After spending a week at Hoop Group Elite Camp at Albright College in Reading PA, and talking to numerous college coaches who were evaluating the immense amount of talent on the floor, it struck me that the majority of the players who are playing in the games have no idea what the coaches are looking for who are evaluating them. In order to give yourself the best chance at being recruited at the next level, each player needs to understand some of the specific things that the coaches who are evaluating the games are looking for, whether at Camp or at an AAU tournament. With the new shortened recruiting calendar for Division 1 coaches, the window of opportunity is small, and you MUST take advantage of every little detail. Here is a list of 5 things you should consider when approaching a tournament or a camp that the college coaches who are evaluating you will 100 percent be looking at.
1) If you can't do it, don't do it
Time and time again throughout the week I watched big men try to prove they were the next Kevin Durant, take 3 dribbles up the floor, and hit the ball off his foot out of bounds. Although, being a big man who is versatile, ala Lamar Odom, is a valuable asset, the problem is you are who you are by the time colleges are recruiting you. In order to play at the level that you want to play at, you have to showcase to the colleges who are watching you that you can provide value for their team. It is as important to prove that you will not hurt them by doing too much. I understand the thought process of players who are trying to prove that they can do certain things that people say they can’t, such as shoot if you are labeled a slasher, or drive if people think you are a spot up shooter. However, if the majority of people are saying these things, unless you have put an immense amount of time developing the other elements of you game, just DO WHAT YOU DO, and DO IT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. The reason this is important is because coaches go on the road with specific needs for their team. If you are a great shooter then space the floor and prove that no one in that gym is going to stop you from hitting big time three after three. There are a lot of players in the NBA that have the role of defending and shooting threes. The same can be said for the big man who understands the value of boxing out, getting 15 rebounds a game at camp, and out letting the ball to the high major division one guard who is running the floor. I can’t tell you how rare it is these days to see a big man rebound out of his area, or crash the boards every single possession. These are things that colleges are looking for, not showing that you can have marginal success, now and then, doing something that you really should be letting someone else on the floor do.
2) Attitude is everything
The old saying, you never know who is watching is 100 percent accurate during the live period. Yes, it is important for you to play well. However, I watched a player all week long who would complain to referees, yell at teammates, get frustrated with his coach, show up late to every game, and although he played well during the evaluation process, I know for a fact that there are many coaches who were at one point recruiting him, that decided to back off because there were other guys there with a very similar skill set that had a far better attitude. Sometimes you can’t control how you play. The greatest players in the world often have inexplicably bad shooting nights. The one thing that you can ALWAYS control is how you react. Never mope, complain, or become an energy vampire to your team. Just shut up and play the game the right way as hard as you can possibly play. Good things will happen to you and your recruiting process if you always stay in the moment and worry about the next play because no matter how badly you are playing, that time is over and the only thing you can control is your attitude and the next play.
3) Get it done in the classroom
Some schools have stricter academic qualifications than other schools, so right off the bat you put yourself in a pool of players that can be recruited by more schools. This gives you a better chance of playing college basketball because certain schools would like to recruit the best of the best, but simply put, the best of the best can’t get into their school academically. This is the obvious part of getting it done in the classroom. However, one thing that players don’t often consider is the correlation between getting good grades in the classroom, and being considered a low risk recruit. What this means is often times when schools have multiple scholarships to give out in a given year, especially when it gets late in the year, they will go for the best available player but don’t want to recruit someone who is going to cause issues in the locker room. Unless you are a program changer, the majority of players will be filling in roles at the next level, and they will be considered glue guys (or 4 year guys at the highest major). This is why often times coaches, even at schools that have a less strict qualification to get into school, will inquire about what grades the player has. More often than not, there is a correlation between the type of worker and person you are and your grades coming into school. Also, with the new APR standards, it is important to bring in players that can help the basketball team’s academics right away.
4) Go to the best fit for you
I understand the implications of playing college basketball at the highest level, and I am not naïve enough to think that many players should pass up D1 scholarships to play D2, or passing up ACC schools to play in the MEAC. However, with the ridiculous amount of college transfers, highlighted here in Jeff Goodman’s list as of June 14, http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/10702122/tracking-..., it is time players start going to the right school, not necessarily the best basketball team. Players and parents need to start considering all things about the schools that are recruiting them. Often times the image of a school is completely different than the actual school. I spent one season at the University of Miami in Florida, and I was blown away by how different the perception of The U is and the actual U itself. Miami is a beautiful, small, private, liberal college with about 10,000 undergrad students, but judging by the reputation, largely garnered by the football team in the 80’s, one would think it was a huge, public, state school. Research each school that is recruiting you because there are often times, players eliminate a school because they don’t play on television enough, but there have been enough CJ Mccollums and Damien Lillards (Lehigh and Weber State), to prove that if you are good enough you will play at the highest level. Don’t be another player on the transfer list because you didn’t do enough research on the school you were going to. These are four years in your life that you will never get back, and although basketball is a huge part of this process and probably should be the main portion, there are other elements to choosing a school that often players don’t consider.
5) Enjoy the process
If I could define the feelings of a lot of the players I talked to at The Hoop Group Elite Camp, it would be a feeling of stress. Questions were circulating consistently around the campus, “Do you think I did enough coach”, “I couldn’t make a shot, do you think they are going to stop recruiting me now?” Just RELAX. It is what it is, and you will get recruited by the schools who recruit you. ENJOY THE RIDE!! Your opportunity to be good enough players and healthy enough to play basketball at the next level is awesome, and you should enjoy the courting of the different schools, and the process of choosing what school is right for you. This is an opportunity that very few players are able to have and you are one of those players! If you play badly, oh well, play better next game. This should never be something that stresses you out because basketball is a sport, and this sport is going to help you go to college, sometimes for free. Feel lucky and happy that you have the chance to play in front of college coaches during your high school and AAU seasons, as well as at various college exposure camps. In the 10 years I have been coaching and around the game of basketball 99 percent of the time the players end up exactly where they are supposed to be, so you might as well enjoy the time you have playing high school and grassroots basketball!