Engage in the Process
As a coach and basketball trainer a question I often hear from players and parents is “When should we start the recruiting process?” This is a valid question, as competition for those basketball scholarship dollars is growing each year, and the athletic budgets of many schools are being greatly reduced.
The best answer I can give of course is the earlier you start the process the better. The biggest myth is that recruiting starts in your junior year–that can be too late in many cases.
Legitimate Recruiting can Start as Early as 8th Grade
I tell my parents and players that the ideal time to begin the recruiting process is at the end of your 8th grade year. Making sure you have read and understand the NCAA’s Guide For the College Bound athlete is a good place to start. This guide sets forth the academic eligibility requirements and allows you to plan your high school academic schedule to meet those demands.
Too many parents and players don’t realize that many recruiters ask about GPA before seriously recruiting a player. Smaller D1 schools often have higher academic requirements than the NCAA and, in many cases, you must meet those as well. These schools don’t necessarily have the funds to chase an athlete who won’t qualify. If you don’t know the requirements you can’t even begin to engage in the process.
Summer: Time to Grow Your Game
Your summer should be dedicated to skill development, playing for your high school and club team, and attending a basketball skills camp. This will help to get you some exposure and improve your game.
Freshman Year: Make a List
Once you get to your freshman year it’s about skill development, maintaining academic footing, excelling at your game, and making a collegiate list of interest. This list is extremely important, and gives you the basis of your recruiting plan. This list is not set in stone, and will change during the four years, but it is the starting point.
So how to make your list? It is my opinion that the list should contain three parts: ideal colleges, realistic colleges, and back up colleges. In order to make this list you need to do your research about each school, both in terms of athletics and academics.
The Ultimate Litmus Test
Schools should be evaluated on size of the student body, location (urban/rural), size of individual classes, courses offered, style of play, recruit turnover, stability of coaching staff, and much more. However the best evaluation of all is to ask yourself, “If I were to get hurt and not be able to play anymore, would I still be happy at this college?” That is the litmus test for any school on the list.
College Hoops: Where do I Fit in?
One of the most important things to do early is to go to college practices and games of all levels. There is a misconception that only D1 sports have scholarships or that other divisions don’t provide high levels of competition.
Many times I have parents and players come back amazed by the quality of competition at the DII, DIII, and NAIA levels of play. Along with that it is in your best interest to refrain from comparing yourself to other high school players (as many will not play in college).
Bottom Line: You can Never be Too Prepared
It’s better to compare where you are in ability to the players at the level where you want to play– that way you have another goal to reach. You can only do this if you have studied the levels of the game and found your fit. Always remember that your engagement in the process is imperative to garnering a scholarship, and you can never be too prepared.