Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing College Basketball

Posted by Lee Miller | Friday, November 5, 2010 | Category: , , , |

I am honored to receive hundreds of emails per week from coaches and players around the world… almost all of which offer kind words and support (for which I am truly grateful).  I also get asked a lot of questions.  The three questions I get asked most often by players are:

What is the best way to improve my vertical?
How do I get a college scholarship?
Will lifting weights stunt my growth?

If you are looking to improve your hops, please check out the episodes, articles, and downloads at

As for getting a college scholarship, I happily offer my thoughts in this blog.  Next week I will address age appropriate strength training and the myth that strength training will stunt growth.

In my 10+ years as a basketball strength and conditioning coach, I have worked with hundreds of high school players who have gone on to play college basketball.  They have gone to schools ranging from Division III to major Division I.  Only a very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of kids who play high school basketball have an opportunity to play in college, and an even smaller percentage will play on scholarship (NOTE: Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships). 

If you are 7 feet tall, a scholarship will probably find you.  If you play for a nationally renowned high school or AAU program, you have a much better chance as well.  But what if you don’t?  What if you are of average size, decent skill level, and have a ton of heart? Can you still play college basketball?  Yes! But it’s not easy.

Here are 8 tips on how you can improve your chances of attaining a basketball scholarship: 

1)    Be an outstanding student.  Being a great student expands the ranges of schools you can attend and shows a coach you are committed to excellence on and off the court.  Unless you are a bona fide All-American, coaches at every level are tired of taking risks on kids who are poor students.  This is the first question every coach asks.  Don’t let the first filter be the one that weeds you out!

2)    Be a great teammate.  Every coach I have ever talked too looks to recruit players that are coachable and who get along with their teammates.  No one wants a jerk. Be the teammate everyone loves to play with because you are unselfish, coachable, enthusiastic, committed to team goals, and raise the level of those around you. Being a great teammate will raise your stock tremendously.  I have seen players (literally) lose a coach’s interest because of bad body language or acting like a jackass when they didn’t agree with a foul call or when they came out of the game.  Before college coaches ask me to evaluate a player’s athletic ability, they always ask, “are they a good teammate?”

3)    If you can’t, don’t.  Stick to what you do best and play to your strengths. Stop doing what you think coaches want to see. If you aren’t a great 3 point shooter, stop shooting 3’s! Coaches want players who know, understand, and accept their role.  Nothing can lose a scholarship faster than trying to show off for a coach during a practice or a game.  All you are doing is exposing your weaknesses!  Every team, from JV to the NBA needs role players and players who know how to play to their strengths.

4)    Do the little things. Contrary to what most high school players think, it is not all about scoring.  To play college basketball, you need to do the little things: good footwork, set screens, box out, share the ball, communicate, play solid defense, dive for loose balls, work hard, and be a leader on and off the court.  These things alone will separate you from 95% of the players who are your size and skill level.  The little things can earn you a big scholarship!

5)    Maximize your ability. You can’t control your height, and to some degree, your overall athleticism.  But you can make sure you are in great basketball shape.  You should be on a year round strength & conditioning program and work on your ball handling and shooting daily.  Focus on the things you have complete control over!

6)    Be realistic. It is so important that you have an accurate evaluation of the level you can play.  Not everyone can play major Division I basketball.  I am not opposed to setting high standards and chasing your dreams; but don’t pass up on a great opportunity to play (and get an education) at a D-II or D-III school because you think Duke or Kentucky is going to call.  I have seen so many players left out in the cold because they kept holding out for a better offer that never came.

7)    Protect your brand.  You are the CEO of Brand You.  I wrote extensively about this concept in a previous blog: You need to carry yourself with professionalism and respect… both on and off the court.  Be careful what you Tweet or post on Facebook… it takes years to build credibility and a quality reputation and one click to ruin it. Someone is always watching and college coaches do significant background checks on all of their recruits.  Their first stop? Social media sites!

8)    Recruit them. Basketball is global.  If you can play; “they” will find you.  Don’t worry too much about getting exposure. Worry more about not getting exposed (for your weaknesses)!  And you don’t have to wait for a school to recruit you… you can recruit them!  If you know of a school that you would like to play for and is appropriate to your level… send them a letter and some game film.  If they like what they see; they will get back in touch! 

Bottom line is this; in addition to working on your handle and jump shot, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the pack.  You need to show college coaches a reason to offer you scholarship instead of giving them a reason not too!

Even though we held this workout outside; the following is a great workout you can do on court with minimal equipment after practice:

In the next couple of weeks I will post videos of our pre-practice warm-up as well as our post practice cool down.  Soon to follow will be videos of in-season strength workouts and pre-game warm-ups!

Make sure you join in the fun with my Daily Question and Funniest Caption contests at and

Please email me at if I can ever be of service.

Alan Stein

PS: I take pride in facilitating quality information and have sent out dozens of Coaching Nuggets in the past. I have decided to change the format and will send out one new Basketball Nugget per month. This month’s nugget will be sent next week; so please sign up for our email newsletter if you haven’t already done so:

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