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How to Get Recruited for College Basketball

Impact of Coronavirus on College Basketball Recruiting: The NCAA has continued its suspension of all in-person recruiting through January 1; D2 and D3 levels have resumed their normal recruiting calendars. The NCAA also granted an extra year of eligibility to college seniors. The impact of coronavirus on sports is that right now, most recruiting activity is happening online. The timing of when sports will come back is being determined by the state, local and national governing bodies. Here is more information on how coronavirus will impact Basketball.

Playing college basketball is the dream for thousands of student-athletes across the country. But many families are often unsure of how to go about getting recruited by coaches. To be successful, recruits need to research their best college fit and actively market themselves to these coaches by creating an online profile and highlight video that showcases their athletic ability and leadership qualities. This section will answer the most common questions families have on how to get recruited for college basketball.

How does college basketball recruiting work? 

Basketball recruits who are successful in their recruiting journey do the leg work: they build a list of realistic schools, create an online profile and highlight film, contact college coaches and compete in front of coaches at tournaments and camps. From a coach’s perspective, here’s a quick overview of how they find student-athletes:

  • Identify potential recruits. At any point in high school, coaches can send general materials, such as recruiting questionnaires, to student-athletes, and they usually send them out to a large number of freshmen and sophomores to gauge their interest in the program. Respond promptly to these materials.
  • Second, in-depth evaluations. At this point, coaches focus on ranking their prospects and narrowing down their list. This is the stage where most families think the recruiting process begins. However, athletes who’ve made it this far have already passed an initial evaluation and shown some interest in the school. Tournaments, camps and highlight film are the most common ways coaches evaluate basketball prospects.
  • Verbal offers and visits. After coaches have their list of ranked prospects, they extend offers and lock down verbal commitments. Many recruits who are being seriously recruited will partake in unofficial and official visits during their junior and senior years. 

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How to get recruited to play men’s college basketball

Recruiting isn’t a linear, clear-cut process. You could be nearing the end of your conversations with one coach, while simultaneously just beginning with another. But knowing what steps you can take to create a communication strategy and market yourself will help you secure a scholarship offer.

  1. Research and build a target list. Student-athletes should visit college rosters and look at the players in their position (are they seniors who are graduating?), athletic stats (how do they measure up?) and backgrounds (does the coach recruit from a particular region or tournament?).
  2. Compete at the highest level possible: To accurately assess a recruit’s ability to compete in college, coaches want to see them play against high-ranked athletes.
  3. Compete in the summer during live periods: Scheduling conflicts make it difficult for college coaches to watch recruits play in-person during the regular season. So, they turn to live periods. These stretches in the offseason allow college basketball scouts and coaches to hit the road and scout several players at once. Attend elite or exposure camps as well.
  4. Excel academically. The NCAA Eligibility Center determines the academic eligibility and amateur status for all NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 athletes. Understand the requirements to stay on track.
  5. Create a highlight film. The best way to secure an in-depth and in-person evaluation is by sending coaches a highlight video and a full game film. It’s a quick way to show a snapshot of the recruit’s skill set.
  6. Be proactive. Start by sending an introductory email that includes your online profile, highlight video, academic information, outstanding athletic achievements and personal interest in the program. Then follow up with a phone call. 

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Men’s basketball recruiting timeline broken down by year in school

Here is a general guideline you can follow year-by-year to ensure your family is on track.

Freshman year

  • Fill out questionnaires online and respond to coach materials. College coaches can send recruits general materials, such as questionnaires, camp information, non-athletic information about the school and materials published by the NCAA at any time.
  • Meet with your guidance counselor and set academic goals for the year to keep your academic eligibility on track.
  • Research colleges from all division levels.
  • Create an online profile and if you have varsity or high-level competitive film, post your highlight video.
  • Be proactive and call Division 1 and Division 2 coaches or athletics staff and talk to them on the phone.

Sophomore year

  • Post your highlight video to your online profile, if you haven’t already.
  • Aug. 1—Recruits can begin taking unofficial visits to Division 1 schools.
  • Check that your sophomore year classes meet NCAA academic eligibility standards and register for the NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Send introductory emails to college coaches at your target colleges, if you haven’t already. And follow up with a phone call.
  • NCAA Division 1 and Division 2— Student-athletes can receive personal contact and recruiting materials starting June 15 after their sophomore year. Coaches can call athletes, send text messages, direct messages and emails, as well as make verbal offers. Top Division 1 and Division 2 athletes are getting offers from college coaches at this time. Most Division 1 rosters are finalized before the start of junior year.
  • NCAA Division 3—Off-campus contact is allowed after sophomore year. 

Junior year

  • Take the ACT or SAT and submit your scores to the NCAA Eligibility Center. Upload your transcript to the Eligibility Center as well.
  • Update your highlight video.
  • NCAA Division 1—Off-campus contact is allowed beginning your opening day of classes.
  • NCAA Division 1—Official Visits are allowed Aug. 1 of your junior year through completion of junior year (5 total visits).
  • NCAA Division 3—Official visits allowed starting Jan. 1 of junior year.
  • Offers continue to roll in for Division 2 prospects, as well as Division 3 and NAIA athletes.
  • If you’re not getting interest from coaches at the schools you’ve been contacting, take a new look at your college list and find new opportunities.

Senior year

  • Update your highlight video.
  • NCAA Division 1—Recruits can take an additional five official visits during their senior year. They may re-visit a school from a junior year official visit.
  • Nov. 13-20—Early signing period for NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 schools begins.
  • Nov. 1—NJCAA Signing Date.
  • Apply for the FAFSA on Oct. 1.
  • Register with the NAIA Eligibility Center.
  • Request final amateurism certification beginning April 1 in NCAA Eligibility Center account.
  • April 15-May 20—Regular signing period occurs for Division 1 and Division 2.
  • Division 3 and NAIA teams are finalizing their rosters during senior year. JUCO programs are also recruiting student-athletes at this time. Consider these schools if you haven’t secured a roster spot yet. 

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What do college basketball scouts look for in recruits?

College coaches consider a few factors when determining an athlete’s ability. 

  • Physical characteristics—height and body frame, athleticism and strength. In NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball, the average height of a college basketball player was just under 6’5” and the most common height listed was 6’7”.
  • Technical skills. Coaches want to recruit student-athletes who have mastered the fundamentals.
  • Basketball IQ. Can the student-athlete process information in real time during a game and make the right decisions?
  • Academics. College coaches look for recruits who excel in the classroom. They know that student-athletes with a solid GPA and test scores will more likely be admitted into their university and have an easier college transition. Plus, a good GPA also tells coaches that the recruit is responsible and disciplined—traits they highly value. 

Of course, what coaches look for also depends on their program’s specific needs. Connecting with a college coach is the best way to understand what kind of recruit they need. Another quick way is to visit the team’s website and analyze their roster. 

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What percentage of high school basketball players play in college?

There are 551,373 high school men’s basketball players. Of that number, 18,540 —or 3.4 percent—go on to compete in the NCAA and less than one percent move on to the NAIA. Just less than one percent compete in NCAA Division 1 where there are 353 teams; one percent compete at the NCAA Division 2 level, which has 313 programs; and 1.4 percent compete at NCAA Division 3 with 109 teams. There are 430 JUCO programs rostering 6,352 basketball players. 

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How important is club basketball in the college basketball recruiting process? 

AAU, which stands for the Amateur Athletic Union, can be a valuable tool in gaining exposure to college coaches. It allows recruits to compete against top tier athletes and offers coaches an extended look into their abilities. Elite Division 1 basketball players are often recognized in middle school through their AAU experience. But even though AAU provides several competitive opportunities, it isn’t a requirement to obtain a college basketball scholarship. Several prospects have foregone the AAU circuit and moved on to successful college and professional careers.

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How to join a AAU basketball team. How does AAU basketball work? 

AAU is a youth sports organization and stands for the Amateur Athletic Union. Athletes form independent teams and compete in AAU tournaments against other teams. Teams are assigned based on geography. To find out which district you belong to and which team is best for you, you can visit the AAU website.

Many athletes value AAU as it provides an opportunity to compete against top-level talent that you typically wouldn’t find by solely playing locally. There are various levels of competition within AAU and as players develop and get better, they’ll switch to a higher competitive team. As a result, many AAU tournaments, especially NCAA-certified tournaments, often attract scouts, giving athletes a chance to play in front of college coaches. However, participating in these events can be costly. The AAU membership fee is $14 per year, but families can end up paying $400 to $4,000 dollars per year depending on how many tournaments they travel to. Many programs, however, offer financial assistance to help cut the high price tag associated with AAU.

To get a membership or start a club, you can visit AAU’s website.  

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What to know about college basketball walk ons and how to walk onto a college basketball team

The first thing you should know about becoming a college basketball walk-on is that it is rare. Basketball rosters are not that big—there’s an average of 17 players per team across the divisions. Coaches aren’t going to give up spots to walk-ons if they don’t have to. Some student-athletes, though, are recruited as a preferred walk-on. These athletes go through the recruiting process and are offered a roster spot, but they don’t receive any athletic aid as the coach doesn’t have any scholarship opportunities available. 

Student-athletes have a better chance of walking on to a college team as a preferred walk-on compared to going to a tryout and making the team. Preferred walk-ons take all the necessary steps in the recruiting process to capture a coach’s attention: they proactively contact coaches and send their online resume; they attend camps and tournaments to gain exposure; they reach out to schools that are the right academic and athletic fit for them; and they take unofficial visits to the college.

Learn more about becoming a walk-on versus getting a scholarship offer

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What is a preferred walk on in college basketball? 

After college coaches have handed out all of their scholarship opportunities, they may still continue to recruit student-athletes. In this scenario, a student-athlete is guaranteed a roster spot without receiving any athletic aid. These are known as preferred walk-ons. The recruit still goes through the recruiting process and joins the team—the coach just doesn’t have an athletic scholarship available for them.

Being a preferred walk-on means something different depending on the division and program, though. In NCAA Division 1, walk-ons typically don’t see much playing time and are less likely to receive an athletic scholarship in subsequent years. At the NCAA Division 2 and JUCO levels, however, some walk-ons earn playing time and a scholarship going into their second season. It is best to have clear communication with the college coach to understand playing and scholarship opportunities.

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Do college basketball teams have tryouts? 

While NCAA Division 1 and Division 2 programs are allowed to conduct basketball tryouts, Division 3 cannot do so. Tryouts are limited to prospective student-athletes who are seniors in high school, junior college transfers or four-year transfers who have completed their basketball season. Tryout participants also must be on an official or unofficial visit to the campus. 

Typically college coaches only recruit one to two players as walk-ons. In Division 1, walk-on athletes don’t receive athletic aid and usually don’t get any playing time. Division 2 and JUCO programs more commonly give walk-ons a chance at competing for a roster spot and because these divisions offer partial scholarships, there’s also a chance to earn athletic aid after the first year. 

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How to prepare for basketball tryouts and what coaches look for in basketball tryouts 

When making roster decisions, college coaches consider a recruit’s physical characteristics, like height and body frame, athleticism, ability to execute the fundamentals and basketball IQ, which showcases the athlete’s ability to interpret what is happening at game speed, as well as their ability to make the right decision based on instinct and experience. These players can anticipate what will happen next, making their game more automatic. 

Securing a roster spot at a tryout is extremely rare. Student-athletes will improve their chances of walking on to a college team by establishing a relationship with the college coach ahead of time. Send them an introductory email with highlight film, game film, academic information, and contact information. 

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How tall are men’s college basketball players? 

The height of men’s college basketball players vary slightly from division to division. Generally, men’s basketball players are between 5’9” and 6’9”. Keep in mind that this should be used as a helpful guideline and not something set in stone. Players who don’t fall within these ranges are recruited every year by college coaches. The best way to understand a coach’s recruiting needs is to establish a relationship with them early on and analyze their current team roster.

View the average height of men’s basketball players by position across each division level.

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Attend basketball recruiting camps to get noticed by college coaches 

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the right camp: 

  • College basketball camps are run by the college’s basketball program. Student-athletes have an opportunity to sample campus life and compete in front of the coach.
  • Basketball exposure camps are designed to evaluate players and obtain a player ranking. Although they are not tied to a specific university, many basketball exposure camps offer players an opportunity to play in front of college coaches, especially at NCAA DIII men’s basketball coaches. Many of these camps are invitation-only, so the talent level is high – and excellent for player development.
  • Lastly, there is a level of “elite camps.” These are typically invitation-only events that bring together the top recruits from each graduate class to compete against each other at a national level. They’re run by college coaches on the school’s campus, so they’re a great way for athletes to get exposure to coaches. 

If you want to get recruited at a college basketball camp, remember that most coaches attend events only to see players with whom they’ve already made some kind of connection.

Learn more about basketball camps and search for the best camps.

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What does redshirt mean in college basketball?

The term “redshirt” is used to describe a student-athlete who does not participate in outside competition for an academic year. They’re allowed to practice and train with the team, but they don’t see any playing time. By doing this, they gain an additional year of eligibility, so technically they play four seasons in five years. Some coaches offer redshirt scholarships to freshmen who don’t meet the academic eligibility requirements coming out of high school, or as a chance to physically grow and prepare to compete as a collegiate athlete. In some cases, student-athletes redshirt for a year as they recover from an injury. 

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Learn how to make a college recruiting video for basketball

Creating a basketball highlight video is essential to garnering coach interest. Follow these straight-forward tips to put together a video that truly stands out: 

  1. Choose games against your best competition, such as varsity level, high-level AAU games or any nationwide tournaments.
  2. Focus the camera from mid-court while making sure the student-athlete is easily recognizable.
  3. Use a tripod to avoid a shaky camera.
  4. Don’t zoom in and out.
  5. Make sure the person filming the match isn’t cheering. If there is excessive and distracting background noise, mute the video completely. Don’t add music to the video either.
  6. Put a title card at the front of your basketball highlight video that includes your name and graduation year, such as “John Doe Basketball Recruiting Video Class of 2021.”
  7. Stack your best clips first. Typically you’ll start your video by highlighting your shooting ability.
  8. Focus on three or four strengths and organize your clips to highlight them. For example, if you’re an excellent three-point shooter, highlighting six straight threes is much more effective than showcasing one three-pointer, a pass, then a free throw, and then maybe another three, etc. 
  9. Know what coaches are looking for in your position. In short, post players should showcase their shooting ability, quickness, ability to finish at the rim, rebounding, shot blocking, footwork and overall basketball awareness. Perimeter players should focus on scoring ability, quickness, ability to penetrate and finish at the rim, athleticism, basketball awareness and court vision. 
  10. Cap your video with your best 20 to 30 clips and keep it under four minutes.
  11. Send college coaches your highlight video, as well as one unedited full game video. If they’re interested in a recruit after watching their highlight film, they will want to evaluate the full game next. 

See the full list of tips for creating a basketball highlight video.  

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Research schools and create your target list 

The very first step in the recruiting journey is often the one most overlooked—research. Here are the most important factors to keep in mind:

  • Academics: Visit the school’s website to see the average grades and test scores. Plus, consider which majors are offered and remember to ask the coach which majors are popular among athletes on the team.
  • Athletics: Student-athletes can use their high school or club coach to help them assess where they can make an impact, or they can visit a team’s roster and analyze the athletes’ key stats.
  • Cost: How much can your family afford and how much aid is the student-athlete eligible to receive at each school? NCAA Division 1 schools offer full ride scholarships, while Division 2, NAIA and JUCO programs offer partial scholarships. Many coaches, including NCAA Division 3, work with the admissions department to create financial packages that include need-based aid, grants, academic scholarships, work study and merit-based scholarships.
  • Personal Preferences: Think about housing options, school size, social aspects, distance from home and even the weather.

As families start to find programs they’re interested in, we recommend sorting them into three categories: target schools, dream schools and safety schools. Most of the schools on a student-athlete’s list should fall into the target category.

Get a head start on your list by viewing NCSA’s list of Best Colleges for Student-Athletes.

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Contact coaches on your target list

Once a recruit has done the research and built a realistic target list of colleges, they’re ready to contact coaches. Remember—never wait for a coach to reach out. Be proactive to get on their radar. Here are a few steps to take:   

  1. Send an introductory email: An introductory email serves two purposes—to get an initial evaluation and establish a relationship with the coach. Make sure this email includes highlight film, academic information, contact information and key stats. Student-athletes should also personalize their email and explain their interest in that specific program. Never copy and paste—it’s almost guaranteed to get skipped over.
  2. Tailor the subject line: Avoid generic subject lines, such as “Top basketball recruit,” and tailor the subject line to the school instead. For example, a recruit might want to include their GPA and test score in the subject line for high academic colleges, while highlighting key stats or awards to Division 1 schools.
  3. Call coaches. Basketball coaches are allowed to talk to athletes on the phone when the recruits are the ones initiating contact. In other words, if a recruit calls an NCAA Division 1 coach, the coach is allowed to talk to them. Typically, they’ll want to email them letting them know what time they plan on calling so the coach can be prepared
  4. Follow up. Whenever there is a noteworthy update to share, like a new ACT or SAT score or athletic achievement, email the college coach again to touch base. Because if they missed the first email (and coaches tend to be pretty busy), following up can help keep you top of mind.

See the full list of tips on contacting coaches.   

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How your high school coach can help you in your recruiting process

High school or club coaches are there to support student-athletes along their recruiting journey—and help them connect with college coaches. Here are a few ways: 

  • Find the right college fit: Use their expertise and insight to create a college list of realistic programs. Plus, they probably have connections in the college network.
  • Connect with college coaches: There’s a loophole in the NCAA basketball recruiting rules that allows student-athletes and college coaches to talk on the phone. If a student-athlete initiates the contact and calls the college coach, the coach is allowed to answer the phone and talk to the recruit. High school coaches can help facilitate this contact by acting as a liaison.
  • Character reference: Men’s basketball coaches want to learn as much as they can about their top recruits, including their leadership qualities, attitude and talent. So, they call the recruit’s high school or club coach to get a better understanding of the athlete’s mental toughness, work ethic and behavior both on and off the court. 
  • Video help: Don’t hesitate to ask your coach for help when creating a highlight film. Plus, they probably have full game footage already available.

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