in rural and urban areas. You may remember the Olive Garden controversy from March. Here is the recap if you missed it. A writer in North Dakota wrote a rave review of the Olive Garden restaurant, claiming it was long overdue addition in Grand Forks. Then a bunch of urban foodies mocked the article. The funny thing is that both viewpoints were probably right.

In urban areas, talent is compensated at a high level so executive chefs are able to open signature restaurants, and chains like the Olive Garden are relatively lower quality. But in rural areas labor is cheaper and it is easier to retain quality staff. Thus a chain restaurant in a rural area will often have some of the most courteous staff and some of the most experienced cooks employed by the chain. The Olive Garden in Grand Forks isn’t a five-star dining experience, but it can be a quality experience.

So how does this relate to basketball? Well another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how we underestimate the transition in going to college. We underestimate the culture shock when urban and rural kids meet for the first time. When a shared experience (like eating at the Olive Garden) can be so different, I think it is fair to say that learning to work with a new set of teammates can be a huge challenge.

AAU basketball has a negative reputation, and there is no question that there are some bad seeds who try to ride kids coattails. But AAU ball is extremely valuable experience. Besides the higher level of competition, and the opportunity to improve one’s skills, the chance to interact with players with different backgrounds is incredibly important. It gives many of the AAU players a huge advantage when they do leave for college.

For me, the most important part of moving to college was that I no longer had to deal with people who didn’t want to be there. Instead of working on a high school group project with someone who could not care less about the outcome, when you are forking over tens of thousands of dollars, you tend to be somewhat invested in the experience.

The elite prep schools tend to have that feature as well. An average varsity athletic program will include some kids who hate the sport (but who play because of their parents), and some kids who like the sport (but don’t see a future in it). But at most of the elite basketball prep schools, you have an environment where almost everyone is focused on training to play at the next level.

Continuing my theme from my last column, let’s create two more All-Star teams for two of the elite prep schools in the country. Again, I’m going to focus on players that would have been eligible to play college basketball in the last decade:

All Brewster Academy Team  (Wolfeboro, NH)


Thomas Robinson


Craig Brackins

Iowa St.

Jeff Adrien


Weyinmi Efejuku


Mark Lyons

Xavier transferring to Arizona

Notes: Brewster Academy will probably have a number of players in the NBA in the future, but that isn’t true today. But this would still be a very fun college level team. Craig Brackins was a prolific post scorer at Iowa St. (even after Wesley Johnson abandoned the team for Syracuse). And Jeff Adrien and Thomas Robinson are two of the most incredible rebounders to play college basketball. Efejuku gets forgotten as part of the Tim Welsh-era at Providence, but he was an incredible scoring guard in college.

The only real question is point guard. Anthony Crater would have been a natural choice but he failed at Ohio St. and South Florida, and I wouldn’t want to put him on an all-star team. Mark Lyons doesn’t have great assist numbers in his career, but I think a lot of that may have occurred because he deferred to Tu Holloway at Xavier. I’m going to tentatively give him the ball while hoping that he doesn’t call his own number too often. Another alternative would be Rutgers guard Eli Carter, but he isn’t much of a point guard either.

Bench: There would be some serious non-BCS talent on the bench of this team with North Texas guard Tristan Thompson, Blake Shlib of Loyola Chicago, and Charles Abouo of BYU rounding out the squad. And if you need a defensive stopper, don’t look past former Texas guard Dogus Balbay.

Keep an eye on: The real beauty of this Brewster team is the future. Michigan recruit Mitch McGary, Xavier recruit Semaj Christon, and Florida St. recruit Aaron Thomas all made the RSCI Top 100 this year. Eli Carter showed flashes of brilliance for Rutgers and looks like a future star. And once St. John’s Jakarr Sampson and Kansas’ Naadir Tharpe finally get to play major minutes, many expect great things from them at the college level. Iowa St.’s Melvin Ejim, Syracuse’s CJ Fair, and Minnesota’s Mo Walker are also players to keep an eye on.

All Notre Dame Prep Team  (Fitchburg, MA)


Michael Beasley

Kansas St.

Derrick Caracter


Lazar Hayward


Kim English


Carl Krauser


Notes: A few mediocre seasons in the NBA and already we are forgetting how dominant Michael Beasley was in college. Beasley scored 866 points in his one season in Manhattan, Kansas. That’s more than double the 380 points scored by Derrick Caracter in his final year at UTEP, and Caracter had a dominant season. There have been a handful of player to score more points than Beasley in the last decade. Jimmer Fredette, Stephen Curry, Kemba Walker, JJ Reddick, Adam Morrison, Kevin Durant and Tyler Hansbrough did it, along with a few others who played for small schools. But there haven’t been many.

Kim English just had one of the best seasons in Missouri history, shooting 46% from three point range, so he is an easy choice for the team. And former Pitt Panther Carl Krauser had the passing skills to guide this team to victory.

If I was solely going off of stats, Jamine “Greedy” Peterson might get a spot ahead of Derrick Caracter. Peterson was a prolific and efficient scorer for Keno Davis in the “no defense” era at Providence. But sometimes great stats don’t always mean everything. With Peterson leaving Providence too early and struggling in the NBA D-league, I just couldn’t put him on the first team. This may also be the first time in the world that intangibles worked in Caracter’s favor. If you do want to go small with Peterson over Caracter, Lazar Hayward is used to defending bigger players, and at 6’6” so he could step up at one of the forward spots.

Bench: Whatever you want to say about Caracter and Peterson’s intangibles, at least they haven’t been arrested for armed robbery. Does that disqualify Seton Hall’s Robert Mitchell as a bench sub on the team? Journeyman guard Will Blalock had a nice career at Iowa St. But the player I most wish I had found room for in the starting lineup is Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick wasn’t ranked out of high school, but he was a prolific and efficient scorer as a sophomore last season, and expectations are sky high for him this season. Arkansas’s Gary Ervin, Auburn’s Brandon Robinson, and Louisville’s Terrence Jennings also all had solid college careers.

Keep an eye on: Providence recruit Ricardo Ledo is going to be asked to help turn the Friars program around and the Top 20 recruit just might have the skill set to do it. And former Top 20 recruit Khem Birch is headed to UNLV after not fitting in at Pittsburgh. Buzz Williams almost never plays freshmen at Marquette, but Todd Mayo broke that trend which speaks to his potential. Finally, James Southerland of Syracuse got some additional playing time after Fab Melo was suspended this year, and he could be in for a strong senior season.

Who Wins?

Right now, I’m going to go with Notre Dame Prep as they would have substantially more depth. But give Brewster Academy time. The pipeline of young Brewster players in BCS programs is very strong.