Navigating the System

College Recruiting Guide

College Recruiting is a system like any other. Each college has a few variations within the system, but for the most part they all operate the same way. Therefore, it is our goal to help our athletes and parents understand the system so they feel confident, competent and capable of navigating it with ease and comfort.

The System

Every college is trying to find and recruit the best basketball players possible. Their scouting process is to:

  1. Go to club games – local and national – and watch and evaluate players. Except on rare occasions, coaches will watch players they are interested in MANY times before making any decisions. They are looking for talent, athleticism, potential, work ethic, attitude, team spirit, technique, height, strength…
  2. Talk to club coaches about potential players that might be a good fit for their program.
  3. Send a potential recruit information about the school and basketball program.
  4. Make contact with the player – up until September 1st of the junior year of high school when coaches can send athletes emails, college coaches will go through the club coach to make contact and request that the player and parents contact the coach personally.
  5. Coaches want to get to know the player, talk to them on the phone, email them, and have them visit the campus if possible.
  6. Coaches determine the ranking of players they are interested in by position and then offer a scholarship when they feel they have a good understanding of the player, their goals, and their ability to have a positive impact on the program.
  7. There are subtleties to this process – so ask your recruiting coordinator for help!

Take Action

  1. Establish your goals and the level you want to play at. Your club and/or high school coach should be able to help you determine which level you are capable of playing at. However, I always encourage the athlete to trust their own interpretation of their ability to succeed. As an example, many players are not considered very good and then 6 months later they are a top 20 recruit simply because something clicked or they grew 6 inches. So, be honest with yourself, and encourage your coach to be honest with you, but also believe in yourself and don’t be shy about your aspirations.
  2. Consider what level of investment and effort you want to put into college basketball. Conferences like the Pac-10 are extremely competitive and require the athlete to make a big commitment time-wise, emotionally, physically and mentally. Conferences and schools with less pressure on athletics and winning will require less commitment and provide more balance. However, big time athletic schools for the most part do take good care of their athletes and provide excellent services to help them succeed in all areas. So, this is an important thing to consider when determining what level you want to play at.
  3. Make a list of schools you’re interested in. More is not always better. Be thoughtful in your selection and remember that you can always take schools off your list and put new ones on. Some of the criteria you want to consider are:
    • Head Coach – personality, style, success, reputation…
    • Training Philosophy – positive, technical, difficult, demanding…
    • Academics – major, degree notoriety
    • Level of Play
    • Conference
    • Location – there are A LOT of great schools outside CA! Look!
    • Town and State – is it your style, or something new?
    • Team Dynamics
    • Campus – feel, ease of getting around
    • Support Services
    • Scholarship commitment (full, half, partial)
    • College atmosphere – sports, arts, activities
    • Feeling – emotional connection with coach, team, school…
  4. Make a bio and a video if possible.
    • Email your bio and tournament schedule to the schools on your list
    • Build a YouTube page for your videos and email coaches the link with your bio (make dvds and mail but YouTube is cheaper and greener)
    • Your videos do NOT need to be special in any way. In fact, they want them very very simple. They want to see you PLAY (best filmed from the back of the court and a static position), and some skill work. Errors are okay – do NOT over-edit tapes. They are simply looking for technique, athleticism, feel and potential.
  5. Sign up for an account at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. This software assists parents and athletes to learn, evaluate and connect.
  6. Have your club coach or recruiting director contact a coach at your top 10 schools to see what their interest level is.
  7. Contact the coaches of the schools you’re interested in by phone – especially if they’re interested in you! You want to establish a relationship with them as soon as possible. Ask them how often they would like you to keep in touch so that you can stay connected. Do NOT be afraid to CALL!!! They are very good at talking to perspective athletes and their parents and you should feel confident that they will be able to focus the conversation in the right direction. When you get really serious you want to ask the college coach some straightforward questions:
    1. Where do you see me fitting into your program?
    2. Do you have any scholarships for my position?
    3. How many other players are you looking at for my position?
    4. If they’re not interested, what can you do to get them interested?
    5. What type of coach are you?
    6. What type of training do you do?
    7. Would you say you’re a positive coach?
    8. How do you help the players to succeed off the court?
    9. What type of support services does the University offer athletes?
    10. How many fans do you get at games?
    11. What type of players do you recruit?
    12. What do you see as the future for your program?
    13. Are the basketball player’s friends with other athletes?
    14. Bottom Line: ASK QUESTIONS!!!
  8. Do your homework. Learn about the school, the town, the basketball program. See if it is a place you want to live for 4+ years.
  9. Visit the school. If you’re not a senior you have to make an unofficial visit to the campus. You can call to set this up with the coach yourself or you can have your club coach help you. Try to stay at least one night and see the team practice or play. You want to meet the coaches and the team as well as tour the campus and get to know the facilities and athletic department staff. Make sure to ask the players questions about the coach, the school and their overall experience.
  10. Compare and contrast the top schools that remain in your top 3 or 5. Talk with your parents and/or coaches about the positives and negatives and ultimately listen to yourself about what feels right to you. Try to be really honest with yourself about what you want and what you’re getting yourself into. Making a commitment just to make one doesn’t usually work out in the long run for you or the school. So, be thoughtful and take your time on making your decision. Try to make decisions about things that will really affect your LIFE in college – not your clothing colors, your mascot name, or the baseball or football team!
  11. Make a commitment to the school that is the right fit for you. Depending on when you commit, you will “sign” a letter of intent from the University your senior year of high school.

Disclaimer – this information is provided to be helpful in the recruiting process. It is not fact and you are encouraged to learn from your own experience and trust your own opinions and process.

Recruiting Timeline

Note: This is written by Aimee Ricken from Great Oak High School. She played for Michigan State and has tremendous knowledge of the recruiting process as a player and coach.

This is a sample recruiting timetable and not the only way a personal recruiting campaign can be conducted. Depending on your skill and the intensity of recruitment, some steps may come quicker and some slower.

Sophomore Year (preliminary recruiting year for Elite level sophomores who stand out b/c of skill, athleticism or height)

  • Begin your initial campaign of letters, profiles…
  • You need to compile an athletic resume or player profile sheet which includes the following: name, address, phone number, email address, coaches numbers, high school address, height, weight, grade point average etc, If you think it is important to know, include it in your player profile.
  • Write an initial letter of interest to the colleges you are considering. (See Sample.)
  • Put together a skills/game footage tape to send to colleges—even if they have seen you compete in person, they may want something more recent or something they can look at a few times. Include both skill sequences and straight out game footage. No more than 25-30 minutes total. Don’t send a highlight film, they want real time play action (even if some of it is ugly.)
  • Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse and receive a pin number to begin your eligibility process.
  • Sophomores–Realize that college coaches can only communicate with your coaches. They can only send you a questionnaire and camp brochure. You can, of course, call or write them anytime.
  • It is not too early to take unofficial visits to college campuses that you may be interested in. Call the basketball coaching staff to let them know you will be on campus to visit and would like to meet them.

Junior Year (most important recruiting year)

  • Follow-up letter, coach’s (the coach you play for) letter of recommendation, junior schedule. You want them to come see you play—you have improved since last year!!!
  • Have your coach make a few follow-up calls to some colleges of interest.
  • Update your player profile with current PSAT’s, schedule, numbers, height, weight etc.
  • Get game/skills tapes in order for those that will request them. Update with any new footage.
  • Juniors—college coaches are allowed to email and write you letters starting September 1st. You, also, can email and call them if you want.
  • Juniors may verbally commit to accept a scholarship from a university.
  • It is highly recommended to take unofficial campus visits to your top three to five schools during this year. You need to have a realistic view of the campus and the coaching staff before making any real decisions.

Senior Year (last chance to make a decision)

  • More of the same from the junior year’s campaign.
  • At this point, you may accept to take paid campus visits if they are offered to you. The NCAA says that you may accept to take five such visits. You may only remain on the campus for 48 hours for an official visit.
  • Update player profile with SAT scores, schedule, numbers, height, weight etc.
  • The early signing date for accepting a letter of intent is in the fall.
  • If you have not been offered a scholarship by the fall of your senior year, realize that things will either happen slowly (you will have to wait on the domino effect of the best players selecting schools first, then the next best group of athletes making their decisions, etc) or things will go very quickly (like a coach calling you and offering a scholarship while they give you 24-48 hours to decide before they move on to another athlete with that offer).
  • Don’t get frustrated—you can only control those things within your power to control. College coaches have their own agenda and you may not be their priority.