Every year, thousands of high school players compete for only a handful of college basketball scholarships.
These scholarships are given to select individuals who have displayed the right mix of talent and perseverance in the classroom and in the gym.
Whether you're aiming to be a professional basketball player or preparing for a wider set of opportunities by securing a college education, a basketball scholarship will definitely help.
But unless you’re a five star prospect or a generational talent, you should never assume that college coaches will come running to recruit you.
Neither should you be passive and just “let the whole recruitment process take its course.”
There are plenty of ways to improve your chances of getting that college scholarship, and it all starts with a healthy amount of preparation.
Here are a few tips that can further help you:
1. Find Out Where You Belong at the College Level
Before you send over any emails, letters, or videos, the first step you should take is to understand what division level is realistic for your abilities.
In reality, only a handful of HS players will receive offers to compete at the D1 level.
Don't get stuck in a situation where you feel your talent and skills and being underutilized.
To get an honest and accurate assessment of your skills, you need to do either one of two things:
- Get evaluated by someone familiar with your game (your coach).
- Attend basketball camps and see how scouts evaluate you.
Doing either helps you move on to the next step of the process with a clear understanding of where you stand compared to your peers.
2. Compile Everything You Need
Now that you know where you belong, the next step is to create and gather all the materials you need to get the attention of scouts and coaches.
This means your academic test scores and transcripts, high school stats, and a video highlight reel compiling your most impressive plays.
These will come in handy when it’s time to reach out to colleges.
Also, to cover all your bases, it’s just as important to keep your personal social media channel away from inappropriate content.
You never know which Athletics Director might stumble upon your Facebook profile, Instagram, or Twitter feed so try to keep things appropriate and positive.
3. Register With the NCAA
To have a chance to receive any sort of athletic scholarship will require you to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Believe it or not, there are students every year who don’t even get a chance to play basketball on a collegiate level simply because they overlooked this process.
This is done to validate that you are, indeed, an amateur athlete.
The process is painless and only a few requirements are needed to complete your registration.
Make this one of the first things you do in this entire process to ensure not missing out on anything when the time comes.
4. Create a Highlight Tape of Your Game
Creating a video showcasing your basketball skills makes you visible to scouts and coaches who can't attend your games.
To do this, record footage of your games and stitch several clips together into a 3 to 7-minute video highlighting all areas of your game:
- Moving without the ball
Ditch the urge to add distracting music and fancy editing.
Just use good quality clips with clean, simple editing, put the video online, and share it.
5. Reach Out to Colleges You're Interested In
You have little chance of a scholarship if college recruiters and coaches don't know who you are.
As early as your junior year in high school, make a list of the schools you can see yourself thriving in, and find out if your hunch was correct.
Send an email introducing yourself and declaring your interest in their basketball program.
Make sure to be respectful and to use proper grammar and polished formatting, as these showcase your level of professionalism. Include links to your videos and your contact details.
If possible, schedule an appointment to meet the coach and tour the campus. This is a great way to see if you connect with the coach and to see if the school's culture is a good fit for you.
If either of these aren't a match, cross that school off your list.
Remember that you will be spending the next four years of your life there...
Do extensive research before deciding where to go.
Besides the opportunity to become a part of winning hoops tradition and beyond the amount of scholarship money you eligible for, choose a school that will give you the best overall experience.
A college that will help you grow both as a player and an individual.
6. Join an AAU Basketball Team
Despite the negative view that many have on AAU basketball, I've previously recommended participating in these events since they're often attended by scouts of many prominent colleges.
These events will also give you a chance to compete against the best competition and see where you stack up.
It will expose your weaknesses, and prove what your strengths are.
The key to all this is to find the right AAU program.
You need an AAU team with a coach who is focused on development.
The worst AAU team's are led by coaches who are only focused on winning, and they'll sacrifice every player's development to achieve it.
7. Eat Right and Stay Healthy
Equally as important as working on your basketball skills is being aware of what food and drink you put into your body.
It may be easy to overlook at times, but staying in peak physical condition requires you have a diet that fuels your overall athletic performance, not hinder it.
Cut out sodas...
Cut out junk food...
Even though injuries are part of the game and cannot always be avoided, eating the right types of food while following a strict workout regimen helps lower the chances of having something unfortunate happen to you.
8. Be Proactive
When you get to the point where you’ve decided which schools are the best fit, get in touch with college coaches and let them know why you’re the one.
Create a professional-looking portfolio with your academic and athletic profile. Describe yourself briefly and remember to write each coach a personalized letter.
Copying and pasting the same introduction letter over and over again is not a good idea.
Have a highlight video? Share this with them.
If you don’t have one, now’s the time to make one.
Make sure to include clips of you against the best competition, and not of you (while nice) doing drills in your garage. Upload them to YouTube and don’t forget to include this in your mailouts.
Remember that college coaches receive hundreds of emails every week, so you’ll need to be creative in trying to grab their attention.
That said, all these little things don’t guarantee an automatic scholarship, but it does increase your odds, no matter how small or large that percentage may be.
9. Excel in School and Stay Out of Trouble
Don't neglect the "student" in student-athlete.
This whole process is about trying to tip the scales in your favor and increase your chances of receiving a college basketball scholarship.
Good grades are important.
A student’s grades indicate whether or not they're capable of balance between the demands of their schooling and of their sport, and it speaks loudly of the maturity of their work ethic and ability to manage priorities.
A division 1 athlete, for example, must maintain a 2.3 GPA every year. Take the SATs and your ACTs often to see how you can raise your grades even further.
Also, maintaining a spotless social media profile will only help your cause.
It goes without saying that bad behavior in school (no matter how petty they may seem) is just another thing recruiters can use against you during the recruitment process.
10. Get Support From Your Coaches
As good as you may be in hyping yourself up, it’s even better when someone does it for you.
Having your current coach praise your work ethic and coachability is far more impressive than any superlative you bestow upon yourself.
Keep nurturing your relationships with your coach and show them that you are always eager to do the hard work.
When the time comes to ask them for letters of recommendation, they won’t hesitate to do so.
While you’re at it, learn to network whenever you have the chance.
Go out of your way to meet coaches, athletic directors, or even school faculty and show them that you deserve that scholarship.
There are also paid services online that create a profile for you to share and connect with coaches.
Leave no stone unturned as every contact you have is just another possible outlet for recruiters to turn their attention to you.
11. Become a GREAT Basketball Player
Unsurprisingly, none of the tips mentioned above will help you secure a college basketball scholarship if you don't excel in the area that matters the most...
This is BY FAR the most important factor to improve your chances of getting offered that elusive scholarship opportunity.
You can participate in every amateur league and summer camp, have your highlight video go viral on social media, develop excellent relationships with college coaches, and be of stellar academic standing...
But these won’t count anything if the coach decides you aren’t good enough to warrant a spot on a college basketball team’s roster.
Crack down on you weaknesses...
Build on your strengths...
Learn from others...
Play 1-on-1 daily...
Never stop working hard to become the best player you can be.
Knowing there are thousands of other kids vying the same college basketball scholarships you're trying to get can be an intimidating thought.
So it's important to focus on what you can control.
Research colleges, connect with the right people, put yourself out there, keep your body in great shape, and focus on school.
Assuming that you continue striving daily to become the best basketball player you can be, doing all these things will put you in a great position to receive that elusive college basketball scholarship.