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The Latest on Collegiate Recruiting: What Qualities are Important to Coaches?

by Sandy Kimbrough, Ph. D.,
Texas A&M University - Commerce
and Jamon Copeland, Texas State University

How can you prepare your high school players for the pressure they face as they hope to be recruited to play college ball? What skills are most important; should they work on their defensive skills or their quickness, their shooting or their ball handling? Should they focus on their grades or on preparation for standardized college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT? A recent study conducted by Kimbrough and Copeland attempted to answer these questions. Specifically, they sought to find out what qualities were of the most and least importance to collegiate coaches as they looked at potential recruits.

Copeland and Kimbrough surveyed 197 current collegiate coaches and asked them to rank the importance of 24 characteristics grouped into 4 categories.

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The participants included the following:

 

Male

65%

Female

35%

 

 

Men's teams

50%

Women's teams

50%

 

 

15+ years experience

28%

14 or fewer years experience

72%

 

 

Post-season play last year

53%

No post-season last year

47%

 

 

Head coaches

33%

Assistant coaches

67%

 

 

NCAA Div 1

48%

NCAA Div 2 or 3

32%

NAIA/junior college

20%

 

The general question the coaches were asked was “what characteristics are you seeking when you recruit high school basketball players for your program?”  The coaches completed an online survey that included demographic information as well as an opportunity to rank the following six groups of characteristics on a 1-4 scale, with “1” being “very important” and “4” being “least important.”  The following tables represent the results, with the percentages representing how many of the coaches ranked each characteristic on the 1-4 scale.

 

Technical Skills

 

Ranking

Rebounding

Shooting

Passing

Ball Handling

1 (most important)

6%

73%

6%

15%

2

32%

10%

21%

37%

3

34%

8%

29%

29%

4 (least important)

29%

9%

44%

19%

 

Worth mentioning is the fact that 73% of all coaches ranked shooting as most important, while 44% of coaches ranked passing as least important of these 4 abilities.

 

 

 

Skill-related Fitness Abilities

 

Ranking

Jumping Ability

Defensive Ability

Speed

Quickness

1 (most important)

8%

31%

13%

48%

2

14%

22%

29%

36%

3

29%

27%

36%

9%

4 (least important)

49%

20%

23%

8%

 

Almost half of all coaches cited quickness as being most important, while half considered jumping ability to be the less important than defense, speed, and quickness.

 

 

Size and Intensity

 

Ranking

Height

Weight

Aggressiveness

Competitiveness

1 (most important)

9%

8%

8%

74%

2

21%

4%

64%

11%

3

60%

9%

22%

8%

4 (least important)

9%

78%

6%

7%

 

Everyone has seen the player that is just 6’ and runs the court like his own personal playground.  Coaches agree that competitiveness is more important than height, weight, and aggressiveness, and weight is least important of these four traits.  Keep in mind that many college players gain significant amounts of weight during college due to maturity and strength training.

 

 

Intangibles

 

Ranking

Attitude

Coachability

Basketball Intelligence

Performance Under Pressure

1 (most important)

38%

32%

22%

8%

2

29%

40%

19%

11%

3

17%

22%

42%

20%

4 (least important)

16%

6%

17%

61%

 

 

Somewhat surprising was that 61% of coaches rated performance under pressure as least important.  Interestingly, coaches were certainly not united in their opinions about the important of these four traits.

 

Cognitive Abilities

 

Ranking

GPA

SAT/ACT Scores

Common Sense

Self-Discipline

1 (most important)

25%

18%

16%

41%

2

27%

22%

31%

20%

3

35%

16%

20%

29%

4 (least important)

13%

43%

33%

10%

 

Many coaches are more interested in self-discipline than they are measured academic performance.  Note that while SAT/ACT scores can be a stumbling block for many individuals (athletes and non-athletes) seeking college admission, 43% of coaches indicated that those scores were of less importance that GPA, common sense, and self-discipline.

 

Experience and Demographics

 

Ranking

Classification (size of the school the athlete attended)

Level of competition the athlete faced while in HS

Race of the athlete

From a two parent household

1 (most important)

5%

82%

7%

6%

2

70%

7%

5%

18%

3

21%

4%

21%

54%

4 (least important)

5%

7%

67%

21%

Coaches made it clear that the level of competition faced in high school and the size of the school the player attended are more important than the race or household makeup of the athlete. 

We hope this information is helpful to coaches and players alike, and we welcome comments and questions regarding this research. 

 

About the Authors:

Dr. Sandy Kimbrough is the assistant department head of Health and Human Performance at Texas A&M University Commerce.  Jamon Copeland is an assistant men’s basketball coach at Texas State University and completed this project during his graduate coursework.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Dr. Sandy Kimbrough
Texas A&M University-Commerce, Department of Health and Human Performance

PO Box 3011, Commerce, TX 75429

903-886-5555, Sandy_kimbrough@tamu-commerce.edu

 

Jamon Copeland

Texas State University

jc73@txstate.edu

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