Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting to the Next Level

There's been some talk on here lately about what it takes to get to the next level. To get a basketball scholarship, to get noticed by the college scouts, etc. I've also had players come up to me in person and ask for advice on how to get their game to the next level. And for many of the players ranked on this site that's their goal. To get a scholarship, either a partial or a full one to play basketball in college, either at the D-I or D-II level.

This is my advice to all of you players who have that goal:

1) First you have to work EXTREMELY hard. You have to constantly work on your game. Film your games, and watch them. Be critical of yourself, look for things you need to work on. Then try to improve those things in the next game. But in the next game look at the film and find OTHER things to work on, etc. Never be satisfied. Even tape yourself practicing and watch that.

2) Work hard, not just on your game, but also on your strength and conditioning. To play at the next level, you have to be quick and you have to be strong. Try to find a good balance between your court time, weight room time, and time spent on running/agility drills, etc. Being in good shape is just as important as you r ball handling.

3) Keep working on your game, and play as well as you can for your high school team. You want to get some recognition, get people talking about you, etc. so that coaches/scouts will come see you play. At the same time, you can't change you style of play to try and make it all about you. You still have to play a team game. Because if a college coach does come to see you play, and you're forcing shots or going for a dunk on the fast break when you had a teammate ahead of you wide open then the college coach will not be impressed.

4) Keep an eye on the New England Recruiting Report for when different exposure events are held such as Elite 75, Hoop Mountain, etc. Go to as many of these events and camps as you can. Events like these are a big scouting place. They give scouts and coaches a chance to see 50-100 top notch players in the gym at one time, whereas at a high school game they will only see about 8 kids play for each team and if they're lucky 2-3 of them are college prospects. There are lots of these exposure events that are held, most take place during the offseason. Playing well at them will go a long way towards achieveing your goal.

5) Keep working on your game!

6) Playing for a top AAU program will also help, one that travels around to where the scouts will be, and plays against elite competition. This is where the question comes up about dedication. How dedicated are you to this goal? Are you willing to commit to being a one-sport athlete? Because the top AAU programs play ALL spring and summer, some of them even play in tournaments in the fall. Can you still get a scholarship if you don't play any AAU ball? Yes. Will you have a better shot if you play on a team year-round, including a top AAU program that travels around to different states and plays in headliner tourneys like the Providence Jamfest? Absolutely. But this stuff also costs money. Some people would like to play for the top AAU programs, but it is simply not an option for them financially.

7) Oh, did I mention to keep working on your game? That's the most important thing.

8) Also don't forget to keep your grades up. Some schools have academic standards so now matter how good of a player you are grades also matter. It can be very tough, balancing basketball with school. You have high school games, AAU, strength and conditioning. Oh yeah, and then there are those little things called eating and sleeping! Not to mention getting your driver's license and having a social life when you're 16 years old. I was there a few years ago, it's not easy.

9) Be careful who you trust. Some people out there will try to take advantage of you. Some people will lie to you. Some people might promise you a starting spot on their college team, or they might say something like, "You're the kind of player we could build our program around." Unless they've made you an actual scholarship offer, be careful what you believe. Because if they haven't made that offer, they might be saying these great things to you, then the next day they see a kid play who's better than you and they make him the offer. So just be careful out there. Different people will tell you all kinds of things, Some people will tell you you're a Division I player, someone else might tell you D-III, someone else might tell you you're better off working at Wendy's. Take this stuff with a grain of salt. And this is also where it helps to have someone - either a prent, guardian, etc. who is looking out for you and your best interests. Have them present when you meet these people so they can judge whether this person is being truthful with you or not.

10) Be realistic. When I was younger I was a big Duke fan, and my dream was to play for Duke one day. But as I got older I realized that wasn't going to happen. Remember that not every player who starts for their varsity basketball team will play in college, or get a scholarship to play in college. You really have to be gifted, and you really have to work hard. Be realistic. But at the same time don't let that stop you from chasing your dream. Because while not every player makes it, many of them do, even NH kids. Plenty of them have gone on to play college ball, and plenty more will. So work hard and chase you dream, but also be realistic and try not to set expectations too high.

11) Perhaps the most important thing you need is luck. Maybe another player that is close to your ability in your class suffers a bad injury. Maybe your future college coach just HAPPENS to see you play in a high school game because his car broke down on his way to see a different kid play. It sounds crazy, but little things like that can make a big difference. All you can do is bring your "A" game everytime you step on the floor. You never know which game it will be when a college coach just happens to be in the stands. But things happen, twists in fate. Try not to worry about things you cannot control. Like your height, the other players in your class, your high school coach, etc. Just focus on working hard everyday. In the gym, in the weight room, and in the classroom. If you do that, you just might get lucky.

Best of luck to all of the basketball players in New Hampshire. In high school, and beyond.


  1. Great advice! Maybe loving what you're doing goes without saying but, if you're not having fun or enjoying it then, play at a level that you do enjoy.

  2. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

  3. One thing I would add is to read. I just finished the book "Beyond Basketball" by coack K. Very good insight to what it takes to make it to the next level. Whatever that level might be for each individual.