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Women’s Basketball Tournaments: A Path to College Recruitment

Basketball tournaments bring together talent from across the country and allow you to compete in front of NCAA D1, D2, D3 and NAIA coaches. Get answers to the top questions about women’s basketball tournaments and find opportunities to get evaluated at a basketball tournament near you with our complete list below. 

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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 women’s basketball tournaments 

What is travel basketball? 

Travel basketball refers to any non-school team that is competing in the off-season. You may be more familiar with the grassroots basketball circuit or AAU basketball, which has earned the brand over most travel teams. The purpose of travel basketball is to give elite players the opportunity to play in competitive basketball tournaments where college coaches are present, ultimately helping them earn a scholarship to play at the next level. 

Who can play in a basketball tournament? 

You must belong to a travel team to compete in basketball tournaments. Today, there are hundreds of programs to choose from. Most teams are formed locally, but more prominent programs can recruit players from a state or two away. Find a travel team that can highlight your strengths on the court and a coach that can help you reach your recruiting goals. If you’re overshadowed by elite players in your position, you will have a harder time getting noticed by college coaches. Learn more about choosing the right AAU team

Why do college coaches recruit at basketball tournaments? 

The window to watch a recruits play in-person is limited, so college coaches rely on basketball tournaments to see their list of recruits compete against one another. The best tournaments are held during the major NCAA women’s basketball evaluation periods in April, May and July.  

womens basketball college coach

When can you start playing in basketball tournaments? 

There are a ton of competitive basketball programs that get you to start playing in basketball tournaments at a very young age. But when it comes to recruiting, it’s best to wait until your sophomore year to play in NCAA certified basketball tournaments. This is when coaches truly start to watch you in person and evaluate you as a potential recruit. D1 and some top D2 programs begin to build out their recruiting list 2-3 grad years in advance. 

Are basketball tournaments important for recruiting? 

Almost all women’s college basketball players played in the AAU basketball circuit, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Parents and athletes can get caught up in the hype of “AAU or bust”. Depending on your skill level and age, your time and money might be better spent on local competitive teams, camps or personal trainers to help prepare you for travel basketball when it’s most appropriate for college recruiting. You should also prioritize all summer workouts and camps with your high school team. High school summer ball takes place in June. 

What is the cost of playing in basketball tournaments? 

Travel basketball is not cheap. 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. So, be sure to ask the coach upfront. Some teams are sponsored by a major shoe company like Nike or Adidas or run by a non-profit group which in return can lower the overall cost for players.   

Will college coaches see you play at basketball tournaments? 

On-site, coaches are handed a booklet that contains the tournament schedule and team rosters which includes contact information for hundreds of student-athletes. It’s almost impossible for a coach to see every team play in one tournament. That’s why it’s important to let college coaches know which tournaments you’ll be playing in.  

Email your travel basketball schedule to the schools you’re interested in. Ask what other tournaments or showcases they’ll be attending so you know when they’ll be watching you play. Talk with your AAU coach to make sure your team is playing in tournaments that are best for your recruiting. You can also check the tournament website to see which colleges are attending.  

What can you do if a coach doesn’t see you play in a basketball tournament?  

Remember, coaches have a lot of players to see in a short amount of time. If a coach doesn’t catch one of your games in person, don’t worry. Ask your parents or one of your basketball coaches to record the tournament games. The video you collect can be used to update your highlight video. You can also send full games to college coaches after each tournament.  

womens basketball tournament record footage

What are the best women’s basketball tournaments you can play in? 

There are a lot of great basketball tournaments out there that can get you college exposure. The key to finding the best ones is having a clear understanding of your recruiting goals and level of play. D1 and some top D2 players can find value in attending the big-name tournaments. Whereas D3 and NAIA level players should focus on finding competitive tournaments that are local to the schools you’re interested in. Realistically, most coaches are going to attend tournaments that are within driving distance of their campus. 

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

What do college coaches want to see from recruits at basketball tournaments? 

You may spot one to as many as 20 college coaches watching your game at one time. But they aren’t there just to see you. 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. 

The top 5 qualities a coach looks for in recruits: 

  1. Attitude. How do you react when things aren’t going your way? Do you cheer your teammates on or pout when taken out of the game? 
  2. Competitiveness. How hard do you play? Coaches want plays with all-out effort, no matter what the score is.  
  3. Basketball IQ. At the college level, players must be able to think on the court, remember plays, learn scouting reports and so on. Find ways to show coaches that you understand what to do in critical game situations.  
  4. Specific skills. Shooting is a big skill coaches look for. But that’s not all coaches want to find. Find ways to show a range of skills like dribbling and passing. 
  5. Defense. During AAU, you’ll find a lot of players skip defense and only focus on showing off on the offense end. Players that earn scholarships, play defense too.  


Compete against some of the best women’s basketball players in the nation while gaining exposure to college coaches at basketball tournaments. Make sure you 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 women’s basketball events:  

Women’s basketball camps
Women’s basketball showcases