Do you want your young player to be able to get a scholarship and play basketball in college? If you are like most youth basketball parents the answer is probably yes. Not only could your child have a great experience playing college basketball, but they could also go to school for free! What a great deal for you and for them. The reality is that most youth basketball players will never have the opportunity to earn a basketball scholarship to a Division 1 College or University.
There are 337 Division 1 Universities that offer full athletic scholarships for men’s basketball. There are 13 scholarships available per team. That is a total of 4,381 scholarships for Division 1 Men’s Basketball. Dividing that total by 4 to account for each player holding their scholarship for 4 years means that each outgoing class of high school seniors has about 1,095 scholarships available.
There are 335 Division 1 Universities that offer full athletic scholarships for women’s basketball. There are 15 scholarships available per team. That is a total of 5,025 scholarships for Division 1 Women’s Basketball. Dividing that total by 4 to account for each player holding their scholarship for 4 years means that each outgoing class of high school seniors has about 1,256 scholarships available.
There are approximately 500,000 boys participating in high school basketball, 125,000 graduating each year. That means your son has an 8/10 of 1% chance of getting a Division 1 basketball scholarship. There are approximately 450,000 girls participating in high school basketball, 112,500 graduating each year. That means your daughter has a 1% chance of getting a Division 1 basketball scholarship. Put another way, about 22 boys and 25 girls in each of the 50 states will earn a scholarship. Some states like California or New York obviously have more while states like North Dakota have less, but you get the general idea. Think of the millions of boys and girls playing youth basketball. The odds of your son or daughter earning a Division 1 basketball scholarship are very small.
What should be the desired outcome for your young player? Basketball should be fun. They should learn how to play the game correctly. The amount of time they put into the game should be dictated by the player not the parent. The focus should be on skill development, rather than winning, especially at younger ages. Don’t spend thousands of dollars and spend every weekend driving around to games expecting to be rewarded with a Division 1 basketball scholarship. If you do, you most likely will be disappointed. Instead, make sure your young player gets good coaching, has fun, and develops the basketball skills necessary to keep playing as they get older.
That being said if your young player is determined to go after their dream of playing Division 1 basketball what can help contribute to their quest?
Your young player has to maximize their basketball skill set. Every day they are not working to get better, someone else is. There is no substitute for hard work. That work ethic can only come from the player, not the parent. It must be your child’s goal or dream, not yours. You have to be really good to play basketball in college, whether that is Division 1, 2, or 3. There is a huge leap from high school to college. All the players are good. They are bigger, faster, stronger and more experienced. The last player on a Division 1 bench was most likely the best player in their local area.
Your young player should be coachable. This is a skill that can be trained from the moment your child starts playing organized sports. Teach them to look the coach in the eye when they are talking. Teach them to nod when the coach is done talking so the coach knows their message has been received, No coach wants to coach your young player’s effort so teach them to bring energy and enthusiasm to every practice and every game. Teach them to do what they are asked to do and accept their role on the team. At the same time they should be working like crazy to expand their skills and hopefully earn more responsibility from their coach. A coach loves having coachable players in their program. Teach your child to be one of those players. Even if they fall short of their goal of earning a scholarship, the lessons they have learned along the way will be invaluable to them throughout their life.
Basketball recruiting has changed drastically since I was being recruited 25 years ago. I didn’t commit to Kent State until after my senior season. The pressure on college coaches to get commitments from players means that players are deciding earlier than ever before what schools they are going to attend. Your child’s senior year in high school has almost become irrelevant! They cannot rely strictly on their high school career to get the attention of college coaches. Summer Basketball has become more and more important in the process. Whether that is good or bad is a different discussion, but the reality is that players need to be seen by college coaches earlier than ever. Coaches want to be able to identify and evaluate multiple prospects at one time. They don’t want to show up and watch a high school game with one potential recruit when they can spend a day at an AAU tournament and see multiple prospects competing against each other.
AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) is a national organization that sponsors amateur sporting events. In basketball, there are spring, summer and fall AAU tournaments in multiple age groups. A player can play up to get better competition (a 9 year old can play in an 11 & U tournament but an 11 year old cannot play in a 9 & U tournament). The tournaments are usually played during “live” college recruiting periods so college coaches can be in attendance. If you can find a quality AAU basketball program in your area, you may want consider having your child join the program. What should you be looking for in an AAU program? Look for quality coaches. An AAU program/team is only as good as its coaches. Look for a team where your young player will get to play, not the most “elite” team where they will sit on the bench.
Exposure Camps and showcases are held during the summer and fall. They attract high-level players, which in turn, attracts college coaches. Most of these events offer skill development drills and very competitive games. There are events that cater to high level Division 1 prospects and also some for Division 2 or 3. Make sure your high schooler understands what they are signing up for prior to registering. Not every event will deliver the college coaches that are promised. You may want to call some college programs you are targeting and ask them what camps/events they attend. Your young player has to be where the coaches are and for better or worse they are at AAU tournaments, camps, and showcases. Players used to be able to stay off the summer basketball circuit and still get noticed. Those days have passed.
Make your young player known to college programs they are interested in. Send coaches a note or give them a call directly. Seek out opportunities to meet with college coaches. Visit the campus or extend an invitation for a coach to see your child play. Enlist the help of your player’s high school coach and ask them to contact the schools your child is interested in. Your player’s high school coach should have a pretty good idea of the level of basketball where your child is capable of competing. Be realistic about your young player’s ability. Don’t ask them to call North Carolina if your child is the 8th man on a losing team. Get the information college coaches need to evaluate your player and send it out to coaches. Things like game/practice/summer schedules, statistics, and video highlight tapes can be sent to any school your child is interested in. It is so easy now to put together a professional looking highlight tape yourself or with the help of a company like Krossover (www.krossover.com). If your young player does get contacted by a college, be sure to return all questionnaires and follow up with the coach soon after the initial correspondence.
Doing well in school is very important. College coaches want players with good grades who can succeed in college and graduate. They want players they don’t have to worry about academically. Academics can separate your child from another player of equal ability. Players in college are student-athletes despite what you may see or hear in the media. They attend class, write papers, study, and take exams just like regular students. College players have the same requirements with the added responsibility of practice, games, training, and travel. Coaches prefer not to take chances on academic risks if they don’t have to. Encourage your child to get good grades and take their standardized tests (SATs, ACTs) as early and often as possible. Unless they are a top 100 recruit, coaches will not wait for them to meet the requirements.
You have to register for the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse in order to be eligible for a scholarship. The Clearinghouse will evaluate your child’s grades to determine whether or not they are eligible to play. Take care of registering as early as possible. Your child’s school guidance counselor or high school coach should be able to help with this process.
The road to a Division 1 basketball scholarship is a difficult one. Don’t lose sight of the real reason why your son or daughter plays basketball, they play because it’s fun. If that leads them to get more serious about the game and they achieve their dream of playing college basketball that’s terrific. If they don’t earn a scholarship and end up like the majority of kids, make sure their experience with the game of basketball is a positive one that enriches their life both on the court and off.