Spring brings AAU basketball back to area gymnasiums
By Chris Sokoloski
While spring high school sports are winding down around Georgetown County, AAU basketball season is heating up.
AAU is for kids who are serious about playing basketball in college, said Jeff Bombich, coach of the AAU Heat and Lowcountry Prep’s boys team.
“The kids that feel like they have the ability to play in college, AAU gives them that venue to be able to be seen by college scouts,” Bombich said.
Bombich hosted an AAU tournament last weekend at Lowcountry Prep and Waccamaw Middle School, and paid two college scouts to come. He tries to have scouts at all the tournaments his team plays in.
The Heat is comprised of players from all four Georgetown County high schools, and Lowcountry Prep. Another local team that competed in the tournament, the Gators, has a bunch of Waccamaw High players plus kids from Carvers Bay, Georgetown and Lincoln high schools.
The Gators, who are all freshmen and sophomores in high school, beat the Heat, who are juniors and seniors, on the first day of the tournament.
Bombich said the Gators played more like a team, and with more enthusiasm.
“When you play as a team and with heart, you win basketball games,” Bombich said. “If you don’t click as a unit you’re going to lose to teams less talented than you.”
It’s a problem the Heat has been struggling with all season.
“Our kids like to play too much individual basketball as opposed to team basketball,” Bombich said. “Until we learn to play team basketball, we’re going to lose.”
He said four of his nine players are playing for themselves, not for “the name on their shirt.”
“I’m discouraged, not because of the effort but because of the selfishness,” Bombich said. “They have to decide, my agenda is not working, I have to buy into coach’s agenda. Until they do that we’re going to lose.”
Last year, Bombich’s team had seven players that had been playing AAU together for years. Five members of this year’s team are playing AAU for the first time.
The Heat will play about 40 games this season, some in places as far away as Fayetteville, Charlotte and Columbia. There are two state tournaments in June and two national tournaments in July.
Bombich has been coaching basketball for 27 years. It’s not a job or a hobby for him. It’s his ministry.
“The main goal of my team is me trying to witness to these kids,” he said. “Some of these kids don’t have the foundation at home, I try and give them that foundation. I’m about my ministry first and my basketball second.”
Bombich doesn’t allow cursing, players must maintain their grades, and the team does community service projects.
The Heat practice more than most AAU teams – two days a week when they have a tournament, and four days a week when they don’t.
His rules cost him two players this season who decided that he was too strict.
Bombich is committed to his players, sometimes spending hundreds of hours in the gym teaching basketball and life lessons.
“I’m trying to make them better people before I make them basketball players, and that’s important to me,” he said.
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