Mal Mundy's Hoop Fest Tour hosts some of the premier showcase and identification events throughout the year. Most are open to all, but 42 of Louisiana's best hoopers met up on the last Sunday before school starts for a Statement Session. Chris Dodson caught up with the man on a mission in between games.
Mal Mundy's Hoop Fest Tour attracts scouting services, media outlets, coaches and the best talent in the Gulf South region. The young prospects get to compete against the best competition and get direct feedback from college coaches. The growth of Hoop Fest has been so impressive, I had to try and get a few moments with the man who has made it all run smoothly from the start.
The impressive growth of these events is largely because Mundy stands on the brand printed on the front of the jerseys, but also because he's devoted to helping these athletes get their name on the back of a college uniform. The reasoning for committing time at the end of the summer was straightforward: “To bring exposure to Louisiana and help players get recruited,” Mundy explained.
The Statement Session was barely wrapping up and the offers were starting to roll in. Over 30 college coaches made the trip down to South Side High's Youngsville, LA, gym to check out over 40 of the state's best prospects. It was a tough grind getting to this point, but the hard work is paying off.
"It has gotten better each year," Mundy said. "We try to bring something different each year to make the event better. In the first year of the session, only 30 players were invited. We’ve expanded to 42 players.”
The expanded rosters help local colleges working on smaller budgets. Xavier’s AJ Williams admitted that this event is huge for a small school with an NAIA budget.
“It’s big for recruiting for us here at Xavier, because we get a chance to see the player up close and build some true relationships with these players," Coach Williams said. “This event that Mal has been putting on for the state, which includes college coaches, is such a blessings to give the kids an opportunity to see what it’s like to compete at a high level and being able to get coached by college coaches.
"Being able to evaluate your game against the top kids in the state is huge. [It] helps you know what you need to add to your game or how you measure up against the top guys at your position. If you’re the best, come play against the best in the state.”
Coach Micah Hagans (Bonnabel) complimented Mundy's efforts too.
“The opportunity to play not only in front of college coaches but to actually be coached by college coaches is a one-of-a-kind experience," Coach Hagans said. "Every year, I see kids attend this event and walk away with offers from the coach they just played for. It also puts them in an environment with other top kids. Everyone in the event is a top kid. You have to bring it, just to have a chance to be noticed. From my standpoint, [it's great] being able to network with college coaches and build relationships that will last throughout my career. It also gives us as coaches a chance to see our kid in a super competitive environment.”
Mundy is more than just a Louisiana talent magnet. Now, four years into this venture, he is starting to move into local legend status. People know that the Hoop Fest Tour is worth the trip, whether you're a fan, scout, coach or player. The event's atmosphere keeps us all young and the exposure is invaluable. Players don't have to pay to play, but it was invite-only. Quality is key to the operation, and the student-athletes notice.
Jaylen Peters, the most impressive prospect in the gym for long stretches according to our scouting report, was impressed.
“It's great to have all this talent from Louisiana and you see where you stack up against everybody.” Peters said, before adding his thoughts on how Louisiana prospects are perceived. “I think a lot of people think all we do is play hard. A lot of dudes out here are actually skilled. Just as much hoops IQ as everywhere else.”
Clayton Blackledge, who had to log heavy minutes as the only true big man, was more than appreciative of the opportunity, especially since he's still looking for a college home.
“I didn't get as many today, but I want to work on my mid-range,” Blackledge said, who was perhaps a bit too tough on himself considering the just-met-my-teammates showcase situation. “Missed a few on defense” and “cardio got me” were the two biggest personal knocks, but Blackledge did “hit a couple nice ones though” that got some attention.
And that's all Mundy wants: attention on the young local talent. Not one to dwell on too much admiration, Mundy was humble when asked what might go underappreciated with his efforts: “When you have this amount of talent and Louisiana top players all under one roof, it is easy to attract college coaches to watch.”
Be sure to check out Chris Dodson's scouting report from the Hoop Fest Tour.