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Mar, 2016

Want to play in college?

How to Get Recruited by a College
written by Jon Sanders

I’ve heard a lot of kids ask, I’ve seen a lot of parents wonder, and I’ve met a lot of high school basketball coaches who think they know. I’ve also experienced and been a part of the frustration and bewilderment college coaches go through having to “put up with” the many who just don’t realize what it takes to catch the eye of (then eventually catch the scholarship opportunity from) a college coach. The following are the steps it takes to get recruited by a college, minus the kindness and tact that oftentimes disillusions people. Follow these steps if you dare, but realize that each step is, in itself, daring.

Step 1: Figure out if this is what you TRULY want.

Not everyone’s blessed with freakish athleticism. For most, if you want greatness, you’re going to have to give up many things. Less time with friends and family, less church, less focus on school, fewer video games, less time on the computer, etc... You may choose (and should choose) some of those, but not all. Every practice and every workout should be gruelling, intense, and somehow fun at the same time. And your days off should be rare. If hard work isn’t fun, maybe this isn’t for you. If being exhausted and drained physically brings you joy, you’ll have a better chance. Realize, in life, you do what you want to do. Greatness won’t just magically come to you, but also realize that no one is forcing you to be great at a sport, and that all the other things mentioned above are good things as well. So, do you truly want it? It’s OK if you don’t.

Step 2: Set your priorities and use them advantageously

Now hopefully you chose school as one of your additional priorities above; for without good grades, you can’t get into college. Family is also great, especially as a support mechanism. If you have a mom who is rebounding and passing to you, that’s the best of both worlds. Creatively combining your priorities is a great way of strengthening them. Love church? Get your church friends to help you out. Love the computer? Use it to help you organize your workouts. Love sleeping in every day and playing video games til 3 in the morning? Can’t help ya!

Step 3: Develop your skills

It is essential to possess fundamental basketball skills. Quickness, speed, strength, jumping ability, basketball shooting percentage, and defensive ability are all necessary and important parts of the game that you must be able to demonstrate consistently on the floor. Work on your game. Find someone who’s willing to help who has been where you want to be. Never stop becoming better. Even if you’re the best on your team, or in your state, or even in the country, believe me there’s always someone better. There are workout programs across the state that are willing to help.

Step 4: Play Summer Basketball

Basketball recruiting has changed drastically over the last 15 years. Rules that colleges have to abide by have become more restrictive. The pressure to get commitments from players has resulted in players deciding earlier and earlier on what schools they are going to attend. It is no longer sufficient to be a good player with your high school team. Your senior year in college has almost become irrelevant! Colleges need to identify prospects earlier and earlier in their career. Coaches now go to places where they can identify and evaluate multiple prospects at one time. The places for that have become AAU tournaments and high profile “recruiting summer camps.”

AAU (or Amateur Athletic Union) is an organization that sponsors amateur sporting events. In basketball, they sponsor spring, summer and fall tournaments in multiple age groups. The age brackets are usually 19 & under, 17 & under, 15 & under, etc. The advantage of that system is that you can play up a bracket to get in better competition (a 15 year old can play in a 17 & U tournament but a 17 year cannot play in a 15 & U tournament). The tournaments are usually played during “live” college recruiting periods so college recruiters heavily attend them. If you can find an AAU basketball team in your area and it is an appropriate age bracket it would be well worth your effort to join the program.

High profile “recruiting camps” are camps that are held during the summer that attract high-level players, which in turn, attract college recruiters. Most of these are private camps, not camps owned by universities, colleges or high schools. They usually offer excellent instruction and very competitive games. Call a couple of colleges and find out what camps they attend to evaluate prospects and make plans to attend.

Summer basketball has become the most significant aspect of recruiting. At no other time can a college coach go to one spot and evaluate 300-400 players at one time. If you want to get one of those scholarships, you have to be where the coaches are.

Step 5: Be a better player than your coach is a coach

Everyone wants to win. For some coaches, it means the difference between having food for their family or not. So you have every reason in the world to take everything your coach says as positive. Some players respond better when a coach yells at them, other players would cry and do horrible if yelled at. Some players need to never be yelled at, while that would leave some “tougher” players unmotivated. Whichever player you happen to be, hear whatever your coach says in the tone you need to hear it. If he speaks softly but you need to be yelled at, transform his kind words into profanity. If you need soft words and he yells, transform his words into butterflies. And don’t EVER be against your coach, no matter what he does or how much pride is at stake. Your goal should be to make him Coach of the Year, even if he’s an idiot. If not, you’re pretty much saying that the team, that winning, and that greatness isn’t your top priority. Everything can be taken positively and as a motivational force if you creatively allow it to.

Step 6: Be Pro-Active and Build Relationships

Don’t wait for a college to find you, go find them. If there are schools that you are interested in, contact them early, and let them know of your interest. Visit the campus, invite the coach to come and see you play. Have your high school coach contact the schools you are interested in. Be sure they have the information they need to evaluate you. Things like game schedules, summer schedules, etc. should be sent to all schools you are interested in. Return all questionnaires and comply with all the requirements that they have for acceptance to school.

Respond and return all correspondences from college coaches. College coaches can begin correspondence with college basketball players they are interested in recruiting in the player's sophomore year. Do not let these correspondences go unreturned or unanswered. If a college coach asks you to send film, send film. It they invite you to a summer camp, go. It is vital to remember that the recruiting process feeds on itself. You stop feeding it and it will stop feeding you.

Call colleges and universities and ask for information cards. Fill these out and send them back. These will tell the schools who you are and what you're looking for.

Write letters to coaches. Tell them why you want to play for them. Contact recruiters and invite them to your games. Once they arrive, introduce yourself. Ask your high school coach for a recommendation. Request that he or she contact the college coach.

But not only that, reinforce the relationships currently surrounding you. Don’t “burn any bridges”, they say. Make friends with your teammates, coaches, other parents, EVERYONE.... because you never know who they know. And the positive aura that will be placed around you will be evident. Think I’m lying, DON’T! Attitude alone can take you to heights unknown.

Step 7: DO NOT make a highlight video. Send an entire quarter of a game instead.

Anyone can edit a highlight film, and coaches get tired of seeing those. Send a straight, unedited portion of a few of your games (not just one, once can be a fluke). The small things they’ll look for are apt to be things that never even crossed your mind. They know people make mistakes, they also want to see how you overcame those mistakes during the game. Did you lower your head or hustle back on D, did you pump up your teammates, did you dive for that one loose ball, did you dive for every single loose ball, etc. Give them an honest look at you, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Step 8: Get Eligible

Make sure you complete and submit all paperwork on time. Register for the NCAA clearinghouse at the beginning of your junior year if you want to play college sports. Register and take your first SAT/ACT at the earliest time possible after your sophomore year, ideally in the summer between this and your junior year.

If you want to play college basketball then you will need to get cleared with the NCAA clearinghouse at one point or another. The fact of the matter is that you should be cleared with the NCAA Clearing House before you contact any college basketball coaches. This is because a college basketball coach will ask you if you have been cleared with the NCAA clearinghouse. If you have not been cleared with the NCAA Clearing House then a college will not be interested in you. Getting cleared with the NCAA clearinghouse could take some time so you should get started by going on their website as soon as possible. After you begin the process of getting cleared with the NCAA clearinghouse you can move onto the next step of getting recruited to play NCAA college basketball.

To get a scholarship, you have to register for the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse. This is the organization that will evaluate your grades to determine whether or not you are eligible to play. Even if you are in junior college, they will go back to your high school grades to determine your eligibility (there are different rules for “qualifiers” and “non-qualifiers” coming out of high school and junior college). Take care of your registration as early as possible.

Step 9: Always be Enthusiastic, Motivated, and Motivating

A positive attitude is addictive and contagious. With excitement (even false), you can trick your body into being less tired and more amazing. With enthusiasm, you can transform your teammates into a bundle of energy. And with a motivating attitude, any smart coach would want you on their team to be the spark the rest of the team needs. These players are rare, their acts are selfless, and their focus is on winning. With a true level of perpetual enthusiasm you’ll stick out like a sore thumb (in a great way!)

Step 10: Never, never, never give up!

Be willing to play at a small-division school across the country if that's what it takes. Walk on the college team and work your butt off. Watch motivational movies. Do whatever it takes to never give up. Then, at the end of the day, whether you “meet your goal” or not, you’ll know that you’ve succeeded. No one who has ever given their best has regretted it! So I’ll say it again... NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! 

Good luck!