Today, we had the opportunity to catch up with Wisconsin United’s program director, Mike Debakker and discuss his program’s past success and future outlooks for the 2019 summer.
RLH: What separates your organization from the myriad of other AAU programs across the country?
DeBakker: I think that the academic aspect of our program is unique. We have academic tutors that work with the kids for ACT prep as well as any kids who need help during the school year. We make sure that our kids (should they be recruited) are academically [prepared] for entering college. We also try to have at least 3-4 practice sessions ratio to every game we play. We work on skills development constantly.
RLH: What is the back story on how your organization was created?
DeBakker: Having been a D1 coach back in the day, I and a number of coaches in our program saw a need for the basketball side in the inner city of Milwaukee as well as the academic side. We developed a program that stresses both. Some talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. We also attempt to work with the high school coaches as closely as we can for the betterment of the families and the athlete. Our program does not take sole ownership for an athlete’s success and realize it takes a group effort from all. Many programs stake claim to kids for shoe contract deals etc… and only have contact with the athlete for a few months. With United, it is not about the accolades, it’s about our kids’ success on and off the court.
RLH: Who are some notable players who have worn your organizations uniform?
DeBakker: Levi Bradley (UNI), Jalen Key (UNI), Jeremy Johnson (UWM), Ben Vanderplas (Ohio University), Donnell Gresham (Northeastern University), Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State),
RLH: For this specific team, do you expect to have much of your roster in tact from last year, what if any gaps are you looking to fill before next summer?
DeBakker: We have added a few kids to our 17s team which should help them compete, our 16s basically have the same team with a couple new kids, and our 14s have added a couple kids as well. For the most part our nucleus is the same core kids from last year.
RLH: Describe the team’s prior summer season and point out any significant tournament victories or games that stand out in your mind.
DeBakker: Our goal at Wisconsin United is always to attempt to win games however our main goal is exposure and development of athletes. Winning a league or a specific game is important however developing a young athlete in all phases of life and basketball is our main goal. We do not evaluate our program on wins and losses but [rather] how many kids get to college and get a degree, or how many athletes, who have chosen something else, are successful members of our society and have made a good life for themselves.
RLH: What is your team’s philosophy on offense and defense?
DeBakker: With defense its man to man pressure and some zone pressure full court. Offense is some sets however getting out in transition filling lanes and attacking the defense.
RLH: Who are some players to watch from your team next season?
DeBakker: 17s team has a guard by the name of JaVeon Tolliver, 6’ guard who can flat out shoot the 3, plays outstanding defense and has become a facilitator with the ball as well, leads on and off the floor, 3.0 GPA. 16’s has a young man who is a guard by the name of Brandon Leach, probably most talented athlete in the program, does it all and still learning how to play the game, 3.5 GPA. Our 14’s have a big coming up who could be really good if he keeps progressing, 6”4 Taylor Mack, looks like he will be about 6’7/6’8 by the time he is done growing . His skill level getting better every year and he is a very good young man with good grades. He is going to be one to watch for sure in upcoming years.
RLH: How many opportunities has your squad had to play mid-west teams? How did you fair against those teams?
DeBakker: We do very well against almost any teams. We travel a lot and see a lot of teams from all over. Our kids are used to traveling and being on the road. We love playing against the best and are excited about this year.
RLH: What was your record last year?
DeBakker: I believe all of our teams were above .500 for the year. Certainly some better than others. We competed in every game and never have gotten blown out of the gym but again we stress exposure and skill development for our kids vs. winning a game. We feel as coaches we need to be teachers regardless of wins or losses.
RLH: Who are the top teams in your area for your age group and in general?
DeBakker: Certainly the Nike and Under Armour circuit teams. After that I think we are all in the same arena.
RLH: What style of play is your team known for?
DeBakker: We play aggressive and strong on both ends of the floor. We pressure everything.
RLH: What tournaments do you plan on participating in this year?
DeBakker: We will pay in Prep Hoops league along with RecruitLook Hoops. Wisconsin Academy spring tourney, Chicago Classic.