Though much of the attention directed towards collegiate sports is at the NCAA and NAIA levels, it’s important not to forget the largest group of men’s basketball programs in the country—junior colleges with basketball teams. While junior colleges—often abbreviated as JUCO—are often overlooked in the athletic recruiting process, men’s basketball players interested in competing at the college level are increasingly turning to junior colleges before moving on to four-year colleges. One of the main benefits of playing JUCO basketball is getting a sense of what college athletics are like. Some students may want to develop athletically or academically for a year or two before moving on to an NCAA or NAIA school. Likewise, for students who are undecided about their major or general course of study, it makes more sense from a financial standpoint to knock out some prerequisite courses for a fraction of the cost compared to a four-year private or public college.
For student-athletes wondering how competitive JUCO basketball is, the answer is simple: very. According to an NCAA study, 14.8 percent of all JUCO basketball players transferred from junior colleges with basketball programs to a four-year NCAA Division 1 college program in 2018—compared to 1 percent of high-school basketball players who went on to play D1 basketball immediately following their senior year. Some elite JUCO basketball programs, especially those at the NJCAA D1 and D2 levels, are scouted by college coaches recruiting for NCAA D1 basketball programs. College basketball coaches often turn to junior colleges to meet their recruiting needs even before reaching out to high-school athletes. Their reason? Recruiting at the junior college level is a safer bet—coaches know they’re recruiting players who can already balance academics and athletics at the college level and are more developed athletically than their high school peers.
One of the biggest misconceptions about junior colleges is that they do not give out athletic scholarships. Fortunately, there are athletic scholarship opportunities available at several men’s NJCAA basketball colleges. Like the NCAA, NJCAA basketball scholarships are limited to the Division 1 and 2 levels, with full rides—that is, those that include room and board—restricted to the D1 level. NJCAA and NCAA Division 3 basketball programs do not receive athletic scholarships, but men’s basketball student-athletes may receive merit and need-based aid. However, most other JUCO men’s basketball programs, like those participating in the California Community College Athletics Association (CCCAA) do not offer athletes athletic scholarships.
Insider tip: Unlike basketball programs at the NAIA level, NCAA and NJCAA basketball is considered a headcount sport. That means college coaches must award each scholarship (whether a full-ride or partial award) to a single recruit—if there are more than 15 recruits on a team, some will not receive a scholarship at all.
The NJCAA has more than 450 junior colleges with basketball programs across the country, making it the largest junior college athletics association in the United States. Though these are two-year colleges, they do draw some similarities to four-year colleges at the NCAA level. For instance, like the NCAA, NJCAA basketball is comprised of three division levels—NJCAA D1, D2 and D3. These 452 member colleges are split among 24 regions, though not every region has participants in all division levels. There are currently 208 NJCAA basketball colleges competing at the D1 level, 139 at the D2 level and 105 at the D3 level.
For a full list of NJCAA basketball member colleges, including a breakdown of the NJCAA basketball rankings at each division level and NJCAA men’s basketball teams by region, check out the NJCAA men’s basketball website. We’ve also included all NJCAA basketball colleges in our complete list of men’s JUCO basketball teams.
Junior colleges with basketball programs can be found in several athletic associations and conferences. While the NJCAA is the largest athletic association—with 452 member colleges and 45 conferences—there a number of others, including the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA), United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), and the Association of Christian College Athletics (ACCA). Each association is tied to several conferences based on a JUCO’s location. There are also a few independent conferences, including the Liga Atlética Interuniversitaria de Puerto Rico, which is comprised of JUCO men’s basketball program in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Certain associations, such as the NJCAA, have more conferences not only because they have more member colleges, but also because they’re geographically spread out throughout the U.S. NJCAA basketball colleges do participate in athletic conferences, but they are also assigned a specific NJCAA Region based on their geographic location. These regions are then used to help determine team qualifications for the NJCAA Men’s Division 1, 2 and 3 Basketball Championships. For a full breakdown of the NJCAA’s region structure, check out the organization of NJCAA regions.
Several organizations offer NJCAA basketball rankings, including the NJCAA, JUCORecruiting.com and the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches Association. Here are the top D1 NJCAA basketball colleges, according to the NJCAA:
Then, look at all junior colleges with basketball teams, including those who compete in conferences outside of the NJCAA—like the CCCAA—below.
Here are the top men’s CCCAA basketball colleges, according to the CCCAA: