FINDING YOUR SEPARATOR
The most recent data shows that over 540,000 boys and more than 400,000 girls played high school basketball. Each year, only about three percent of those athletes move on to play at the next level in college.
Will you be one of the three percenters? You can if you find your separator. What will separate you from every other recruit in the nation?
Each year, there are always a number of freakish athletes that command the attention of college coaches around the nation. Blessed with tremendous athletic ability, some of those athletes are not the best fundamental basketball players. They need to be taught and teaching takes time.
If you want to separate yourself in the recruiting battle, build a foundation on basic fundamental basketball skills. Coaches love solid fundamental basketball players – those that can dribble, pass, rebound, and play defense. One of the most overlooked skills is being a capable on- and off-ball defender.
Build your fundamental skills to give yourself an edge in the recruiting battle. Become a student of the game by building your basketball IQ. Study film in an effort to become a coach on the court. In the end, you will have something to offer a basketball program that other recruits do not.
One of the first things college coaches will ask about potential recruits is related to their academic history. There are academic eligibility requirements that student-athletes must meet before they can be admitted to a college or university.
All athletes that will compete at the NCAA Division I or II levels must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly the NCAA Clearinghouse). In addition, student-athletes must meet certain requirements related to core courses. For example, at the Division I level student-athletes must have completed 10 core courses that include seven in English, math, or natural/physical science prior to their seventh semester (senior year) of high school.
Any athlete hoping to play at the Division I level must have a minimum of a 2.3 GPA. At the Division II level, the minimum is a 2.2 GPA. Student-athletes must also take the SAT or ACT test. There is a sliding scale to match test scores and GPAs in determining eligibility. A high ACT score, for example, can compensate for a low GPA.
If you stand out in the classroom, you are more likely to find athletic opportunities at different institutions. Schools in the Ivy League do not off athletic scholarships; however, they are some of the most selective academic institutions in America. Ivy League schools do offer academic scholarships. The same is true of the nearly 450 NCAA Division III institutions.
FIND A NICHE
College basketball coaches are always looking for players that fit into their systems. To separate yourself from the hundreds and thousands of other recruits on a coach’s list, you need to find your niche. What is it that you can do that another recruit cannot?
With the way modern basketball is being played, there are two very well-defined niches for student-athletes to consider as a way of separating themselves from the competition. With the emphasis on 3-point shooting in today’s game, there is always a demand for outstanding shooters. Being able to spot up, shoot off the pass, and shoot off the dribble effectively is a great way to attract the attention of college coaches.
College coaches are also high on players that excel defensively. Players that show an aptitude for both on-ball and off-ball defense can find themselves in position to earn scholarship money and have outstanding college careers.
As a potential college student-athlete, it’s important to understand the multitude of opportunities available. There are 350 Division I basketball programs and another 300 or so at the Division II level. All of those schools offer scholarship money in some form or fashion. There are nearly 450 schools at the Division III level. None offer athletic scholarships, but all offer some form of academic aid to their students.
There are also another 250 schools in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Many of those schools compete in basketball and many offer athletic scholarships. There are also another roughly 450 junior college members of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association). NJCAA basketball is broken up into three divisions like the NCAA. Divisions I and II are able to offer athletic scholarships.
The bottom line is there are plenty of scholarship and non-scholarship opportunities out there for student-athletes, especially those willing to separate themselves from the rest of the recruiting pool.
No matter where you end up, always be thankful for the opportunity to play college basketball. Not everyone will get a chance to do what you will. Of all of your peers that played in high school, you are one of just three percent that made it to the next level. As a college student-athlete, you are more likely to graduate than the rest of your student body. Your experiences and the life lessons you learn as a college athlete will take you a long way in whatever it is you pursue.