Boys Basketball: Putting together Fundamental U is Weinstein’s way of ‘giving back to kids’
Mike Weinstein has put together a new basketball team — Fundamental U. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 6:32AM
This basketball thing is in his blood.
So, it came as no real surprise when Mike Weinstein went out and handpicked a team to compete against the AAU big boys.
“This is not a business move,” said Weinstein. “This is me giving back to kids.”
The only venture here is pure basketball. Weinstein is looking to develop and help eight kids go as far as they can in this game.
And right now, eight is enough.
His U-17 “favorite sons” include Mundelein’s Sean O’Brien and Nate Williams, Lake Forest’s Sam Downey, Barrington’s Brad Zaumseil, Glenbrook North’s Andrew McAuliffe, Niles West’s David McCoy, New Trier’s Steven Cook and St. Charles North’s Quentin Payne.
Down the road, Weinstein, whose exuberance for the game is unquestioned, may expand his scope and go large — again.
So stay tuned.
With all AAU teams, the first order of business is coming up with a catchy name.
Well, give Weinstein an A here. Fundamental U is catchy and aptly named.
“I’ve always been about fundamentals,” said Weinstein, founder and former owner of Deerfield-based Joy of the Game, Inc., and Rising Stars. “My players always have played smart. They’ve played the game the right way.
“I’ve always preached to my kids that it’s not all about winning,” added the ex-Highland Park HS basketball player, who over the years has helped to place more than 200 players on college rosters as the Rising Stars’ kingpin. “I want my players to get better. That’s all I care about. And what I teach them — the fundamentals — will show up in them when they get to college.”
Many ex-Rising Stars have done and are doing good things at the next level. That list includes Highland Park’s Chris Wroblewski (Cornell), Barrington’s Jason Richards (Davidson), Zion-Benton’s Lenzelle Smith (Ohio State), Mundelein’s Ben Brust (Wisconsin) and Lake Forest’s Danny Hodgkinson (Dennison).
“I like the way he (Weinstein) pushes guys to get a lot better. Stressing the fundamentals,” said Downey, who is one of the bigs on this squad (6-foot-8) along with McAuliffe (6-8).
“And we’re running a college-style offense in a high school setting,” the Lake Forest senior-to-be added. “It makes you a lot better.”
For Downey, the summer is crucial — especially when July rolls around. Fundamental U on the season, has four major events next month: Elite Academic Athletes Showcase at the Barrington Fieldhouse (July 11), King James Chicago Jam in Waukegan (July 13-15), AAU Super Showcase in Orlando (July 18-22) and Fab 48 in Las Vegas (July 25-29).
“Those (events) will be challenging but I’m looking forward to it,” said Downey, who would love to take his game to the Ivy League.
Downey, no doubt, is being stretched by the competition.
“He’s playing against some real Division I post players and it’s been an eye-opening experience for him,” said Weinstein, who is on first-name basis with nearly every college coach in the country.
Despite facing some of the top players in the country, Downey and Co. have been holding their own. The team is 18-7 so far.
“We haven’t been shell-shocked,” Weinstein said. “We’re staying ahead of the curve.”
The coach is enjoying the constant rise of O’Brien. The 6-6 Mundelein standout, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, is picking up steam in the recruiting game.
“There’s a ton of schools interested in him,” said Weinstein, who is not afraid to play him at the 1, 2, 3 or 4 spot. “A lot of eyes are on him. (Recruiters) like his ability and versatility. He’s very fluid with what he does.”
Meanwhile, Williams has been a pleasant surprise. The guard started to emerge as an up-and-coming talent last winter for Mustangs.
“He’s been tough. Fearless,” said Weinstein. “A very solid player.”
McAuliffe is the main go-to guy inside.
According to City/Suburban Hoop Report’s Joe Henricksen — who blogs for Sun-Times Media’s Your Season — McAuliffe is the “bell cow” for this team. The GBN senior-to-be is a top 25 prospect.
“He’s really skilled,” said Weinstein.
McCoy has proven be a coach’s dream.
“He’s an unbelievable teammate,” said Weinstein. “I love this kid. He can play a lot of positions. He’s a real team leader.”
So far, two Fundamental U players have made verbal commitments. Cook will be playing for Princeton. Payne is heading to Loyola.
Zaumseil is the featured guard on this squad. He’s received an offer from UC-Davis but has yet to make a final decision.
“He’s a gamer,” Weinstein said. “He’s played great for us. He’s really great in transition.”