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What Is Recruiting in College Basketball?
Every year, college coaches extend thousands of basketball scholarship offers to the top high-school athletes throughout the United States. College basketball recruiting occurs in phases from freshman year through senior year, though some college athletic programs scout middle school players. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) governs the college sports recruitment process with stringent guidelines to provide student-athletes with an equal opportunity for recruitment. College-bound student-athletes can work within these NCAA guidelines to get their name and resumes in front of top college basketball coaches. For these aspiring athletes, the goal is to impress a college coaching staff, make a mutual verbal commitment, and eventually sign a national letter of intent to commit to a specific college basketball team.
What Are NCAA Divisions?
The NCAA divides most US-based colleges into three categories: Division I, Division II, or Division III—each differentiated by their sizes and number of available athletic scholarships.
- Division I: The top college teams play in NCAA Division I, where large numbers of varsity basketball players attend on athletic scholarships (along with a few non-scholarship athletes known as walk-ons).
- Division II: Basketball programs in this intermediate division are ran out of smaller schools with less funding than Division I schools. D-II coaches can also offer scholarships to amateur athletes, but at lower rates than D-I coaches.
- Division III: Division III schools do not offer any college basketball scholarships, but players at these schools can still receive a full-ride via financial aid.
How to Improve Your Recruitment Chances for College Basketball
Here are some tips for prospective student-athletes who want to increase their recruitment chances:
- Play in challenging leagues. College recruiters typically scout players in top high school leagues, prominent summer camps, club teams, and AAU basketball teams. Playing in these leagues can help round out your skills and show off your talents to recruiters and scouts. The AAU (which stands for Amateur Athletic Union) has a mixed reputation among coaches since most AAU players focus on individual highlights rather than team play. Still, many D-I and D-II level coaches routinely recruit from its ranks.
- Create video reels. As a rule, coaches cannot travel to see players in person, so the highlight video gives student-athletes a chance to show coaches their skills. A well-produced highlight film and a full game tape from a particularly strong performance can serve as your calling card with Division I, Division II, and Division III coaches. Posting these videos on social media can also help spread the word about your talent.
- Contact coaches. While NCAA guidelines are strict, they allow high school players to place a phone call to a college head coach. If you’re unsure where to start, ask your high school coach as they often have relationships with college coaches, and can help you make a connection. If a college coach shows sincere interest, you'll eventually want to pay an official visit to their campus for a face-to-face meeting.
- Display academic promise. College-bound student-athletes must maintain a requisite grade point average throughout the academic year to be eligible for college division basketball. Take the most rigorous class schedule and maintain a good grade point average. Standardized test scores also matter, as most colleges require a minimum SAT or ACT score. An excellent academic record gives you a better chance of claiming a roster spot in a competitive program.
- Consider junior college or NAIA teams. Some graduates may not find a good fit within an NCAA Division I team, but this does not mean they cannot play basketball at a high level. These students may opt to play for a junior college or a team in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an NCAA competitor. Spending two years on such teams may be your best shot at a mid-career recruitment to a top D-I or D-II program.
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