There have been plenty of stories over the years about the evils of AAU basketball and some of the shady people running programs and events. In spite of some of the more bizarre stories coming from the grassroots circuit, nothing has ever seemed as ridiculous as this latest story involving David Kelly, the president of the Elevate Basketball Circuit.
According to an investigative piece in Sports Illustrated from Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, Kelly organized an independent grassroots basketball organization with hundreds of teams signing up, only to close up shop unannounced as hundreds of programs — and parents — lost thousands of dollars.
Here’s an excerpt from the Evans and Thamel story:
[Kelly] went completely dark on everyone involved with Elevate, fueling speculation he had run off with a pile of money. Kelly claimed in Elevate literature that more than 525 teams signed up for the circuit made up of hundreds of players from more than a dozen states (erroneous reports surfaced speculating there were 800 teams). Elevate charged $1,600 per team to sign up, meaning hundreds of thousands of dollars were left unaccounted for. Kelly amplified that speculation when he shut off his phone. His e-mail bounced back as undeliverable. He shut down his Facebook page and the EBC’s website. Even his Twitter and Instagram accounts disappeared.
Without giving away too much more with this story, I implore to read some of the more outrageous details. It appears as though Kelly, and his wife, have disappeared from the face of the Earth and now the FBI is beginning to ask questions as a potential class-action lawsuit unfolds.
You can find the full story here. Although many will argue that this is typical of the AAU culture, there are plenty of responsible event organizers, travel programs and coaches who are truly looking out for the best of youth basketball players. This is just an unfortunate byproduct of somebody taking advantage of that situation.