The Pat Cats. Does this AAU team ring a bell with you? If you have followed AAU basketball over the past two decades, you will remember that the Pat Cats was the original name for Jimmy Salmon's AAU program.
"I was a high school coach at Paterson Catholic," said Salmon. "I figured the kids needed more exposure so I formed the Pat Cats. We had Tim Thomas to start the team. And after Tim was aboard we got some more players."
Salmon said the name was later changed to the Playaz. "When Tim (Thomas) was with the 76ers he helped sponsor the team," Salmon said. "Then Vince Carter became a sponsor and he has helped us a few times over the past several years."
ADIDAS and Salmon have remained loyal to each other. "I have only been with one sneaker company," Salmon said. "It's worked out great for us. They have helped us out tremendously."
Though the years of hard work, Salmon has spent many hours in a hot gym coaching and guiding his players. But it was the early years that Salmon fondly recalls too.
"Eddie Griffin and Brandin Knight were two of the most important players for us," Salmon said. "Eddie played 103 consecutive games and helped us win six AAU tournament and we also reached three other finals in 1999. Brandin moved us out of the Paterson area in getting players and helped us get Marcus Toney-El and Mark Jerrell-Wright."
The Playaz Basketball Club is now one of the more respected and well-known AAU program. And many of the top players on the prep level have been part of this now rich tradition of winning put into place by Salmon and his staff.
Salmon was kind enough to give us his top 15 players. These are players who competed for him on a mostly full-time basis. After you have a chance to read the first group of names, Salmon also gives us his best part-time player list:
Full Time Player List:
1. Tim Thomas
Salmon comments: "He was the best high school player I ever saw..."
2. Vince Carter
Salmon comments: "He jumped higher back then (as opposed to now)..."
3. Eddie Griffin
4. J.R. Smith
5. Elijah Ingram
Salmon comments: "He was the most dominating player under six-feet I saw that year for us..."
6. Wayne Ellington
6. Gerald Henderson
8. Brandon Costner
9. Sean Banks
10. (tie) John Allen
10. Dahntay Jones
10. Earl Clark
10. Kevin Freeman
10. Deshaun Williams
10. Brandin Knight
Salmon's Top Part-Time List:
1. Kobe Bryant
2. Dujuan Wagner
3. Kyle Lowry
4. Jason Fraser
5. Mario Boggan