The odds of a high school basketball player making it to the “next level” to play college basketball (DI, II, or III) is slim. In fact, only 3.4% of high school players go on to play college basketball. Taking it even further, only 1.2% of college basketball players go on to get drafted in the NBA.
In total, that means then that only 0.03% of high school basketball players will ever go on to make it in the NBA! Here are some more interesting facts on the number of college basketball scholarships available compared to the number of high school basketball players. But let’s slow down, take it one step at a time, and deal with how players can actually play basketball in college, at either the DI, II, or III levels.
The checklist is in order, so players and/or parents should start with the first item, and if that item can be checked off the list, then move on the next item, and so on. If a player cannot check off an item then that, in my opinion, greatly decreases their chances of making it to the collegiate level, especially the first 7 items. So let’s get started …
#1 Player Must Love the Game of Basketball
This may seem obvious, but it’s clear not all players love the game. Often times players love the attention they receive or the awards they may get or they play because it makes their parents happy, but at the end of the day, players that play for reasons other than the love of the game typically don’t last at the college level.
#2 Player Must Have a Serious Work Ethic
To get to the college level, players must have a great work ethic in order to develop the skills necessary to play at that level. Sacrifices will have to be made in order to get in the gym to work on your game. Parties may have to be skipped, fun time with friends may need to be passed up, vacations might need to be delayed, but these are all things that players with a serious basketball work ethic don’t mind. They are willing to pay the price and want to be in the gym all day, every day!
#3 Player Must Have Advanced Skills
To be blunt … if a player is not on his or her VARSITY high school team then there is no reason to be concerned at this point in time about playing college basketball. To take it one step further, the player should be one of the best, if not the best, on their high school varsity teams.
#4 Player Must Have Physical Tools
Not all players are built like Lebron James or Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis, and that’s ok! But players must have certain physical tools to play basketball in college, unless they have an outstanding attribute in another area (ie. a very short player with blazing speed). Some of the physical tools include:
A. Height – Everyone knows basketball typically is better suited for taller players. The taller, the better in most cases.
B. Coordination – Simply put, players need to be able to pass and catch, dribble, shoot, etc. all while running, jumping, sliding, etc.
C. Athleticism – College players need to be decently athletic. Again, players don’t need to have Russell Westbrook athleticism, but they should be able to decently jump, slide, and run.
D. Endurance – Out of shape, overweight players who can only run up and down the floor a few times never make it, no matter how talented a player may be otherwise.
#5 Player Must Have Good Grades
This is #5 on the list, but still is one of the most important aspects of playing college basketball. The better a player’s grades are, the better chance they have to play college basketball at some level. The NCAA even has a minimum grade point average that players need to have or they won’t be allowed to play.
Furthermore, having outstanding grades will open up the door for other college basketball options, such as many DIII or Ivy League schools, that wouldn’t be open to player with average or below average grades. If a player wants the BEST chance to play basketball in college, get GREAT grades!!
#6 Set Realistic Expectations
Not all players can play at colleges like North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, etc. In fact, not all players can play Division I basketball. Division II and III are GREAT options for many players, while some players may need to attend Junior College first. It may also be good to consider a Prep School to get some extra basketball attention and possibly an extra year of high school. I did that, and it worked wonders. Regardless, players and parents must be realistic about what level they can play at.
#7 Find the Right AAU Team
AAU can often times get a bad rap for various reasons, but it’s also a GREAT tool for players as certain tournaments in the Spring and the Summer allow college coaches to come watch potential recruits in a short period of time and in one location.
These “showcase” tournaments are called NCAA certified events, and there is usually 2 weekends in April and 3 weekends in July dedicated to this “recruiting period“. Because of this, finding and playing on the right AAU team is crucial for players hoping to play in college.
#8 Attend Elite and/or Showcase Camps
If a player has some particular colleges in mind that they’d like to potentially play for then it’s often times a worthwhile investment to attend that specific college’s “elite” camp. A lot of their recruits come and play for a few days. Not all schools do this, but most do some version of an “elite” camp, and players can typically find this information on that college’s basketball team website.
#9 Create a Basketball Highlight Video
No, I do NOT mean a “mixtape” with bad hip hop background music. I mean a legitimate, at least semi-professional looking video with highlights and a half game or full game. These two parts can be on the same video or on a separate one, but coaches need to see both.
Often times, a basketball highlight video is the first introduction a college coach has to a player. If you are lucky, this can become a gateway for becoming a future recruit. The highlights are put on the video for a college coach to determine a player’s strengths while the half or full game allows the coach to get a much better feel for the player’s overall game, including their weaknesses. And yes, all players have weaknesses!
#10 Make List of Colleges and Email Them
The final step in the checklist to increase a player’s chances of playing basketball in college is to create a list of REALISTIC college teams that you could potentially play for, and get the coaches email addresses. Feel free to add in a few “dream” schools as well, but just understand them for what they are – DREAM schools.