Posted On: 09/10/19 7:36 PM

The response to the launch of the Prep Girls Hoops Top 250 Expo showcase series has been incredible, both here in Minnesota where the first event will be held on Oct. 5, as well as in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa where the other 2019 Expos will take place. Players have been quick to register, eager to know more about the format, or send in their regrets due to conflicts with high school volleyball, soccer and the like. The response from college coaches has been equally enthusiastic.

There are multiple reasons why the event has been widely embraced. “It’s an opportunity for players to sign up on their own accord and gain individual visibility, both with media coverage and with college programs,” said Nick Carroll, co-founder of Prep Network in the Twin Cities, which operates the Prep Girls Hoops websites. “During the high school season players don’t have control over the schedule. Whatever size high school you go to, whatever geography you live in, whatever your team decides, that’s who you are going to play in front of within the context of the team. The Top 250 Expo is an opportunity for players to represent themselves.”

The Top 250 Expo gives players like Amaya Doree of Champlin Park an opportunity to raise their profile. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Source)

“Obviously you want to come and play the right way, but the idea is that you can come and represent the name on the back of the jersey for a day and not the name on the front,” Carroll added. “With us being an independent, unbiased third party that isn’t affiliated with a particular AAU program or shoe brand it’s a way for any player to come to the event and just do their thing.”

The Top 250 Expos have been a big success in boys basketball across the country because they offer large amounts of exposure to players with the potential to play at any level of collegiate basketball. The company’s mission has always been to ensure that all potential collegiate players receive notice, not just those that are headed to high-profile Division 1 programs. That doesn’t mean the D1-bound athletes won’t benefit from participating. They have and they will.

“You see a lot of showcases that are by invitation only, where it is very clearly geared to the top few players in a state,” said Jake Phillips, who co-founded Prep Network with Carroll in 2012. “We want to provide coverage to as many kids as possible and anyone who wants to attend can come. We have had really cool stories on the boys side where players have had some nice opportunities as a result of participating. These kids weren’t really on the radar before and they got college paid for as a result of being at a Top 250.”

Giving coaches and players what they want

One of the questions we’re hearing from players and parents is about the format. The answer is simple: the kids are going to play basketball. When the boys Expos were first held there were multiple elements – dynamic testing, skills work and the like. That’s what you see at a lot of showcases, but it’s not what college coaches are really looking for.

“In the past we were getting a lot of coaches contacting us in advance wanting to know when the games were starting. College coaches want to see the players get up and down the court and that’s what we give them,” Carroll said, explaining the reasoning behind the games-only format. “We are focused on having great coaches working with the players, a really high-energy environment, and balanced rosters so that the players can come in and have a great experience and the college coaches can get what they want, too.”

Macey Ziebarth of Cleveland, Minn., will be among the athletes trying to make an impression.

Because the Top 250 Expos will not be held during a so-called NCAA ‘live period’ the Division 1 coaches are not allowed to attend. That won’t stop them from being informed about player performances in great depth. There will be extensive coverage and assessment of individual players by Prep Girls Hoops evaluators and writers. With D1 viewing days now so limited this kind of media coverage is more important than ever. Prep Girls Hoops has more than 150 colleges that subscribe and our writers are in constant conversation with coaches about players.

“The D1 coaches may not be sitting there at our event but with the number of college coaches that we now have on our platform and taking in our content every day you have an opportunity to gain visibility with those schools during a time frame when they are not allowed to be out there evaluating players,” Carroll said. “For all of the D2, D3 and NAIA kids obviously they have the ability to play in front of those schools at the event which is great, too.”

There are no restrictions on non-D1 coaches and there will be plenty on hand. The event is attractive to them because, unlike AAU events, there is no charge for attendance or information. The company’s goal has always been to maximize exposure for players, not make money off coaches or spectators, who are also admitted at no charge. “All coaches have to do is RSVP in advance,” Carroll said, “and they get the college packet for all of the athletes including academic and contact information.”

Exposure is everything for recruits. A few short sentences on prepgirlshoops.com opened a variety of doors for Shyanne Loiland of Crosby-Ironton. This fall she is a freshman at D1 Weber State in Utah.

Player rankings will be updated in October

The Prep Girls Hoops Minnesota player rankings will be updated shortly after the event, including the first ranking of the Class of 2023. The lists will include 50 freshmen, 125 sophomores, 150 juniors and 150 seniors. The timing is excellent for players who want to make a strong impression but may not have participated in AAU ball this summer due to injury, conflicts with other sports, or perhaps geographic limitations. It is also a chance for under-the-radar athletes to make their capabilities known and for all players to improve their status prior to the high school season.

Prep Network was founded because there were very limited exposure opportunities for players who weren’t bound for Division 1. The Top 250 Expos are an extension of that philosophy. “The reality is there are an awful lot of kids who could go on to play some level of college basketball if they are extremely interested in doing that,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot more out there than just playing for the Gophers and we embrace that.”

The Minnesota Top 250 Expo will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5 at Burnsville High School. Click here for more information or to register. College coaches should contact Mason Asher (mason@prepgirlshoops.com) to register in advance.