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Staff file photo / UTC forward Tre' McLean dives to save a lost ball ahead of Western Carolina guard Haboubacar Mutombo during the Mocs' home game on Feb. 4, 2017.

Tre' McLean saw what he considered a market inefficiency in the development of young basketball players.

So the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout is trying to address the perceived problem with a new venture in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.

Along with former Mercer standout Travis Smith — another Charleston native — Smith has helped form the 20/20 Youth Organization. According to the nonprofit group's Facebook page, it will debut with a youth basketball league this summer and is "dedicated to developing amateur student-athletes throughout the greater Charleston area" and "will promote education, sportsmanship, mentorship, discipline, positive community engagement, physical and mental health."

With McLean looking for a way to give back to his hometown and the Lowcountry region to which it belongs, basketball was a natural option because of what it has meant to him. Three years after his UTC career ended, the 6-foot-5 forward plays professionally in Germany.

He considered forming an AAU program, but the 20/20 Youth Organization will have a broader scope that goes beyond the court. The group will focus on helping potential college student-athletes while they're in middle school, and it will also have a program that offers mentors, ACT/SAT prep and assistance navigating NCAA eligibility requirements.

One reason having mentors is important to McLean: Since his time with the Mocs ended, he has had a number of athletes reach out to him for advice and guidance they hadn't been able to access elsewhere. The plan is for the organization to provide that before it's too late.

The 20/20 Youth Organization has already enlisted the help of some former Lowcountry standouts to speak to its members, and — contingent on developments with the coronavirus pandemic — the basketball league will begin in July at the North Charleston Athletic Facility, providing a couple games a week for players ages 10-14.

"We just want to provide the younger kids something other than going and playing AAU," McLean said. "If you're a middle school kid, you're not going to get recruited unless you're a Zion Williamson or Bronny James. To me, AAU is pointless at that age, so what we're telling parents is that instead of paying $300, $400 to go to Myrtle Beach, Savannah, Atlanta or Columbia, we're playing here."

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Staff file photo / UTC forward Tre' McLean goes to dunk over UNC Greensboro forward James Dickey III on Feb. 2, 2017, at McKenzie Arena.

After a standout prep career at Charleston's West Ashley, McLean started his college career under head coach Wes Long at Queens University, a Division II school in Charlotte, North Carolina. He headed to Chattanooga the same time his coach did, with Long joining the UTC staff when Will Wade was hired to lead the program in 2013, but McLean made his own name with the Mocs.

He was a two-time All-Southern Conference selection, and he made the league's all-tournament team as part of the UTC squad that won 29 games and reached the 2016 NCAA tournament. He led the conference champs in scoring that season, averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and again the following season as a fifth-year senior at 13.7 points per game.

More importantly for someone starting a group emphasizing academics as much as athletics, he graduated from UTC with a communications degree in May 2016.

As for the basketball aspect of the 20/20 Youth Organization, the inaugural league schedule is only four weeks, but the plan is for future seasons to run from May to July. That would conflict at times with the AAU calendar, and as the league grows it could lead to conflicts for players or parents who would rather go that route in Charleston.

McLean and his group are aware of that, though — and they're ready for the challenge.

"That's what motivates me," McLean said. "I've been through AAU and I've seen the results but also the negative things about the game. To me, it's become political more than anything, but that's why we're starting this with the middle school kids, because the high school kids get to high school and they've got only one thing in mind: earning a Division I scholarship.

"So starting with middle school kids, we can give them an understanding of what to look for in AAU."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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