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Dan Gavitt: "We're hopeful this is something that can grow into something even better in the future."

UPDATED: July 27, 2019 -- 7:26 a.m. CT

POSTED: July 26, 2019 -- 9:12 p.m. CT

This afternoon was the first day of games of Session 2 of the NCAA Basketball Academy on the campus of the University of Houston.

During the first half of the second game, Dan Gavitt, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball, spoke with me and colleague Jerry Lee Woodley, Jr about the inaugural Basketball Academies taking place this week in four locations across the country: Connecticut (East); Illinois Midwest); Houston (South); and Grand Canyon University (West).

Mr. Gavitt answered our questions about the purpose of the NCAA Basketball Academies; the bid process involved to become a host school; areas of improvement; differences between the NCAA Basketball Academies and other events; the Fertitta Center; and, the response from parents of the kids participating in the Academies.

The HRR: What's the reason for the NCAA Basketball Academies?

Dan Gavitt: The College Basketball Academies were the result of the recommendations that came from the Rice Commission on College Basketball. Some changes to the recruiting calendar and opportunities for prospects to learn about college basketball; and, about the opportunities in college basketball; the recruitment process; and encourage us, the NCAA, to partner with USA Basketball; with the NBA; the NBPA; to do things to benefit youth development.

And, this is part of that effort.

The HRR: Since Houston is one of the four locations, have you been to the other three locations so far; and, if so, which one did you go to first?

Dan Gavitt: I started at Connecticut and then at Illinois. This (Houston) is the third stop; then, tomorrow morning, I'll go to Phoenix to be able to see all four sites. And, they've all been run very, very well. I've been pleased. Again, for the first year, you know any time you do something for the first time it has its challenges operationally, logistically. Things, I think, have gone quite well.

Houston, in particular, has been a great site. Great facilities. Wonderful city. Good access to airports and hotels for family members that are here.

The talent level -- it looks like -- it's pretty good here, too.

Jerry Lee Woodley, Jr.: How were the regions picked?

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Dan Gavitt: We modeled this after the NCAA Tournament where we've got four different regions in the NCAA Tournament: East (UConn); Midwest (Illinois); South (Houston); and West (Grand Canyon University).

And, given that there's Division I college basketball players all over the country, we thought it would makes sense to model the Academies after that. Pick one site in each of the four regions.

This (Houston) is, obviously, the South Region. Houston competed with other cities in the southern part of the United States for this opportunity. Their bid was the best among the ones we evaluated. Inclusive of everything from venues to campus facilities like dorms, the dining hall, and classroom space for life skills. But, the airport and the transportation was part of it (the bid) as well because, not just for kids that are here locally, but for the kids that had to fly in from other regions of the country. Because we did try to balance the numbers and the talent among all four regions.

The two airports. The number of direct flights that are all over this country. And, the cost efficiency of that gave Houston an advantage as well.

The HRR: Is there a chance for these four cities to host the NCAA Basketball Academy again or in the future?

Dan Gavitt: The vision and goal is to spread this around; so, that it doesn't stay on one campus on an annual basis. So, we can expose kids to as many campuses in the country as we can.

However, we need schools to volunteer and to bid. I do think that they'll be able to come back here (Houston). How soon depends on interest from other campuses; but, it has certainly worked well. I think our staff would feel that this a great place to come back to sooner rather than later.

The HRR: Is this your first visit to Fertitta Center?

Dan Gavitt: No, this is my second. I came here when Houston hosted played Cincinnati (March 10). Great atmosphere. Sold out. Houston has done a wonderful job renovating this historic facility.

Campus, overall, looks good. Beautiful campus.

The HRR: What makes the NCAA Basketball Academy different from other events?

Dan Gavitt: That's a great question. There are really two different goals of the Academy: one, is it's an evaluation opportunity for Division I coaches as well as for the prospects that attend.

So, much like many other summer events.

But, another really big portion of this, is, again, from the Commission on College Basketball and Condoleezza Rice's Group, is to provide information and education to prospects and their family.

We're paying for all the (top) prospects to attend here as well as one parent or guardian; and, the parent or guardian has to go the Life Skills Program and learn like the prospects do.

And, the goal there is to give them valuable information on what their college recruitment process is like; what eligibility standards are like to qualify to play academically and for scholarships.

But, we're also partnering with the NBA and the Players Association on things like what future opportunities there may be in the game; after college; or, in place of college.

Also, social media. Both, the benefits and the challenges and ills of social media.

So, some real powerful; and, we think, real helpful life skills for the benefit of these players and their families.

Jerry Lee Woodley, Jr.: How has the response been at the sites you've visited this week from the parents and the kids?

Dan Gavitt: The parents, in particular, have been very positive about the life skills programs. They've been more vocal than the kids. We haven't heard any negatives from the student-athletes; but, the parents in particular have been very appreciative of getting that information they've found to be very well organized and presented. That's really encouraging to us because that is a big part of this overall effort.

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The HRR: Since Houston is your third stop of the 4 regional sites for the Academies, have you heard anything or seen anything that you'd like to tweak for next year?

Dan Gavitt: Yeah. We made some changes even during this week. This is the second of two sessions here, at Houston, as well as the other three sites. We've made some changes during this week: for example, we changed game times to be running time. First, we were playing with stop time; but, even though it's just three-and-a-half days, it's a lot of activity for these guys. And, they've been busy this summer playing in other events. They've got drill work in the morning for a couple of hours. So, we've tried to limit some of that on court time to make sure that they're fresh and don't get injured and can be at their best in every level including the classroom stuff.

Other things we're going to take a look at: we're certainly going to take a look at the selection process and how we select players to attend. Get more of maybe the higher ranked players as well. Hopefully.

Figuring out ways to partner with the appropriate organizations to encourage their attendance.

Again, it's only three or four days of what we think is a really valuable program -- at no expense to the family -- so, we're hopeful this is something that can grow into something even better in the future.

Jerry Lee Woodley, Jr.: What was the process involved in the kids being selected for the Academies this year?

Dan Gavitt: This year, we basically, relied on Division I coaching staffs to nominate and select kids. Based on how many votes they got in essence. I think it worked at some level; but, we can probably make it better. We may have to involve others in that process -- whether it's recruiting services or others that can help identify in a very fair and equitable way how to identify the most talented kids.

We know, for sure, because we've studied this over time that there are approximately 1100 Division I scholarship players in each class entering college. So, that's the kind of universe we're trying to attract. Add another hundred or 200 on top of that and you get some competition; but, that's the universe of kids we're trying to attract. And, we can accommodate up to a couple of thousand kids. We're at about 1200 kids this summer across all four sites. Sixty percent of them are rising seniors. About another thirty-five percent are rising juniors; and, then, a very small percentage of elite rising sophomores. So, we'll take a look at that mix as well. Are we identifying the right classes? Should we bring in younger players at different points in their development in their career?

So, we'll take a look at all of those kind of things.

The HRR: Is there a chance in the future to schedule not go against USA Basketball at the same time like this year?

Dan Gavitt: Yeah. Very much so. USA Basketball is an incredible partner of ours in so many different ways. We actually partner with the NBA on the USA Basketball Junior National Team program which is going on right now. The summer mini-camp. We're very supportive of that effort. We talked with USA Basketball trying to change the date of it (the summer mini-camp) for this year; and, they just weren't able to accommodate based on the availability of the US Olympic Training Center where they hold the event. But, in the future, we will work together to make sure that we schedule so that it doesn't overlap.

The HRR: Is there anything you want to add that we haven't asked you about?

Dan Gavitt: Special thanks to the University of Houston and the entire Houston community for embracing this event. It's a great area for basketball whether it be high school or college or NBA basketball. So many great players from here; live here; retire here. So, it's a great place for this event to be; and, we appreciate everyone's embracing of it.

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