Putting Yourself in Position to Secure a Division 1 Basketball Scholarship
With March Madness right around the corner, is it your dream to participate? While many want it, few understand what it takes to play at that level. The question itself should probably be rephrased to "How can I put myself in a position to play college basketball?" Wordsmithing aside, I'm going to lay out exactly what you should be doing and not doing. Let's go!
There, I said it! The most tried and true way to accomplish anything in life is hard work. The definition of hard work can be all over the board. What's hard for one may be easy for another. For simplicity purposes, you need to be working harder than your peers. That means more time in the gym, more time in the weight room, etc.
One of the best ways to break this down is this:
1. What are you really good at? Having an elite skill can take players to the very top. While one coaching philosophy would say to round your game out, another way would say "take that skill and continue to polish it."
2. What are you below average at? If a college coach came to watch you tomorrow, what would he/she say you're bad at?
3. Think about improvement in 3 areas: your skills, your physical ability, and your mental ability. You should be working on all three.
This may be seem obvious, but you have to handle your business in the classroom. There are no shortcuts here. If you have terrible grades, you can't go to college. The amount of resources available to you once you get to college are tremendous, so consider yourself lucky if you're privy to them. For everyone else, take care of business and look at school as an opportunity to better yourself. I've never understood how anyone can say they love to compete, but once they show up to class, they have zero desire to get good grades. If you want to win on the court, you should want to win in the classroom.
Here are the actual academic requirements:
*Complete a minimum of 16 core courses in high school, including 4 years of English, 3 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher), 2 years of natural/physical science, 1 additional year of English, math or natural/physical science, 2 years of social science, and 4 years of additional courses (from any of the above or foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy).
*Earn a minimum GPA of 2.3 in these core courses (with sliding scale for GPA/test score).
*Achieve a qualifying score on either the ACT or SAT standardized tests (either score will be combined with core-course GPA to produce a sum of standardized test score and core-course GPA).
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
This goes back to hard work. You need to find ways to get more out of yourself. This may be working with a coach or playing against older, more skilled players. Try and put yourself in positions where you're the worst player on the floor. Find a college basketball player and see if you can workout with them. Get in the weight room with others who are much stronger than you. You need to find ways to make yourself uncomfortable. You'll improve much faster this way. My only advice here is be patient with yourself and don't get down on yourself. It's not always easy to go from being the best player on the court to the worst. Tell yourself that this is a good for your game, and eventually, the results will come.
Play The Right Way
If a college coach shows up to watch you play, what do they see? Do they see a leader, one who's encouraging their teammates and raising the level of play? Do they see someone with positive body language? What would they say about you?
Every coach in America is looking for players that are hungry and humble. Let that be your calling card. Coaches want to see your potential, and a lot of that is your own personal attitude: Do you see a lot of upside in yourself, or do you feel like you've already arrived?
Notice that I didn't say anything about playing in a 100 AAU games next summer. I believe in playing against the best (we covered that in Get Outside Your Comfort Zone), but do so with a purpose. Find a team where you can develop, where you're getting better and competing in practice, and where you're surrounded by other players that want the same things that you do.
If you do all these things, college coaches will find you. Leave that to them. Focus on the things you can control and be objective with yourself. If playing division 3 basketball means you've gotten the most out of your ability, that's a mighty fine accomplishment and one you should be excited about.
For a quick reminder on how many high school basketball players actually play college basketball, look at the NCAA research below (from 2019). Only 3.4% of high school players play college hoops. Only 1.0% play Division 1. This certainly doesn't mean it can't be done, but it means you should be both grateful if you do make it and understand the percentages if you don't.
Playing college basketball is a privilege, not a right. Enjoy the journey ahead of you, and do something each day that you find challenging. All the best!
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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