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Basketball Tournaments: Are They Important for Recruiting?

men's basketball player

Basketball tournaments can help you get recruited. College coaches attend basketball tournaments to see you compete at the highest level and make scholarship offer decisions. Get answers to the top questions about basketball tournaments, search all men’s basketball recruiting events here, or find opportunities to get evaluated at a basketball tournament near you with our complete list below. 

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If you have any questions — or want to talk about college recruiting—contact us at:

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Have you let college coaches know which tournaments you plan to attend? Share your tournament schedule on your NCSA Recruiting Profile. Create a profile today.  

Top questions about men’s basketball tournaments 

What is travel basketball? 

There are essentially two seasons to compete in, high school and travel basketball. More commonly known as grassroots basketball or AAU, the purpose of travel basketball is to give elite players the opportunity to play in front of college coaches. Which can ultimately help them earn a scholarship. The travel basketball season typically begins in March and runs through the end of July and sometimes into October.  

Travel basketball teams are broken down into 3 levels for high school: 

How do you play in basketball tournaments? 

To play in tournaments, you’ll need to belong to a team. Today, there are hundreds of programs to choose from. Teams are usually formed with local talent, but more prominent programs can recruit players from a state or two away. The key is finding a program that highlights your strengths and matches your recruiting goals. Learn more about AAU basketball.  

Find a travel basketball program that highlights your stengths and matches your recruiting goals

Are basketball tournaments important for recruiting? 

Almost all men’s college basketball players have played in the grassroots basketball circuit at some point in their career. College coaches rely heavily on travel tournaments to help find and evaluate recruits. Why? The window to watch a prospective recruit play in-person is limited, and these basketball tournaments are held during the major NCAA men’s basketball evaluation periods. Plus, AAU offers a higher level of competition than high school.  

When should you start playing in basketball tournaments? 

You shouldn’t worry about playing in NCAA certified basketball tournaments until the summer before your sophomore year. This is when coaches (realistically) start to watch and evaluate players in person. They will spend most of their time focusing on juniors and seniors, but Division 1 and some top Division 2 programs can start to build out their list 2-3 grad years in advance. 

Are basketball tournaments the only way to get recruited? 

Parents and athletes can get caught up in the hype of “AAU or bust”. It’s great to get experience playing competitive basketball. But your time and money might be better spent on local competitive teams, camps or personal trainers to help prepare your athlete for basketball tournaments when it’s most appropriate for college recruiting.  

How much does it cost to play in basketball tournaments? 

Playing for an AAU or club basketball team in the summer is not cheap, which is why we recommend playing in tournaments when it’s most appropriate for college recruiting. Depending on the team, families can expect to pay $300 to $4,000 per summer to play. Not all program fees include things like uniforms, tournament fees, and travel costs. It’s important to ask the coach upfront what the fees include. Financial assistance is usually only offered to highly rated players. But programs sponsored by a major shoe company like Nike or run by a non-profit group can lower the overall cost for players.   

Will college coaches find you at basketball tournaments? 

When coaches arrive to a tournament, they’re handed a booklet that contains the tournament schedule and team rosters which includes contact information for hundreds of student-athletes. Most of the time, they already have a list of recruits they want to watch. It’s almost impossible for a coach to see every team play in one tournament. So, if you’re not on the list you probably won’t get seen.  

How do you get on the list of players to watch? Let coaches know which tournaments you’re playing in by phone, email, text or social media. Include your highlight video and ask what other tournaments or showcases they’ll be attending.

What if a coach doesn’t see my games at a basketball tournament?  

Coaches have a lot of players to watch at a basketball tournament, so they probably won’t see every game you play. If possible, ask your parents or club coach to record your tournament games. The video footage you collect can be used to update your highlight video, which you can send to college coaches following the travel basketball season.  

Are you choosing the right basketball tournaments? 

The tournaments you compete in will largely be controlled by your travel team. Adidas Gauntlet, Under Armour Association and Nike EYBL are currently the standards of the league. These teams offer exclusive apparel and travel to places around the country to play in league games. But is it best for your recruiting? Learn more about choosing the right AAU team for you.  

What are the best basketball tournaments to play in? 

There are a ton of tournaments that can get you college exposure. The key is to find tournaments that best match up with your recruiting goals and playing abilities. NCAA D1 and top D2 athletes will benefit from attending big-name tournaments. Whereas NCAA D3 and NAIA level players might have better luck getting noticed by college coaches at local, competitive tournaments. Keep in mind, the majority of college coaches are going to attend tournaments that are within driving distance of their campus. 

Here are some of the biggest tournaments for boys’ basketball: 

What do coaches look for at basketball tournaments? 

College coaches recruit at basketball tournaments because they can watch a lot of elite level players during a short amount of time. You’ll be lucky if a coach watches more than half of your game at a time, so it’s important to make the most of every minute you’re out on the court and find ways to stand out. Players that earn scholarships demonstrate the top 5 qualities college coaches look for in recruits.

Top 5 qualities a coach looks for in basketball recruits: 1. Attitude, 2. Competitiveness, 3. Basketball IQ, 4. Position-specific skills, 5. Defense
  1. Attitude
  2. Competitiveness
  3. Basketball IQ
  4. Position-Specific skills
  5. Defense


Basketball tournaments allow you to play with and against some of the best men’s basketball players in the nation while gaining exposure to college coaches. Let coaches know which tournaments you’ll be playing in! Access college coach contact information through your NCSA Recruiting Profile.

Create a profile today.  

Learn more about the different types of basketball events:  

Basketball camps
Basketball showcases