The Charlotte Storm did not need validation: They knew they had talent and were among the better AAU traveling basketball teams in the country.
The 17-U Storm made it to the championship game of the AAU Super Showcase at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., last year and made it back again this year.
The Storm finished fourth at the N.C. AAU District Championship and had won the AAU Super Regional Championship in Charlotte earlier this year.
Many of their players will be the stars of their high school teams this winter, and a few are starting to get major college attention and will play Division I basketball next year.
Some are on the fast track to becoming major college stars.
The Storm players have known for years how good they were, but being invited to the prestigious Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in May gave them the confidence and respect they knew they deserved.
"It validated their status and raised the profile of the entire organization around the country," said Willie Jefferson, the executive director of University City Basketball Association, a nonprofit organization that runs the Charlotte Storm Basketball Club. "The Gibbons Tournament of Champions event was a big step for our young club."
Bob Gibbons is a nationally known recruiting guru, and his tournament showcases some of the nation's best talent in front of many college and pro scouts.
Gibbons is aware of the talent on the Storm, naming Dionte Adams (Northside Christian), Sean Anthony (Olympic), Richard Brown and Rashun Davis (both from Davidson Day) to his 2012 list of standout players.
Adams, a 6-foot-7 forward, has drawn interest from more than 35 schools, including Miami and Clemson from the ACC and many others around the country, including Tennessee, St. John's and Charlotte. He already has scholarship offers from Pembroke, Gardner-Webb, Hampton and Winthrop, with more likely to follow.
Davis has been invited to elite camps at Virginia, Clemson and Boston University and has been offered scholarships at Coastal Carolina and Elon. Brown is being recruited by Ivy League schools Yale, Brown and Cornell and has been receiving lots of interest from schools around the country. Anthony is being recruited by Lenoir-Rhyne.
The Storm's John Jones (A.L. Brown) is being looked at by Virginia State, and Dominique Henderson (Mallard Creek) has drawn interest from Charlotte.
"The coaching staff has to receive all the credit in getting the kids to focus on the success of the team first," said Jefferson. "The better we play and the deeper the team goes in tournaments, the better chance that all the players will be seen by scouts and college coaches."
Head coach Tony Brown and assistant Jackie Drakeford are from Davidson Day, and Angelo Adams is from Northside Christian. All take an active role in shaping the Storm players on and off the court.
The Storm took a break in June so players could go to team camps. They returned in early July and will play four tournaments, including the 11th-grade Division 1 national championship at HP Field House in Kissimmee, Fla.