Hint: It takes more than stats and a recruiting profile

Basketball offers more opportunities to compete in college than any other sport. But, for most high school student-athletes, that doesn’t mean actually getting a scholarship will be easy. In fact, only roughly the top 6% of male high school players and 7% of female players go on to compete at any level of college. But, if earning a scholarship to play basketball in college is your goal, don’t let those percentages intimidate you and focus on these keys to take your best shot with recruiters.

• Build Your Game

Being a good athlete is one thing, but many high school athletes get passed over during recruiting simply because they haven’t fully developed their skills as basketball players. You can likely get by on your athleticism at the high school level, but to compete in college basketball, coaches look for players with a full range of basketball fundamentals and skills who can make the step up and be ready to play.

• Demonstrate Your Willingness To Play Defense

Remember that scoring is only half the game and a well-rounded basketball player is one who puts as much work into playing defense as he or she does on offense. There are plenty of high school recruits who can score, but one big way to make yourself stand out from the other guy is to demonstrate your willingness and effort to play defense.

• Work Hard And Do The Little Things

Working in practice isn’t enough. Stepping into pick-up games can improve your game, but it still isn’t enough. Putting in the effort required to compete at the collegiate level means working on your own on every element of your game on your own, whether it’s time spent shooting, ball-handling, free throws, the ability to use both hands, and more. That’s the big stuff. But coaches also look for players who do the little things, such as diving for loose balls, taking charges, avoiding bad fouls, and taking smart shots. And, while it may seem like “a little thing,” many coaches also put a big emphasis on players who demonstrate a solid basketball IQ. Having a strong basketball IQ can be as simple as having situational awareness in a game, good decision-making, and the ability to make those good decisions in pressure situations.

• Put Yourself Into Play

Having an online recruiting profile and highlight video alone won’t get you recruited. It’s up to you to get on the recruiting radar of college coaches and the earlier you start, the better. You can assemble a profile and video as early as your ninth-grade season. That’s also when you should make a list of some schools you might be interested in. Then, start reaching out to the coaches at those schools. In many cases, recruiting rules prohibit coaches from contacting you before the start of your junior season. However, until then, you can research schools and basketball programs, attend camps, fill out athletic department questionnaires, assess where your game needs work, check out campuses (online or in-person), and look for the place where you might fit best.

• Look Beyond Division I

While there are 354 schools competing in NCAA Division I basketball, there are 1,500 other schools with basketball programs in Division II, Division III, the NAIA, the NJCAA, and other four-year and two-year colleges. And the majority of those schools offer athletic scholarships as well. If you don’t fit the mold DI basketball programs, consider schools at other levels to see where you do fit.

Remember that there are also 437 NJCAA schools that sponsor basketball programs and, if they’re fully funded, they each have 15 full-ride basketball scholarships. And, while there are 444 NCAA Division III schools with basketball programs, DIII programs don’t offer athletic scholarships. Most DIII schools do offer plenty of academic scholarships, grants, and financial aid. And even if you don’t land at a DIII program, good grades and solid entrance exam scores will do nothing but make you a more attractive recruit to any coach at any level.

In the grand scheme of things, earning a basketball scholarship is comparably pretty rare. But, if you develop all the tools, put in the work, commit to playing defense, and market yourself to coaches at every level until you find where you fit, you might earn a spot on the team and, maybe, a scholarship as well.

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