This post isn’t for the player who is ranked in the top 200 in the country and being courted by dozens of school for your services. This is more a guide for the player who’s on the borderline of being a recruited D1/D2/D3 basketball player and wants to maximize their talents to help them land at a school. This is also for the coach who wants to give their player or players the best opportunity to get recruited by colleges and hopefully play college basketball at some level.
Everyone will tell you that they are an expert of how to get a player recruited to a college. To be honest there are no experts. I’ve been around high-level basketball for almost 20 year now. I’ve been around every facet from coaching AAU/High School, running scouting services, pro basketball assistant coach, player development coach, and a consultant for various players and coaches from high school to the NBA. In this time I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on how players should market themselves to play in college. First off lets just getting something out there, if you don’t have the talent to play in college most likely you wont play in college. Basketball is a talent business, coaches have jobs to do and their bosses have expectations on their winning. They are looking for players that can help them, not players with very limited talent that can’t get in a game for them.
Rule 1- Develop a skill that a coach actually can use.- I go around the country in the summer and speak at various camps. A lot are camps that invite college coaches to watch players play games to recruit them. I’ll be honest most of the camps at least 65% of the players don’t have a single skill that college coaches want to see. Unless the game is a nonstop fast-break drill they have no idea how to function on a basketball court. In a half-court game they can’t handle the ball, make a shot, guard anyone, or even set a screen. Most of their game consists of dribbling around for 20 seconds trying to get to the basket or jack up a terrible shot. Some of them have size for their position, but think by scoring 20 points on 20 shots that is their way to play the game. If they don’t have the ball they just stand there calling for the ball, the thought never gets in their head to cut to the basket or screen for someone.
You don’t have to be great at everything, but you should have something to hang your hat on. Shot maker, passer, rebounder, post scorer, defender, shot blocker are all acceptable skills to have. Again, you don’t have to master all of them, but you should be very good at one of those things.
Rule 2- Be good enough to be a starter on your high school team- Sounds silly, but believe me there will be kids who sit their bench of their high school team upset that colleges don’t recruit them. Unless your team has 5-7 really good players on your team that play ahead of you there’s really no excuse for a recruited player not to start for their high school team. Just like I mentioned before college coaches are looking for players who are difference makers at the high school level. If you can’t start for your high school team by the time you are a junior or senior how do you expect to make an impact at the college level. There are some exceptions if you play for a team like Oak Hill Academy(VA), or a highly regarded prep school team where you have many division one players playing ahead of you. But for the most part you need to look yourself in the mirror. If you don’t get it done every day to be a starter for your high school team it will be tough to help yourself in recruiting.
Rule 3- Find an AAU team in your area that fits you. AAU Basketball is such an important tool for players these days. It’s a staple for college coaches to do most of their recruiting at AAU tournaments and events in the evaluation periods. Do some research on the programs in your area. Make sure that the coach and program is reputable, and they play in events in the live recruiting periods. They don’t have to go to every big time event, but it would be good to play in events that will give you exposure to college coaches and scouts. Besides going to a lot of events make sure that the team that you play for has a good coach and players that you can get a long with and want to play with. Don’t just run out and join a team because of their name do some homework. Selecting an AAU team is almost as important as selecting a college. It needs to be a good fit for you.
Rule 4-Don’t hire Recruiting Consultants that claim will get you a scholarship, do it yourself.- I’ve seen so many of these companies that claim to help kids in their recruiting. Kids waste thousands of dollars in the course of four years to these companies that claim to be helping you get recruited. Basically all they do is what you can do for yourself and make a profile get video and send your name along with hundreds of others to every school in the country. To them you are a number and basically all they do for you is make you a very expensive portfolio and profile. They aren’t bad people but again coaches won’t pull triggers on scholarships based on what these people say. Yes, some will look at their lists and see if there are any kids that may fit certain academic requirements or put up a lot of points and aren’t on their lists but for the most part aren’t going to take a kid based on what these companies say. The problem with these companies is they will take anyone’s money regardless of skill level. If I was 5’1 240 pounds and play 0 minutes a game they will take my money, develop a profile, and market me to coaches. How can you take a company like that seriously when you give them your hard earned money and are a college prospect when a kid like that is on the same list as you. They are biased towards anyone who signs up for their most expensive package, not necessarily towards the most talented players. Your talent will get you into a school, not a fancy profile.
Rule 5- Develop your marketing strategy, be prepared and start early.- Ok so the first thing you do is prepare a profile of yourself. Have all of your information on it as far as your name, contact information, basketball statistics, and academic information. On your academic make sure you have your GPA, classes taken, and SAT/ACT test scores if you have taken them yet. It doesn’t have to be that long , just something that paints a picture of who you are. Also have your high school and AAU schedules if you have them to add to this profile. Make a DVD of yourself playing. Cut up about 3 minutes of highlights as well as three of your best halves of basketball that you played for your high school or AAU team. Make sure they are halves where you were a difference maker and they can see your best traits. Don’t make a DVD of all highlights or give them game film where you were just average. I would say the best thing to do is to have a 3-5 minute highlight with three good halves on them. Have this profile and DVD ready as early as your sophomore year and keep it updated throughout your high school career. If possible have the videos uploaded to a file sharing site so you can email the video link for people to see. Also for your profile scan it to a PDF file as well. This will allow you to email this information to coaches to get to them faster and will be a less expensive way than paying for postage, copies, and DVDs. Use technology to your advantage.
Rule 6- Have trust in your high school and AAU coaches to help you with your recruiting. The first two people that college coaches will come to when inquiring about you is your high school coach and AAU coach. They are the people who know you as a player the best. They also can vouch for your character and habits, good or bad. It is important to consult with them s far as your strategy for getting recruited as most times they’ve dealt with players in the past that were recruited and know how to help. I think it’s extremely important to develop good relationships with both your high school and AAU coach as it just helps with the whole process. You should never be on bad terms with them. There will be times where they will get on you and there will be friction on the court, but off the court there should be a bond. As far as your exposure is concerned they can mail a lot of your DVDs and profiles out to coaches as colleges would accept these items from your high school/AAU coach rather than a family member or in some cases yourself. Your coach is such an important person in this process to help you, never take them for granted. In most cases they have spent a long time developing their reputation as well as relationships with many college coaches along the way. They can be such an asset to you so developing chemistry and a bond with them is so important. In some cases your AAU coach may be closer to you than your high school coach or vice versa. Everyone’s situation is different, but understand that both can help you and you should consult with them and be on the same page.
Rule 7- Attend the right camps and showcases- There are a million camps and showcases out there which is great for getting kids exposure, but produce a lot of money making scams as well. Again, it’s all in the research. Make sure that these events are NCAA Certified for Division 1 coaches to attend. Make sure that coaches regularly attend this camp or showcase. Like I said some of these camps do a great jobs getting good players and attracting coaches as well as having detailed lists to distribute the participants to coaches and scouts. Some prey on players and parents promising exposure where they take your money give you a shirt and laugh all the way to the bank. Just be careful, as there are a lot of sharks out there wanting to take your money and sell you on a dream. Just like anything else there are good people trying to help and not so good people trying to steal money from you. There are so many ways to find information on events so use Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc to help you find out which one to attend. There are plenty of companies that put on great events. Make sure that the event will put you in good position to get the right exposure for your game. Understand though at these events that most of the players are out for their own betterment and there isn’t a lot of passing or team ball being played. In drill stations and workouts players are usually fine, but get some college coaches in the stands and all of that team unity is thrown right out the window. Just understand that going in and try to play through that. In these camps it always helps to play hard on both ends of the floor. Show aggressiveness especially on the defensive end. When shots come to you great, but don’t force them. Show them you have a skill even if you don’t get that many shots and scoring opportunities show them that you know how to play. Coaches wont expect you to take over in environments like that as they’ve been through the recruiting trail before and know what to expect in venues like this. A bunch of players thrown together that don’t know each other they expect it to be a little bit ragged and expect players to jack bad shots in order to be seen. Just make sure you play hard and show a skill. Especially big men exposure camps and showcases you will very rarely get the ball so show the ability to run the floor, protect the paint, and rebound. You wont get the ball much form the guards so keep your head up and keep playing hard.
Rule 8- You are always being evaluated make sure you are always ON- Scouts and college coaches pay attention to everything. You never know when people are watching you. Good body language is always important. It doesn’t matter if you get 20 shots in a game or 2, never show bad emotion. Coaches and scouts are just looking for a reason to cross guys off a list or have a bad comment next to someone. There are two things that you totally have control of and that is your effort and your attitude. If you play with those two things it doesn’t matter what you put up stat wise you will show well in a game. Make sure every game you play whether it is for your high school, AAU, or camp team that you play aggressive and show a good attitude. If you have talent it will show up on the stat sheet, but some nights you wont shoot well and some of the things that you will have to do wont show up on the stat sheet. Hustling for loose balls, shutting down the player you are guarding, and rebounding are all things you can do without the ball in your hand. You never know who’s watching your games as it could be a talent scout, reporter, or college coach. Always give your best it doesn’t matter if you are winning or losing always be on. Think of it as your Job like an NBA player. Just because DeRon Williams is on a losing team it doesn’t stop him from competing and playing hard every night. You need that mentality. Scouts are very important and they are everywhere. Always assume they are watching. When you are on the bench clap for your teammates never sulk and hang your head. People evaluate you when you are in the game as well as out.
Rule 9 You have to take care of your academics- Here is a great way to not be recruited and that’s to get bad grades. Basketball recruiting is so competitive there are so many players battling for not so many spots. You need to take care of the classroom and get your work done. With all of this competition for spots coaches will cut players from their lists if you are as good talent wise as another player but they are completely eligible academically and you have all D’s. You just found out the hard way that you need to take care of your grades. So many players fall off the basketball map because they can’t get eligible to play. Take your academics seriously like you do your game. You don’t want to have to go to prep school or junior college because you can’t get eligible. If you are a player that needs exposure and no one knows you and finally get to see you and find out your grades are bad they will just move on. It’s not very difficult to get acceptable grades in high school. You don’t have to get all A’s, but B’s and C’s shouldn’t be all that tough to attain. It’s hard enough proving yourself as a player, but don’t work 4 hours a day on your basketball skills just to not make it academically because you didn’t put that extra hour a night in studying. Colleges can’t afford to take a chance on you if they have to hold your hands for 4 years to stay eligible. Develop good study habits early and stay on your academics. You want to develop reasons for coaches to want to take you not reasons to cross you off their list.
Rule 10- Find a good balance of playing and skill development during the off -season. Workout guys will always tell you that there is too much playing during the off season and not enough workout time. AAU coaches will tell you there is too much working out and drills and not enough playing that playing is the key. I say you need both and have to make time for them in your routine. Sure getting in the gym is important there is no doubt about that. You should make time to develop your skills there definitely isn’t enough of that being done by players today, but you need a platform to test the skills that you work on in your drill sessions. You can’t be just a workout wonder where you are in the gym all the time, but don’t prove it against talent. You will see more coaches and scouts at games more than you will see them in gyms watching workouts. You need to work on your game and then test it against the best competition that you can. This wont get you better exposure , but it will improve your product for when you get exposure. I think it’s a very important trait to have as if you don’t develop your talent then coaches will always look for better players. Even if your AAU team plays a lot during the summer, make time to get shots up on off days just to keep yourself sharp. A healthy combination of games and skill development will help you work on new things and showcase them in actual came situations.
Rule 11- Keep your family in check No doubt the most important people in your life are your parents and your family. They looked out for you and cared for you, but most importantly want the best for you. That being said unless they coached high school or college basketball they should have very little to nothing to do with your recruitment. I say this with the most all due respect, but I’ve seen family members hurt recruits a lot more than help them. Starting with the high school/AAU coach calling them up and complaining why their son/daughter isn’t playing enough and questioning their coaching style. This isn’t what coaches want to deal with and it’s hard for them to put you in a good situation when your parents are calling them every day second -guessing them. This will put a strain on your relationship with them even if you don’t say anything to them directly, believe me your parents have already done enough. Also having parents call up college coaches and tell them they should be recruiting you won’t help the situation either. This will give them a little taste on what to expect if they have you on their team. Your family raised you and always have looked out for you. Even when parents interfere I think it’s just their way of looking out for you. You have to sit down and talk to them about keeping their comments in house and never having interference with your coach as it will hurt you more than help you. I know its hard for a parent or family member not to defend their children when they feel they are getting mistreated. But your recruitment process has a lot of moving parts and for some they don’t have any room for mistakes. Make sure that your family is on the same page on what they should do and what they shouldn’t as it cold prove the difference between you succeeding and failing with your recruitment process.
The most important thing for you to understand with the recruitment process is you hold all the cards in this. It doesn’t matter how many camps you go to or what AAU team you play for college coaches are going to judge your talent. In the end if you don’t have a skill to get into a game a coach can’t use you. In some cases a coach’s job is on the line and a recruiting class will make or break them. They aren’t going to take a chance on a player that doesn’t have enough talent to help them. Many players handle this process all wrong that they go to all of these recruiting events and play on all of these teams when to be honest they stink as a player and have no talent. You have to develop your talent as a basketball player first to put yourself in a position to be recruited. I don’t care if you follow my rules or not, if you have no talent then there’s no reason to try. Develop your game first and then work on marketing it.
However you handle your exposure make sure you sit down and have a plan of attack. Understand that there are thousands of players just like you trying to get what you want. You have to prepare yourself for this and not leave any stone unturned. There will be a lot of people along the way promising you the world, most of those people aren’t out for your best interest. Have a plan of attack and stick to it. Lack of preparation is an almost guarantee for failure. Stay on course and for the most part you control your own destiny, not someone else.
The last part to this post is that basketball isn’t for everyone. Everyone wants to play at the highest level and go on to big things. Some have the talent to play basketball after high school and some don’t. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to market yourself in the end if you don’t have the talent then it will be hard to get recruited. Take care of getting your game to a level of a recruited athlete and then let the rest take care of itself. If you try to market yourself as a college prospect and don’t have the talent that is like trying to sell a car without an engine in it. In the end it is about your talent not how hard you can sell yourself.