In my 10 years as a basketball strength coach I have been fortunate enough to have worked with hundreds of high school players who have gone on to play college basketball. These players have gone to schools ranging from Division III to major Division I. It is important to understand that only a very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of kids who play high school basketball are fortunate enough to play in college, and an even smaller percentage play on scholarship. The competition is fierce!
If you are 7-foot, a scholarship will probably find you. If you play for a nationally renowned high school or AAU program, a scholarship will probably find you. But what if you don't? What if you are one of the millions of kids across the world of average size, decent skill level, and a ton of heart? Do you have a chance? YES.
Trust me; I know what I am talking about. I played on a basketball scholarship at Elon College (now Elon University) and I have had private conversations with almost every major Division I head coach in America.
Here are five tips on how you can improve your chances of attaining a basketball scholarship:
Be an outstanding student. Being a great student expands the ranges of schools you can attend and shows a coach you are committed to excellence and are organized and disciplined enough to handle college academics and playing ball. Unless you are a bona fide All-American, coaches are tired of taking “risks” on kids who are poor students. This is the first question every coach asks.
Be a great teammate. Every coach I have ever talked too looks to recruit players that are coachable and who get along with their teammates. No one wants a jerk. Be the teammate everyone loves to play with because you are unselfish, are committed to team goals, and raise the level of those around you. Don’t take for granted how important enthusiasm is. Being a great teammate can raise your stock tremendously! I have seen players lose a coach’s interest because of bad body language or acting like a jerk when they don't agree with a foul call or when they come out of the game. Before college coaches ask me to evaluate a player's athletic ability, they always ask, "Is he a good guy?" "Do you like working with him?"
If you can't, don't. Stick to what you do best and play to your strengths. Stop doing what you think coaches want to see. If you aren't a great 3-point shooter, STOP SHOOTING 3's! Coaches want players who know, understand, and accept their role. Nothing can lose a scholarship faster than trying to show off for a coach during a practice or a game. All you are doing is exposing your weaknesses!
Do the little things. Contrary to what most high school players think, it is NOT all about scoring. To play college basketball, you need to do the little things that make a big difference like: have good footwork, know how to set screens, box out, share the ball, communicate, play solid defense, dive for loose balls, work hard, and be a leader on and off the court. These things alone will separate you from 95 percent of the players who are your size and skill level. The little things can earn you a big scholarship!
Maximize your ability. You can’t control your height, and certainly some folks are born "more athletic" than others. But you can make sure you are as strong as you can be and in as good of basketball shape as is humanly possible. You should be on a year-round strength and conditioning program and work on your ball handling and shooting daily. College players do this stuff year round. Do you?