Do you think you have what it takes to play Division 1 College Basketball?

Growing up, I remember turning on ESPN and tuning into Duke v. North Carolina or Kentucky v. Louisville or UConn v. Syracuse or UCLA v. Arizona and thinking, “now, that’s what I want to do and where I want to be.”

And I’m sure this is the same experience that many kids around the nation are still having today as well. They see the bright lights, masses of fans, sweet uniforms and shoes, all the publicity, and everything else that goes along with big time D1 college basketball, and think they want that.

However, the truth is, 99.99% of players will not reach this level, and even if they do, it’s not all bright lights and amazingness as seen on TV. No matter what level of D1 college basketball, whether low-major, mid-major, or high-major, there are certain truths that many players and parents typically don’t know.

I was lucky enough to have played D1 at Davidson College from 2002-06 (pre-Steph Curry FYI), and although I felt prepared to play there, if I had known the real truth about playing D1 college basketball, I would have been even better prepared.

With that said, recently, we’ve written about the truth about playing D2 and D3 college basketball, so now it’s time to write about the TRUTH about playing D1 college basketball.

As already established, many players and parents think they are “too good” to play at the D2 and/or D3 levels, which in most instances is not the truth.

Division 2 and Division 3 college basketball is actually played a very high level and is a great fit for many aspiring college basketball players, but you can read more about it in those previous blog posts if you want.

Previous Articles:

However, many kids refuse to give D2 and D3 a chance because they want to play D1 college basketball. And to be clear, “want” is the key word here.

The author, Brendan Winters, playing for Davidson in the NCAA tournament versus Ohio State.

Just because a player wants to play D1…

A) Does not necessarily mean the player is actually good enough


B) Does not mean the player knows and/or understands what it takes to get to the D1 level and what is required once at that level. In fact, most players and parents don’t know the truth about D1 basketball.

Well, as a former division 1 college basketball player, I’m here to open some eyes. In my opinion, there are 4 main truths that players and parents should know about playing D1 college basketball.

1. It Teaches the True Meaning of Hard Work

Most high school players think they play or work hard. I know I did, but it wasn’t until I got to Davidson that I found out that the intensity with which players must work is on a whole other level.

Coaches require 100% effort all the time, and if a player is not giving MAX effort, he or she will quickly be corrected (a.k.a. yelled at).

You cannot hide or coast at this level!

Players are too good, so you’ll be exposed if you try. This is the #1 thing I learned my first day on campus, and this is the number one thing I hear from former and current D1 players…the work is some of the most intense they’ve ever done.

2. It’s a Full-Time Job

This sort of ties into number one, but this has to do specifically with the amount of work required at the Division 1 level. It’s like having a full-time job.

In the off-season, players might have class, individual/small group workouts, weights, conditioning, and pick up all in one day! Trust me, those days are awful!

Add onto that, point number one about the ultra-high intensity required every practice or workout or game, and this makes the workload even more difficult. In fact, every year, there are freshman who don’t even make it through the fall preseason because the work required is so much and too intense.

Moreover, it’s year-round.

Want a Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break?

Nope, sorry, there’s usually workouts, practices, and/or games. Players might get 2-3 days for Thanksgiving and 3-5 days for Christmas if they’re lucky.

If they get a Spring Break that means they didn’t make the NCAA tournament most likely, and most programs make players at least attend some summer school that takes up most or all of Summer Break.

3. It’s Pressure Packed

College basketball is a multi-hundred-million dollar business. In order for schools to maximize these revenues, they NEED to WIN. If they don’t win, they fire the coach, so all of this adds up to D1 college coaches having a tremendous amount of pressure on them to win games.

Because of this, coaches are going to play and recruit the guys that give them the best chance to win, which means bringing in really good freshman every year, taking really good junior college transfers, and/or already established graduate transfers. You better perform, or you ain’t playin’!

Secondly, at the D1 level, players are in the spotlight, so the pressure from outside influences, such as fans, other students, alumni, the media, etc., can be extremely intense. And these voices are all magnified by social media, which can create an enormous amount of pressure on players if they pay too much attention to that stuff.

Add the pressure from inside the program together with the pressure from outside, and it can create an unbelievably intense atmosphere that many players simply don’t handle well or aren’t prepared to handle.

4. Playing Time is Not Guaranteed

This sort of ties into number three, but I’d like to take it a step further. Playing time is not guaranteed in college basketball, especially as an underclassman.

As we stated, you aren’t going to play if you can’t help the team win (a.k.a. help the coach keep his job). The coaches literally feed their families this way. This is not high school where he or she is making their money from teaching at the school and just doing basketball for fun.

First of all, freshman have upperclassmen who are more experienced and usually stronger and more skilled that they have to compete with. Then there’s also other players typically in the same class that they are competing with for minutes. And we already mentioned Junior College transfers and graduate transfers on top of that.

Think you’re going to come in and start right away as a freshman?

Shoot, you’ll be lucky just to get a few minutes a game (if that) in most cases!


So what do these 4 truths add up to?

It adds up to:

  • “About 40% of all men’s basketball players who enter Division I directly out of high school depart their initial school by the end of their sophomore year.
  • 633 men’s basketball players transferred schools in 2016.
  • Of those 633 transfers, only 46% transferred to another D1 school. Most of “the others typically left for Division II, NAIA or 2-year colleges.

I don’t mean to be negative or the bearer of bad news, but players and parents need to know these things about D1 college basketball. They’ll help parents and players make more informed decisions and be much more prepared if they’re good enough and lucky enough to play at that level.

I hope this information about playing Division 1 basketball was helpful, after reading it, do you still think you have what it takes to play Division 1 College Basketball? Are you willing to deal with the above truths? 

We would love to hear your feedback!

Download the Ultimate Guide to College Basketball Recruiting

Click on the button below, enter your email address and zip code. We’ll send you the PDF of this guide for free.

Call Now Button