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.
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:
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.
Here is a general guideline you can follow year-by-year to ensure your family is on track.
College coaches consider a few factors when determining an athlete’s ability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do college coaches recruit at AAU or high school games? The answer is, both. But joining an AAU program and competing during the off-season gives recruits the advantage to be seen by college scouts year round. It can be difficult for college coaches to attend many high school games during the regular season because of their competing schedules. AAU tournaments provide college coaches the opportunity to evaluate many recruits at one time.
To get a membership or start a club, you can visit AAU’s website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the right camp:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.