Posted On: 04/6/18 11:00 AM
After planting their routes in Cleveland at the beginning of last decade, The National Basketball Academy (TNBA) expanded nationwide. Today, they have flags planted in Orlando, Houston, Indiana, and Milwaukee. But Cleveland remains the foundation.
“Cleveland is where we started. We have a total of about 130 AAU teams across the country now,” Steve Vega explained, one of a few owners of the TNBA organization. “But Cleveland is our biggest AAU club program.”
The triple-digit figure of teams is staggering and unique, but the high number isn’t what they’re about.
“We’ve tried to not be just a club with a bunch of teams. To me, that’s where I think we separate ourselves, is we do have a structured plan for development,” Vega said. “We don’t just put kids on teams and go out and play.”
Vega, who will coach an elite group at the 17U level this season, is joined by Shane Kline-Ruminski (founder) and Jack Lutzeier as owners of the program. They run boy’s teams from the third grade and up with girl’s teams starting at fourth grade.
TNBA Ohio 17U
TNBA East Black 17U
TNBA East Black 15U
The program pulls players mostly from the Cleveland area, but occasionally players will travel within a two-hour radius. They do attract a wide variety of talent levels.
“We don’t cater just to the elite athlete, but we do have elite teams,” Vega said.
“We break it up and do developmental, which is our local teams. Regional, which are teams that are good and travel some. And national teams are teams that sometimes have sponsorships or are definitely placing kids at the next level.”
Vega estimated that they’ll place around 20 Cleveland-area players from their 2018 class at a college basketball program.
“Last year I would’ve said was a unique year for us in terms of the level of high school players we had. Placing that many kids in school, that was our biggest year,” Vega said. “What I’d say is unique about this year is we’ve matched that.”
He spoke on his roster of players exclusively, which has, in Vega’s opinion, seven to eight scholarship-level hoopers.
“Brandon Rush and Davin Zeigler are kind of known, but I definitely feel like they’re ready to get to that next level,” Vega said.
With those two in the backcourt, Vega’s group is going to be able to compete with any team in Ohio. Both are going to fight for more D-I offers this summer.
Surrounding those talented headliners are various rising prospects, two of which played integral roles on Solon’s postseason run.
“You talk about breakout players, I think the year [Trent Williams] had at Solon was significant,” Vega said. “[David Marbury] is a football prospect, but he’s a pretty good basketball player too.”
Also, there’s a couple players on that team who will be given increased (and appropriate) roles this summer.
“Nigel Martin, I don’t think he’s been in a great situation to really showcase his talent. And then you have LaTrace Jackson from VASJ,” Vega said.
Noteworthy is the amount of Hoop Group events that the TNBA Ohio 17U team will compete in. As a part of the HGSL, they’re invited to Hoop Group’s major events.
“The Hoop Group circuit, we’re a part of that HGSL, where they basically take the top teams from that circuit and put them in super pools,” Vega said.
They also compete in a lot of in-state events.
“The Nike Summer Championships is definitely a hot ticket event for us. We played well in it last year. With All Ohio being involved and some of these other major clubs that are coming to that event this year, it’s gotten bigger every year,” Vega said.
People can catch them in a local event this weekend, as they’ll look to defend home turf in the Cleveland area.