COUNCIL BLUFFS — Butler coach LaVall Jordan walked into the Iowa West Field House on Friday, shook hands with a coaching colleague and looked from one end of the building to the other.
"Hey, what's the court setup here?"
As soon as he got his answer, Jordan was off to work.
The college coaches who cycled through Council Bluffs this past weekend had no reason to gawk about at a facility that was transformed solely for this major AAU event. They arrived here with a purpose — evaluate players.
Those teenage prospects, meanwhile, were equally focused. They suited up to compete and test their skills against worthy foes — while also trying to catch the attention of coaches like Jordan.
But for most everyone else at the Adidas 3SSB Championships? They could soak in the spectacle.
The dunks, and the crossovers, and the stepbacks. The hoops celebrities, on the court and off. The trash talk. The celebrations. The passion.
The action didn't stop for three days. And there were some defining moments, too. Here are the seven lasting observations from the metro area's first extensive sampling of an elite-level grassroots showcase.
The champions: Atlanta Celtics 15U, Indiana Elite 16U and Dream Vision 17U. Those teams handled the brackets in their divisions. Atlanta brought defensive tenacity. Indiana Elite collaborated beautifully on offense. Dream Vision, as talented as that squad was, had to grind a bit without a full roster. All made impressive title runs.
The X's and O's: It was hard not to notice that some coaches were rocking ballcaps and fancy sneakers — maybe even a glistening necklace or two. And several of them brought in-your-face intensity. They were part of the show, at times.
But most of these games felt like legit basketball games. Teams were structured in their approach. They ran out-of-bounds plays. Games were filled with strategic maneuvers. The coaches deserve credit for that.
The physicality: It was eye-opening. These young players are tougher and stronger than you think. They had to be. The refs let the guys play.
A slap on the arm didn't necessarily warrant a whistle. Neither did a route-altering hip check. It was punishing inside all weekend. Even on the perimeter, guards had to be careful about aggressive defenders poking at the ball — because there were no bailouts.
The OSA 15U squad: Omaha Sports Academy's rising high school sophomores were part of arguably the event's most entertaining game Saturday. They trailed 50-43 with 10 minutes to go against the Arkansas Hawks. Their athletic opponents were pressing and trapping, seemingly close to seizing control.
Yet the Crusaders didn't back down. They played solid, team-centered basketball. Arkansas forced overtime with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. It won in double overtime. But OSA represented itself well.
Keyonte George's talent: The fourth-ranked prospect in the 2022 class had everyone's attention this weekend. For good reason.
He's a 6-foot-4 guard who looks like he's been in a college weight room for three years. And he plays like it, too. George can step out and drain long jumpers. Or he can dribble through your defense and leap over you for a bucket. He's a highlight machine.
Collin Chandler's big half: The 6-4 guard with a Creighton offer scorched the net for the first 16 minutes of Saturday's game against We All Can Go, which has No. 5 2022 recruit Chris Livingston on its roster. Chandler scored 24 points for the Utah Prospects before halftime, burying jumpers, getting to the line and rising for dunks.
He's a top-100 recruit already. But his stock might be rising.
EAB Tennessee's captivating duo: There was 5-11 Collin Porter, a 2023 prospect who does everything right as a lead guard — he guided his squad to the 17U title game. Meanwhile, that team had 2024 recruit Somto Cyril patrolling the middle. Cyril's raw, but he's a ruthless rim protector. He's already mastered the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag, too.