The answers might surprise you

Recently, while reading an article about a powerhouse Division II basketball program, I came across some descriptions of a few of the team’s top players. Things like:

“An example of a player who could easily be succeeding at the Division I level if someone had taken a chance.”

“He’s 6-foot-4 with D-1 athleticism.”

“…wasn’t hidden in some small town from D-1 coaches, but his shot likely scared them away.”

The irony is, these players are now top players for that DII team and they could very likely transfer to a larger, more prestigious Division I basketball program if they chose to do so. And the other thing that’s clear is that, while these players were missing something Division I coaches were looking for, they still managed to land a spot – and a scholarship of some form – at a DII school. What do college basketball coaches look for in a high school recruit? It usually comes down to four general areas:

• Height and Body Type

This one is pretty obvious, but college coaches will make quick judgments on a recruit based on his or her height and or body type. In addition, having the athleticism and strength to accompany that desired height and build factors in too. For reference, the average men’s DI basketball player is about 6’5” and the average women’s player in DI is 5’6”. The position you play will ultimately determine if you have the size and strength to play at a given level.

• Technical Skills

Especially at the Division I level, coaches want players whose skills are fully formed and don’t need to be taught the fundamentals of the game. Those skills can include ball protection, position-specific skills, and proper shooting technique, including release point, and footwork. As the quote above shows, a deficiency in one area of fundamental basketball skills can make a big difference in a coach’s interest in you.

• Basketball IQ

As the title implies, college basketball coaches look for players with basketball “smarts.” Those smarts can include having situational awareness in a game, knowing the right decisions to make, and having the ability to make those decisions in real-time when the pressure is on. For example, coaches look for players who know to hold onto the ball for the last shot as the clock winds down instead of rushing, panicking, and forcing a shot early. If you’re a perimeter player, can you dictate the pace of the game, read the situation, and lead the team on the floor? Can you make the right defensive reads? Or, basketball IQ may be as simple as keeping track of each teams’ fouls and time-outs during the game.

• Academics

To be academically qualified for NCAA DI or DII athletics, a high school student-athlete must complete certain core classes with a minimum GPA and earn a qualifying score on the SAT or ACT. Note those standards are the bare minimum needed to qualify academically. However, higher grades and entrance exam scores, as well as more challenging classwork, can help you stand out to a college basketball coach. That’s because better grades in high school show a coach that you can cut it academically in college, while also demonstrating your discipline, leadership, and ability to focus.

In addition, good grades can also make you eligible for academic scholarships, which can come in handy should you walk on to a college basketball team, attend a Division II school (where you might only earn a partial scholarship), or play for a Division III school (which don’t offer athletic scholarships, but do have plenty of academic scholarship money available). Finally, while physical size, technical skills, and basketball IQ may be judged differently by different coaches, grades, GPA, and entrance exam scores represent hard data. There’s no gray area. The higher your grades and test score, the better chance you have to compete at a higher level in college.

So now that you know what college basketball coaches are looking for, look at your game and see where you stack up. More colleges sponsor basketball than any other sport. And, as the players on the Division II team noted above discovered, even if you don’t have everything a Division I coach is looking for, odds are there’s a coach who is looking for what you have to offer.

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