SOCASTEE — Jeff Schneider picked up his already-abused cellphone and exchanged a quick message with a member of the NCAA.
Just moments before, the Big Shots CEO and president learned that a team from New York had just withdrawn last-minute from this week's Big Shots AAU Atlantic Slam basketball tournaments here in Myrtle Beach. And then, as a low-level NCAA Division I coach was entering the section assigned for those recruiting the nearly 3,000 or so players, they realized the coach's son wasn't allowed to sit there.
As odd as it may seem, the NCAA would have deemed it a minor violation of the organization's recruiting bylaws.
Mundane as it is, the vigilance displayed by Schneider and the rest of the staff at Big Shots is why this week's tournament is getting the national notoriety it has. It's also part of the reason it's gotten so big.
More than 325 teams from around the United States and Canada began arriving Wednesday, with today-Tuesday serving as the prime days for talent scouting. The event is being played at 11 different facilities, with Socastee High School serving as the operational base. That's a far cry from the 21-team event Big Shots started with in 2005.
"The first year we had this event, we had very good teams," said Kevin Schneider, Jeff's son and the Big Shots vice president and national recruiting director. "We just built it up through the years. It's a full-time job going to all these events and getting to know these guys. They trust us."
So, too, does the NCAA.
The Schneiders have taken great strides to make sure their events - which take place around the country nearly year-round - are within NCAA regulations. Their tournaments are sanctioned by the college athletics governing body, something many AAU tournaments can't claim. The reasoning is two-fold.
First, the goal of any AAU tournament is to get players the exposure they may not have during the high school season. Putting all these kids in one central location for six days allows college coaches on tight budgets to see players from around the country at once. AAU tournaments without the NCAA status often turn into little more than organized pick-up games. That's where the play itself suffers.
"The biggest thing with the sanctioned tournament, you just seem to play harder," said Tyler Lewis, who is verbally committed to North Carolina State and a member of Team Loaded out of Virginia. "Whenever I see the coach from N.C. State, I'm going to play even harder. Everyone's going to play even harder and trying to make a good show for themselves.
"It kind of gets old. You know what the video is going to say. You just have to get through it and look forward to the games."
Secondly, the Big Shots brand is growing, and fast. This week's tournament is the company's crown jewel. But it will also be hosting events in cities like Washington D.C., Phoenix, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago later this year. It's big business, and making sure it's open to more people will help continue that trend.
"We spend a lot of money for our July events to [buckle] down and make sure these guys [are following the rules]," Kevin Schneider said. "We have 10 people just focusing on NCAA stuff."
Every player in the tournament is required to watch a 30-minute video that breaks down the rules players must follow, with a major sticking point being the contact with all those high-profile college coaches whose attention they're hoping to attract. Every roster is also broken down prior to acceptance to make sure every player is eligible to play for his team. It's a process that the coaches of these teams for the most part appreciate.
"They've made a commitment to make the game uniform," Texas Cagers coach Dirk Minniefield said. "For so long, it was disproportionate. You'd have some organizers who were doing a real good job, and like anything, you had your outlaws. Now, it's more uniform. Guys, they're talking, trading secrets on how to do things and how to do it the right way. It's showing with the teams and the play.
"It's educational [for the players]. They're going to have to know it for college anyway. So, for them getting it now ... I want them to get it early so it can be repetitive early. It's really informative, and it's something my team can take away from it."
Schneider said that approximately 1,350 kids who played in various Big Shots tournaments last year are now on college scholarships at various programs around the country. Who knows how many from this year's Myrtle Beach event will do the same.
"It's a full-time gig to make it the way it is," Kevin Schneider said. "My dad and I, we work constantly on it. The data, recruiting teams, finding out who the best teams are."
And, staying in the NCAA's good graces.