4.1.2 College/university scouts
There are many opportunities for players to play basketball at colleges & universities, particularly in North America (USA and Canada). Many college coaches attend junior tournaments to observe players and they will often speak with coaches to find out about the player. The college regulatory bodies (e.g. NCAA) have very specific rules regarding when they can have contact with players.
There are also many organisations that offer services to players to help them to find a place with a college programme and these organisations often charge significant fees. Again, coaches should ask that college coaches and scouts not contact players during tournaments.
The rules relating to eligibility to go to a college/university, and the specific eligibility conditions to play in college/ university (particularly in Divisions 1 and 2, NCAA), are complex and change frequently. Coaches should not attempt to provide advice to their players and should advise them to make careful investigations. Colleges/universities have compliance and admissions officers that work with the athletic department to assist prospective student-athletes in the process.
Before a player makes any decision to play at a college, they need to be clear about what pathways exist within their own national federation and the coach may help them to get further information about that.
Below are some tips that coaches may pass onto players considering playing at a US college or university. It is very important to find the right fit for the student-athlete and the college/ university. This includes the ability for the student-athlete to be successful in the classroom and on the court.
What should a player find out about the College/University?
Particularly for players that do not live in the USA, studying at a US institution is a life experience – it is living in a different country! And as much as you may have seen of America on TV, actually living there is a different thing. Many US colleges are in towns that revolve around the college itself. Some are in big cities, whilst others are in small country towns. Before you decide to attend the college or university there are things that you need to find out about the college or university itself.
General Questions About the College or University
- How many students are at the college/university?
- How many international students are at the college/university?
- What is the socio-economic mix of students at the college/university?
- Is the college/university associated with any organisations or religious institutions?
- Is the college/university a private or public institution?
About the city where the College or University is
- What is the average temperature?
- How far away is the nearest “big” city?
- What are the largest cultural groups in the city?
- What are the main economic industries in the city?
About Studying at the College or University
- Does the college/university offer a course that you want to study?
- Is the qualification from the college/ university recognized in your country?
- What academic support programs are available to student-athletes?
- How many credit hours do players take in season and out of season? And how long will it take for them to graduate?
- Is summer school available? If a player needs to take summer school will it be paid for by the college/university? (It is common because of the demands of training for athletes to have to take some summer school units.)
- Is the college/university accredited?
About College/University Life
- What is the typical day for a student athlete (how many class hours, how many practice hours).
- How many students share a room in the halls of residence? (Many of the halls of residence are dormitories and you will have a roommate!)
- Are the halls of residence “co-ed” (male and female)?
- Do the halls of residence have study rooms?
- Do the halls of residence have shared bathrooms and laundry?
- Do most student-athletes live on campus?
Questions to ask the coach recruiting a player
Whenever you are talking to a coach who is trying to recruit you, remember that they are speaking with many athletes and they are trying to “sell” you going to their College.
You may want to consider asking them the following questions:
About playing on the team
- What is your programme philosophy?
- What positions will I play on your team?
- Will I be redshirted in my first season (i.e. not play)?
- What expectations do you have for training and conditioning?
- How many athletes graduate from your programme? (This will be an indicator of how much emphasis the coach places on studying.)
- Does the team use any particular system or pattern of play?
- What other players are on your roster who may be competing for the same position?
- How much playing time do you expect me to have? (Be wary of a coach that “guarantees” you a starting spot.)
About the coach
- How would you describe your coaching style?
- When does the head coach’s contract end and how long do they intend to stay?
- If I am seriously injured while competing, who is responsible for my medical expenses?
About the Scholarship
- What sort of scholarship is being offered – full, partial, sport, academic?
- What does the scholarship include – board, tuition, meals, apparel, shoes, other?
- Who is responsible for paying for travel to and from the USA?
- How do I break the scholarship if I am homesick or unhappy at the college/ university? In particular, is there any commitment to repay the scholarship?
- What academic grades (SAT/ACT scores and Grade Point Average) do I need to be admitted to the college/university?
- What Grade Point Average do I need to maintain to stay on the scholarship?
- Is the scholarship for four years or is it awarded annually?
What to do if a scout/coach contacts me?
It is ok to answer questions and to provide information to the coach about the teams you have played with etc. However, players should be encouraged not to make any commitment without finding out all the information that they need.
Will a player’s basketball improve in a college programme?
College or university can be a good way to develop your game. Most college and university programs involve daily training from the start date of official basketball practice (early November) to the end of the season (March).
The NCAA places restrictions on the contact coaches can have with players both during the season and in the off- season. During the off-season you may not get much coaching. The head coach of a college or university basketball programme is usually full time and are often under considerable pressure to produce winning teams. This results in some coaches not focusing on the overall development of the athletes, but instead focusing exclusively on trying to win.
Many college coaches play very strict “systems” that give players particular (and sometimes quite limited) roles. Not all coaches do this but those that do are probably not going to develop your basketball game very much.
College and university basketball rules also differ from some FIBA rules (e.g. longer shot clock (35 seconds), closer 3pt line) and it may be best for your development to play FIBA rules.
When would I start College/University?
The US academic year starts in August or September each year. It is possible to start “mid-year” (i.e. in January) although this is unusual.