And it’s understandable because recruiting can be a complicated and confusing subject.
In this ultimate college basketball recruiting guide, it is my goal to answer many of the basic questions and misunderstandings when it comes to college basketball recruiting.
Let’s start by first answering the question, what exactly does recruiting even mean?
Well, the NCAA says:
“Recruiting happens when a college employee or representative invites a high school student-athlete to play sports for their college. Recruiting can occur in many ways, such as face-to-face contact, phone calls or text messaging, through mailed or emailed material or through social media.”
This quote is taken directly from a NCAA website page dedicated specifically to recruiting. I would recommend to start there as it covers definitions of recruiting terms, campus visits, national letters of intent, and the recruiting calendars.
Division I, II, & III Basketball
Now let’s move on to talking about DI, II, and III and the differences between them from a basketball standpoint. If you want to read about the differences from an athletic program and school standpoint, you can find that here.
DIVISION I BASKETBALL
Obviously, the majority of players and parents dream of playing Division I college basketball at schools like Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky or UCLA or some big-time program like that, but for the vast majority of players that’s just not realistic, and to go even further, it may not even be realistic to play at the Division I level.
Typically, Division I schools are broken up into “low-major”, “mid-major”, and “high-major”. There’s a lot of debate as to what categories certain schools fit into, but for argument’s sake, you can think about schools in, to use a football term, one of the “power 5 conferences” of ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, and Pac 12 as high-major.
For basketball, you can probably add in the AAC conference schools as well, and perhaps 1-2 others.
Mid-major schools are where it really gets murky, but you could think of some really good conferences, like the A-10, WCC, Missouri Valley, etc.
However, there are definitely random teams, like Gonzaga, in mid-major conferences that are or should be considered high-major schools due to past and current success.
Low-major may be even harder to define as it may be an entire conference, but could also just be specific teams. For example, when I was playing college basketball at Davidson College, we played in what was probably considered a low-major conference, the Southern Conference, but we were considered a mid-major team along with a couple other teams in that conference.
The point is, the whole thing is a bit murky, but there are definitely some sort of “levels” to Division I schools that often times parents are not aware of.
The good thing, however, is that all DI schools offer full basketball scholarships with the exception of Ivy League schools. So the main attraction of a DI school is the opportunity to go to college for free, which is amazing if you’re good enough to earn a college basketball scholarship. You do however still have to be academically eligible, which means having the right mix of high school classes, GPA, and test scores.
DIVISION II BASKETBALL
Moving on, Division II college basketball is the next step “down” from Division I, but it is still a great quality of basketball. In fact, DII teams often beat DI teams when they play in pre-season games, so in some cases, it may not even actually be a step down from DI in terms of actual play … it’s just the perception!
For instance, we have a DII school here in Charlotte, NC where I live called Queens University, and they are a great DII basketball program. Their roster has quite a few DI transfers, and earlier this season, they beat DI VCU in a pre-season game. However, I see kids and parents who wouldn’t even sniff the court playing for Queens, thinking they are too good for them!
DII colleges don’t offer as many full scholarships as DI, but they still have quite a few scholarships to give. Often times, players are on partial scholarships at DII schools.
Also, in general, Division II schools are not quite as good academically as most Division III schools and many Division I schools. Many times, DII players do not quite qualify academically to play DI or DIII college basketball. The DII academic requirements are a bit lower at DII schools. For instance, at a DI school you must have a 2.3 GPA coming out of high school whereas you only need a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for DII among other things.
DIVISION III BASKETBALL
Lastly, Division III college basketball typically does not offer any athletic scholarships and does not lower their entrance standards for basketball players.
DIII basketball is, again, a very high level of basketball and, in many cases, filled with kids who just weren’t quite good enough to be DI players, but had outstanding grades and chose to attend a high academic institution.
You can read more about all that playing DIII college basketball has to offer here.
Regardless of DI, II, III, playing college basketball is not an easy thing to do and each level has its positives and negatives. The main issue I see with kids and parents is they are way too quick to blow off DII and DIII because they think they’re “too good” for that level when in reality they might not be good enough yet to even play at the DII or DIII levels.
My advice to kids and parents is to take some time and do some research and go watch some practices and games of DII and DIII teams before making assumptions. In most cases, they’re surprised to see the quality of players and teams at that level.
There are way too many rules in college basketball recruiting to list out in this guide!
There are rules for when college coaches can start making phone calls, sending mail, texts, etc. to young basketball players. Rules on what dates college coaches are allowed to watch players in live action, rules when players can visit a college campus and what interactions they can have with coaches, rules on the grades and test scores players need to have to qualify, and on and on.
Moreover, the rules are often different depending on if it’s Division I, Division II, or Division III!
Instead of getting into all of that here, I would, again, recommend that you go to the NCAA webpage on recruiting and there you’ll find great links and information on all of the rules for college basketball recruiting.
A College Coach’s Perspective
One of the best exercises players and parents can do is put themselves in the shoes of a college coach so to speak, so let’s look at college basketball recruiting from that perspective.
#1 Do You Deserve a Basketball Scholarship?
Coaching at the college level is full of pressure, and it’s the job of the coach to win games.
If they don’t win games, they will get fired, so a coach’s job literally depends on the play of 17-22 year old kids. If they don’t recruit good players that fit their system, they lose games, get fired, and now have to look for another way to take care of their families, so they don’t just give out scholarships to any player or parent who simply thinks they deserve one.
It doesn’t matter what you or the think … it matters what college coaches think. College basketball coaches treat their athletic scholarships like gold and are looking for the absolute best players possible. If you’re good enough, they will recruit you.
#2 Limited Basketball Scholarships Available
Speaking of looking for players to recruit, many times players and parents think they are pretty good because they are one of the best players, if not the best, at their high school or in their town/city. Well, that’s great, but it’s a BIG world out there.
College basketball coaches are not only looking throughout the US for players but looking internationally as well. There’s a lot more players in the world than there are scholarships available.
In fact, only around 3% of all high school players will go on to play in college.
#3 Do You Fit the College Basketball Program?
One thing that parents and players often don’t take into account is “fit”.
College coaches need to recruit certain positions every year. They don’t need to take a point guard every single year or they’d have a small team full of point guards.
In the same way, they don’t need centers or shooting guards every year. Also, some coaches like to recruit athletes while some prefer kids that can shoot and so on. The top teams (high-major DI) are able to recruit kids with elite size, athleticism, and skill, but the fact of the matter is there’s only a very limited number of those players. Hence, the label “elite”.
From year to year, the needs of the coaching staff change, and sometimes you’re just not going to be the right fit for that particular year or that particular program/coach.
#4 No Excuses
Enough with the excuses! Parents and players sometimes have too many excuses as to why they aren’t getting recruited. “My high school coach sucks.” “My AAU team stinks.” “I’m too short.” “My teammate is taking all the shots.” And on and on and on. Enough!
College coaches don’t care if you go to a city school, country school, play for a big AAU team or small team, are 5’8” or 6’10” … as long as you can play basketball at a high level and potentially help them win, that’s what matters! If you can play, you can play!
Players are rarely ever “overlooked”, especially in today’s world of social media. If you can play at that level, coaches will recruit you no matter what, plain and simple. If you’re not being recruited, 98% of the time it means you are just not good enough … at least not yet.
Want to know what college basketball coaches look for in recruits?
Well, I asked some college coaches that specific question, so you can read about it here straight from the “horse’s mouth” so to speak. Also, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with ESPN’s national director of basketball recruiting, Paul Biancardi, and he gave some great tips for parents and players.
Basketball Recruiting Process
A lot of parents and players mistakenly think that college basketball recruiting starts in middle school, so they spend all sorts of time and money on “showcase” camps and tournaments and worry about rankings.
To a very select group of elite level players – I’m talking the top 10-20 kids in each class – yes, recruiting may start in 8th grade. The Duke’s and Kentucky’s of the world may start reaching out to a few players.
For most players, however, Division I recruiting doesn’t start until 10th grade at the earliest, and more likely, not until 11th grade. For DII and DIII, they wait even longer until 11th and 12th grade because they typically are cherry-picking the kids who don’t end up going Division I.
Often times, DII and DIII kids won’t commit or sign with a college until the spring of their senior year!
Again, think about it from a college coaches perspective. College coaches have coach their teams AND recruit players for future teams. They are essentially coaches and general managers. It’s an extremely difficult and time-consuming job, so they don’t have the time to watch and recruit middle schoolers when they have to make sure next years recruits are locked up (current seniors).
And once that is done, they have to start recruiting for the following year (current juniors). Then if they have time, they may start recruiting for the class after that (current sophomores), but often times, they just don’t have the time or energy to do that, so how/why in the heck are they going to recruit 7th, 8th, and 9th graders?!?!
The last thought I’ll leave you with is that parents and players should be proactive in the recruiting process.
This means you should talk with your high school and AAU coaches and come up with a realistic list of schools that the player might be able to and would want to play for. Tip: Your list should probably not include Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Arizona, etc.
Then they should email those schools introducing themselves, letting the schools know about the interest, and provide a highlight tape and game film links for the coaches to evaluate. You can read in more detail about ALL of the
You can read in more detail about ALL of the steps here!
For those that are visual learners, we recently created a college basketball recruiting infographic that outlines the following:
- Qualities of a College Basketball Player
- How to Get Noticed by College Basketball Coaches
- Top Assets College Basketball Coaches Look for When Recruiting
- Basketball Recruiting Process
- Role of the Coach in the Recruiting Process
- Recruiting Tips for a Student-Athlete
- Recruiting Tips for Parents
College basketball recruiting is a confusing subject with a lot of different variables. Players and parents need to do their research before making assumptions.
Don’t get fooled into spending a lot of money and time on the wrong things, such as showcases and rankings and traveling the country, especially at early age. Spend time and money developing skills through training, strength conditioning, and enhancing athleticism, as well as with a good AAU team, because at the end of the day, skill is KING, so if a player is truly good enough, he or she will get recruited no matter what!