Many high school players and parents are participating in year round basketball teams in hopes of obtaining college basketball opportunities. Teams play in hundreds of games with players simply going through the motions of a college prospect. Truth is, many families will waste thousands of dollars and hours simply because they do not understand the exact rules, guidelines, and qualities needed to be a college player. There are high school coaches, AAU Coaches, Skills Trainers, and physical trainers that would have you believe that being a part of their program is the key; especially if they have had some success stories come through their program. It is important to remember in almost 100% of these cases there are more athletes that haven’t accomplished the goal than that have. There are definitely people in all of these areas that can help, but they are few and far between. There are some things you must know and do in order to give yourself the best chance possible of playing college basketball.
If you’re ready to get serious about your goals, here are the things you need to know and do:
- Get the Facts
- Understand the rules and guidelines
- Understand the recruiting calendar
- Understand the basketball prospects time line
- Create a plan Prioritize and time management.
1. Get the Facts
Separation is in the preparation!
According to the NCAA, approximately 3.5% of high school athletes will NCAA play college basketball across three Divisions. When you understand the numbers you have to understand that simply doing what everyone else is doing, just because everyone else is doing it, will not get you the results you are looking. With percentage so low it is very important that parents and players first understand legitimate opportunities vs. distractions.
The following are a list of terms used to draw you in, but are not always what they seem to be:
ELITE: Things to be aware, of all “Elite” teams are not “Elite”. In fact, there is no qualification for putting “Elite” in the name of an AAU program.
Recently I had a player who had the physical tools to be a college prospect, but really needed to spend time on his game in order to make that a reality. I advised him not to play AAU because he the time to develop his skill set to accomplish his goal. I got a text from him asking “Should I play for the 17 U Elite _____ traveling team?” I recommended he didn’t, but he did, for “exposure”. When the summer ended and I asked him about how many college coaches he saw in his 5 months his reply was, “None.” During that time he also didn’t develop his jump shot or his post-game.
“Elite” used to be earned, but now it’s sold and purchased, such as “Elite” socks. While there are true “Elite” programs out there, most of those are fully sponsored and do not require a fee and recruit the top talent rather than have true tryouts.
“If socks are “Elite” then everything can be “Elite”, so what’s the value of it?”
SHOWCASE: Is a term that used to be reserved for events that college coaches would attend looking at prospects. Typically these events would only be held during the VIEWING PERIOD now it seems they attach the name Showcase to any tournament at any time to attract teams and players with no college coaches in the building. To know when real showcases are held, check the NCAA recruiting calendar.
“You should always play like someone is watching you and know when they really are.”
RANKINGS: As it may be “nice” or feel good to be ranked, it also can be a trap making a player feel like they are on the route to college basketball when often times the ranking services are done by people who have nothing to do with college and in a lot of cases know very little about basketball, or by people with ulterior motives. This creates a system where young people lose focus of the development of their skill sets, and place priority and value in the opinions of others who are often irrelevant. Both, making a player who is not a prospect feel like he is one, making and a player who is a prospect feel he is not one because he’s not getting the attention another player is.
“Don’t believe the hype, put your head down and grind.”
Results across 3 divisions: Percentage of high school basketball players to participate in college by level.
-1% division 1
-1% division 2
-1.4% division 3
NCAA Estimated Probability of Competing in Men’s College and Professional Basketball
NCAA Estimated Probability of Competing in Women’s College and Professional Basketball
As this information may be a little discouraging to some, don’t give up on your dream of moving forward in basketball. There are definitely ways to make yourself one of these statistics, and that is in your preparation. Preparation doesn’t always mean focusing on JUST your skills and practicing every day. As that is a huge component, there are other ways to prepare for success that are just as important.
Watts Basketball’s Recommendations to Reaching Your Goals:
– Study the college basketball game and successful college players: I always tell my players to identify 5 successful players who play their position and have similar physical attributes and to follow their careers intently.
-Get on campus early: You can always take unofficial visits to colleges, call coaches, schedule campus tours and not just at big schools, but schools of all levels. Do this early in your high school career and even in middle school.
-Visit a college practice: Watch practice to get an understanding of the intensity and coaching that college players prepare with.
-Listen to coaches post-game to understand the coach’s values: After a game listen to coaches comments about the game, the way it played out, the players and the way they played. Get to know the things that college coaches value so you can exhibit them in showcases and games.
2. Understand Academic Rules and Guidelines
There are academic requirements that must be understood and prepared for. It is important you know the minimum GPA requirements and test scores that are a sliding scale. Understand that a great GPA with a great SAT or ACT score will greatly increase your recruit ability and make you eligible for schools that many athletes are not qualified for.
Understand NCAA Grade Requirements
Watts Basketball’s Recommendations for Meeting GPA Requirements:
Work with your school counselor:
- Talk to school counselors your freshman year or now if your older, help them understand your goals. If you need to take them to the NCAA athletic requirements don’t be afraid to do so.
- Ask them to help you set up a system of accountability.
- Ensure you are taking the required classes and performing well in them.
- If you struggle in class, ask for help! Understand what additional resources are available to you in school as well as outside resources. These resources are here to help you! Take advantage of them.
- Take a Pre SAT/Pre ACT at the end of your freshman or sophomore year. This will give you valuable experience and will help you gauge what you need to work on in order to get the best score possible.
- If you need an SAT Prep class, make the time to enroll and take the class.
- Sign up and take the SAT/ACT early in your junior year.
3. Take Control of your goal
Get to know NCAA Terms and the Recruiting Calendar:
For boys, there are only 21 Days of Live Evaluation periods where coaches can watch you play with your AAU program. Those days fall on 2 weekends in April and 3 weeks in July. http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/mens-basketball
For Girls there are 23 days consisting of 2 weekends in April 2 weeks in July and a weekend in September. https://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/Women’s%20Basketball.pdf
Contact Period: A contact happens any time a college coach says more than hello during a face-to-face meeting with you or your parents off the college’s campus.
Dead Period: A college coach may not have any face-to-face contact with you or your parents on or off the college campus at any time during a dead period. The coach may write and call you or you or your parents during this time.
Evaluation Period: During an evaluation period, a college coach may watch you complete, visit your high school and write or telephone you or your parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period.
Quiet Period: During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus. The coach may not watch you play or visit your high school during this period. You or your parents may visit a college campus during this time. A coach may write or call you or your parents during this time.
Watts Basketball recommendations for taking advantage of the recruiting calendar:
The time in between should be viewed as preparation. The number of games that are played that aren’t in the months April and July are not as significant as advertised and having to many of these tournaments and playing year round can create tournamentitis, a condition where player simply just go through the motions, this can be detrimental to your recruiting process. During these times what is highly recommended is the following:
Working on your game- skills that translate to the next level
Visiting campuses- Taking unofficial campus visits, introducing yourself to coaches and understanding their needs.
Attending open gyms- attend college open gym from junior colleges to universities to play against bigger, faster, stronger competition giving you a format to show where you’re at and prepare you for your tournaments.
Watching college workouts- Watch college strength and conditioning programs to see what it take to be a collegiate athlete.
4. College Basketball Prospects Timeline:
This training stage covers ages 11-16. The objectives are to build the endurance base, strength, optimize fitness preparation and to further develop basketball specific skills. The commitment to the game can be a consideration for children in this age group, however most are not yet ready to make the decision. The commitment must come from a personal choice by the player.
- Make reps and gym time your priority, tons of shooting
- Lots of reps, 1 on 1 , 3 on 3
- Play with the local organizations to minimize travel time and maximize gym time
- Play with older kids to find better competition
- Take PSAT
- Focus on lots of reps
- Take an unofficial campus visit at different levels
- Concentrate on high school developmental needs. Next year you will not be the biggest fish, you will be the smallest and need survival skills to play at the highest level
This training stage covers ages 14-14. The objective at this stage is to develop skills and group tactics, continue to build endurance and aerobic base and further develop and consideration sport specific skills.
- Master specific skill sets for your position
- Lots of reps, focusing on the impact in your high school program
- Developing work groups/partners at school
- Establish an academic foundation should be their priority
- Take 4-5 core classes
- Take 3 unofficial college visits
- Take PSAT
- Create an account on eligibility site
- Concentrate energy on being an all-conference performer
- Show leadership in your program
- Focus on mastering specific skills
- Become a contribution to your varsity program
- Take 3 unofficial college visits
Fulfillment and Final Stage:
This training stage covers ages 16-17+. The objective at this stage is to continue to refine skills and tactics that were previously learned, with an emphasis on developing positional and team play and improving consistency and speed of play.
- Have your sight set on being an all-conference performer
- Take SAT in the fall
- Develop your skill set for the next level to show in summer
- Get unofficial transcripts sent to NCAA eligibility center
- This is the time that your AAU exposure really matters
- Take 3 unofficial college visits
- Sign national letter of intent in the fall
- If you do not sign a letter of intent, start making plans for prep school, junior college, and think about perusing a D1 or D2 school