It's been 20 years since Mid America Youth Basketball held its first tournament with a mere 69 teams.
At the recent Summer Kickoff Tournament, the Newton based organization had about 590 teams competing.
"I had been a high school coach for a lot of years, and was getting out of that. I knew I wanted to stay involved in basketball," MAYB founder Greg Raleigh said. "It just so happened that this group in Wisconsin was advertising in newspapers around here looking for tournament directors. I happened to be going to Wisconsin on American Family (Insurance) business. I stopped in there and got started. From there, it's kind of grown."
Raleigh quickly broke away from the Wisconsin group to found the MAYB. His organization employs six full-time staffers and another six to eight seasonal staffers along with a couple of interns.
MAYB hosts more than 600 tournaments a year in 22 states. The age groups range from third grade to high school. Raleigh estimates there are 6,000 teams per year that play at least one MAYB tournament. He believes the MAYB is the second largest youth basketball organization behind AAU.
"There are numerous groups out there," Raleigh said. "We're probably the second biggest of our type, next to AAU. AAU is a little different anymore. They aren't as elite anymore because the shoe companies handle that. There's at least 10 to 15 other organizations trying to do what we do."
Raleigh said the peak of the summer kickoff tournament was more than 800 teams. The group's largest tournament is the summer national championships with about 800 teams. The girls' nationals are in the Stillwater-Edmond, Okla., area while the boys' nationals are based in the Newton-Wichita area.
The MAYB originally had just summer tournaments, but soon moved year round.
"I needed to hire someone full time, but I didn't really have anything for them to do some times of the year," Raleigh said. "Basically, we decided to do little kids in the winter so I could employ someone full time."
Raleigh said the MAYB doesn't require memberships or team sanctioning, unlike some groups. He said teams need to be aware of their own state high school's activities association's eligibility requirements.
In Kansas, non-school teams are restricted from using school coaches from July 15 to the end of the following school year. During the high school and middle school seasons, players are prohibited from playing on non-school teams. Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, no more than three players from the same high school or junior high team can play on the same non-school team.
Newton High School boys' basketball coach Don Cameron is one who uses the tournaments for his team.
"The advantage is we're still trying to instill in our guys the things we need to work on like our offense and defense," Cameron said. "We don't go as in depth as we do in November, but it gives the kids a chance to work on some things. The kids are pretty good about retaining what we work on in the summer."
Page 2 of 3 - Cameron says his team only plays in about four tournaments a year, with a just handful of practices. He said he holds workouts Mondays through Thursdays in the mornings in June. The team also participates in a team camp for a week.
He said in the last couple of years, his teams have played mostly in MAYB tournaments.
"Last year, we did go to a jamboree tournament in Arkansas," Cameron said. "There are some other venues out there. There is a Mo-Kan tournament in the Kansas City area, but we haven't played in that."
Cameron said he has several players in other sports, which is one of the reasons why he breaks in July.
"We don't want to put too much stress on them," he said.
Other states have different rules. Raleigh said some states, like Oklahoma, have no restrictions on playing for non-school teams, including in season.
"We try to have a little general knowledge of the rules," Raleigh said. "We know the Kansas rules well. In other states, it varies. We try to help teams out, but they have to check with their own state associations."
Kansas recently loosened its rules on what high school coaches can do in the off-season. Raleigh said that's actually reduced the number of teams competing.
"It gave coaches more options," he said. "A lot of teams are doing more things on their own."
Raleigh recently returned to high school coaching. He is the head boys' coach at Hesston High School.
"I like my kids playing in the summer," he said. "We're a small school, so our kids are pulled in a lot of different ways. I try not to make the kids make choices about what they want to do. I am not a fan of coaching my kids in the summer. I let my assistants and others do that. I want them to play and get better. I don't want to restrict them or tell them what they can and can't do."
Raleigh said early in the summer, about 70 percent of the teams entered in MAYB are players from a single school. He said as the season goes on, the balance shifts more in favor of teams consisting of players from multiple schools.
Raleigh said a few of the elite traveling teams still attend MAYB tournaments.
"We still get some of those teams," Raleigh said. "We don't get a lot of them during the July (NCAA Division I) observation time. Blake Griffin played in ninth and 10th grad. Conner Frankamp played since he was a kid. Competition at our events are good."
MAYB doesn't have any restrictions on how many tournaments a team can play in.
"There are some teams that play a lot," Raleigh said. "I like for my kids to play a lot of sports. There are some teams that play every weekend. I'm not a big fan of that. Our kids play in three or four tournaments a summer. We have kids who are still into baseball, football, track, whatever. I try to work with other coaches. It gives more kids a chance to play."
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