More Basketball Development after High School: Basketball Prep School & Junior College
So your senior basketball season is over and you have either no offers to play college basketball or you have some offers but aren’t interested in them…
Well, typically basketball players have two options:
- Go to prep school.
- Go to junior college.
As with most things though, there are positives and negatives to both options.
PREP HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Let’s start with prep school because that’s what I did, and to this day, I still consider it one of the best decisions of my life. Long story short, I had literally just turned 18 when I graduated high school, so was relatively young in comparison to many other kids. I was 6’4” with good basketball skills and IQ and a work ethic to match.
I had some DIII schools that offered me a spot on there team, but to be honest, I didn’t give them the time of day because I was hell bent on playing Division I basketball. Side note: If I could go back in time, I’d make myself do some research on and find out the truth about DIII basketball!
Anyway, I found out about the option to go to prep school for basketball and do a post-graduate year, and my family and I decided this would be the best option as it gave me one more year to physically mature since at that point I was only 175 lbs soaking wet.
It would also give me a structured year away from home at a really good academic school. We had agreed that if a DI scholarship didn’t turn up after the year was over I would either take one of the DIII offers or would explore walking on at a DI school.
I ended up going to Worcester Academy where I played with 8 other Division I players, including Jarrett Jack and Craig Smith, who went on to play in the NBA. During that time, I gained 20 lbs to get to 190 lbs and competed everyday against super talented, high level players, which helped me raise my game. I also matured off the court as I slept in dorms, had study hall, and generally was away from home for a long period of time for the first time in my life.
Not long after I announced my intention to go to Worcester Academy for a post-grad year, I received my first DI scholarship offer from Bob McKillop at Davidson College. I went on a visit during that fall, committed there a few days later, and the rest is history as they say.
Advantages of Basketball Prep Schools
#1 Prep school is essentially an extra year of high school, so it does not count against college eligibility. Players can either repeat their senior year or do a post-grad year. It typically just depends on what the school prefers.
#2 Prep school is like a step above high school as you are out of the house and sleeping in dorms, but a step below college as there is typically still curfews and study halls and not as difficult academically as college.
#3 Many of the prep school teams and leagues are stacked with great players, so playing against high level competition in workouts, practices and games forces most players to improve. On the same note, tons of college coaches come through the schools to recruit due to the amount of high level players.
Disadvantages of Basketball Prep Schools
#1 Many prep schools are expensive. In fact, they often cost the same as a year of college. Most of the high academic prep schools in New England cost $40,000/year, and there are others like IMG Academy in Florida that cost well over $50,000/year.
Most prep schools do offer need based financial aid, but only very few offer talent-based scholarships.
#2 Not all prep schools are created equal. Some prep schools can be nicer than colleges and some can be basketball factories so to speak where the academics and other dealings are highly questionable at best.
Now, let’s move on to junior college…
Before I made my decision to go to prep school, my dad and I did go check out a junior college game, but we decided it wasn’t the right move for me. However, I know quite a few players that started out at a junior college and went to have very successful basketball careers.
One of our PSB Charlotte coaches, BJ Spencer, comes to mind. BJ attended junior college in Florida before accepting a Division I offer to Jacksonville State where he became the school’s all-time leader in 3 pointers and then going on to play basketball professionally overseas.
Advantages of Junior College
#1 If a player doesn’t qualify academically to play basketball at the DI or DII levels right away, junior college is a way that the players can, after 2 years, qualify and then play out their remaining 2 years at a DI or DII school.
#2 Most junior colleges offer athletic scholarships, either full or partial, and if not, most junior colleges are much less expensive than prep school and four-year colleges.
#3 At prep school, players will play against player their own age or younger. While they’re good players for sure, the players at the junior college level are older, stronger, young-men. The speed and strength of the game at the junior college level are often more similar to college, especially in the best leagues, than at the prep school level.
Disadvantages of Junior College
#1 The years at junior college count against your eligibility at a four-year institution. So if a player spends 2 years at a junior college, they only have 2 years left to play at the four-year school they go to next. They’ll enter the school as a junior rather than a freshman as they would if they had done 1 year at a prep school.
#2 Junior colleges typically have less money for their program and school than prep schools, so it’s usually not an “easy-ride”. The facilities, travel, gyms, crowds, etc. can be pretty bad, which is never easy to deal with. Junior college is often a real “grind” – just something to grunt through so to speak in order to get to that next level.
As you can see, there are definite differences between the prep school and junior college alternatives to going to a four-year institution right out of high school for basketball.
There are many things to consider when deciding between the two. Players and parents definitely need to do their research before making this tough decision!