What College Coaches Look For in Recruits 2What do college basketball coaches look for in recruits?

The spring NCAA basketball “evaluation” periods are coming up the next two weekends in April and then again repeating for 3 weeks in a row in July.

During this time, college coaches are allowed, per the NCAA, to watch AAU basketball teams in person around the country in order to evaluate potential college prospects.

I thought it’d be a perfect time to write about what these college basketball coaches look for when evaluating a potential college basketball recruit. Parents and players (and even AAU coaches) often times have no idea what college scouts are looking for in their evaluations, so they end up focusing their energy and efforts on the wrong things.

Top 5 Things College Basketball Coaches Look For

We’ve written about the subject of AAU basketball and college basketball recruiting before in previous blog post, such as Finding the Right AAU Team, How to Play Basketball in College, Paul Biancardi’s 10 College Basketball Recruiting Questions, and Bigger versus Better, to give you more context to the world of college basketball recruiting. However, this article will focus specifically on the top things college coaches look for when evaluating potential recruits.

what college basketball coaches look forI personally went through the college basketball recruiting process (pre-Steph Curry era, before you ask haha!) and have coached and helped many players move onto play at the collegiate level through our PSB Select teams, so believe I have a good sense of what college basketball coaches are looking for. However, I am not a college coach and never have been, so I thought it’d be better for the answers to come “straight from the horses mouth” so to speak.

Recently, I asked 5 Division I college basketball coaches of various levels what they look for when evaluating talent at AAU basketball tournaments during the NCAA evaluation period, and below are their responses.

Coach #1 – Southeastern Conference (SEC) Team

“Tough question for me to answer! I just try to identify talent during this time and then I watch kids play as much as I can. I really like guys who play hard, who are skilled and who are consistent at what they do. But I look at them over a lengthy period of time…not just live period! Because most loaded travel teams don’t practice much it’s tough to see the level of execution they will need to play with at our level! So it’s hit or miss!”

Coach #2 – Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Team

“Skill level. Toughness. Motor. IQ.”

Coach #3 – Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10) Team

“Feel for the game, – can they pass, shoot, dribble, see the floor. Toughness – do they rebound, do they like to hit people, do they like to play defense and work at it. Attitude – how do they react when things don’t go well, what kind of teammate are they.”

Coach #4 – Ivy League Team

“In no order:

-Passion…guys that show they hate losing but not in a way that distracts from the team (body language and responding to coach)

-IQ…do they make the right plays and have a good feel

-Skillset/athleticism…can they handle, shoot, pass, show athleticism outside of dunking in warm ups

-Defend…what position can he guard. And could he guard the best players in our league at that position

-Multiple efforts…don’t just do one thing and stand”

Coach #5 – Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Team (different from #2)

“-Toughness (loose balls, how he reacts when getting taken out)

-Competitiveness (hate to lose? Love to win? Does it matter?)


-Savvy (basically, can he play with an IQ)”

If we boil all of these answers down and try to find the common threads, the top 5 things coaches are looking for, in no order, seem to be:

#1 Toughness/Competitiveness/Playing Hard/Motor

If you re-read above, you’ll notice that every coach said some version of this. Playing basketball is not easy, so college coaches need kids that are going to be tough, competitive, will play as hard as possible, and have a high motor. And the great thing about this is this is something all players have 100% control over!

#2 Skill Set

Of course, you have to be very skilled to play at the college level. A couple of the coaches naturally mentioned shooting specifically, but also talked about passing and dribbling as well. Getting your skills to a high enough level takes years and years, but it’s not all about scoring the ball!

#3 Attitude

This is a very under-rated trait that many players don’t realize coaches look for. How does a player react after a turnover or a mistake by a teammate? Does the player have energy when sitting on the bench? How does the player react to coaching or being subbed out of the game?

College coaches don’t want babies, whiners, pouters, and just generally players with poor attitudes! Again this is something that all player can absolutely control and change TODAY!

#4 Basketball IQ

If you don’t have a good basketball IQ, its tough to play at the collegiate or any professional basketball level. Basketball at that level is not simply a pick up game where it’s a free-for-all, which is one of the reasons why a lot of AAU play doesn’t translate at the next level.

Players must be able to think and run offenses and defenses, learn scouting reports, etc. Don’t forget about the mental side of the game. College coaches sure don’t!

What College Coaches Look For in Recruits#5 Defense

The defense in many AAU basketball games is laughable, or rather, non-existent. Often times, players feel that they can simply focus on their offense, and the defensive side of the game doesn’t matter. False.

Players that earn a college basketball scholarship focuses on their defense as well. Remember Aaron Craft from Ohio State?

So there it is: the top 5 things college coaches look for during the college basketball recruiting period. Parents, relay the message to your child.

Players, try to implement the above 5 things in your games starting this weekend if you haven’t already. Lastly, coaches talk to your team and parents about these things. I guarantee it will help your kids be more successful on the court this spring and summer, and hopefully lead to college coaches taking notice!

Brendan Winters is a former Davidson Wildcat and European professional basketball player as well as the co-founder of Pro Skills Basketball and co-director of Pro Skills Basketball Charlotte.

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