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Beyond High School Ball
by Anthony Calderon, publisher
Blackboard Media Group, Inc.

So you want to go to college and play ball. And you want a scholarship to boot? Join the crowd! According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are over one million high school basketball athletes in the US and that number is growing everyday. So where do you fit in and what have you done to differentiate yourself from everyone else? If you answer falls into to category of "I don't know", then it is time you took control of your own destiny and control of the recruiting process.

There are four major options in playing post high school ball; junior college, NAIA, NCAA Division I, II and III and professional. Despite recent events, chances of jumping to the pro's right out of high school are still slim. So for the purpose of reality, let's stick with options that also include a formal education.

Junior colleges are 2-year programs that offer a solid education and a chance to play college ball. Generally, admission standards are lower, which allows those of you who didn't meet NCAA standards to improve your grades, hone your basketball skills and try for a scholarship or walk-on position in two years. If money is an issue, junior colleges are significantly less than 4-year institutions. The junior college option is a strategy many professional athletes have used to improve their grades, mature their skills and keep debt to a minimum.

The National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics or NAIA has over 300 4-year colleges nationwide that focus as much on you as a student and they do as an athlete. NAIA schools are generally smaller private schools that most of us have never heard of. The benefits are simple; more chances to play versus sitting on the bench; athletic scholarship opportunities; you can transfer without losing a season of eligibility (which is not the case in NCAA programs); fewer recruiting restrictions and less stress to always win, win, win.

Ultimate Basketball Recruiting Guide for the High School Athlete

The Ultimate Basketball Recruiting Guide and Planner. Filled with information about the recruiting process. Well worth the $19.95.

Visit Blackboard Media Groups website to learn more.

The downsides are less recognition in the basketball community, no NCAA money, higher academic standards, and the big one. NAIA schools generally cost a whole lot of money!

Now we get to the one you read about everyday in the paper. The one that just signed a $6 billion dollar marketing rights sale to CBS. And yes, the one nearly every athlete aspires to be a part of. That's right! I'm talking about the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA is broken up into three categories; Division I, Division II and Division III.

Division I: DI is considered the largest and most competitive programs in the country. All DI schools offer athletic scholarships, except Ivy League, Patriot League and military service academies. However, all three do offer "financial packages" which is simply another term for athletic scholarship. There are 327 men's and 324 women's programs in the US to choose from. How many can you name?

Division II: DII are said to be just a little less competitive than DI. But don't let that fool you.

Of the 275 men's and 276 women's programs available, you will find many that will rival DI programs. The main drawback is the scholarship factor. DII schools can break apart their awards by offering you books and tuition and someone else room and board. This means although you may get a scholarship, it will most likely be a partial award, which leaves you picking up the tab for the rest.

Division III: DIII schools are very similar in nature to NAIA schools. The main difference is that DIII schools DO NOT offer athletic scholarships.

The schools are smaller; mostly private institutions that focuses the impact of athletics on the participant rather than the spectators. In other words, if you have stellar grades, methods of paying for college either through personal funds or outside scholarships and want to participate in a competitive, yet not DI competitive program, then a DIII school may be right for you. There are 383 men's and a whopping 416 women's programs throughout the US for you to consider.

* Because DI and DII offer scholarships, the rules surrounding the recruitment of high schools student-athletes are greater than those in DIII. We will get into that later in the game.

The first thing to understand is that you don't have to be a stand-out player to get recruited. In fact, only 2% of all athletes are considered "blue chip". The remaining 98% are just like you, athletes who know the game, love the game and want to continue playing the game in college. So don't sell yourself short in thinking college ball isn't for you. As my dad always said, "NEVER make up somebody else's mind up for them".

The second thing to remember is that the recruiting process begins your freshman year. Yeah I know most of the "real" stuff doesn't happen until you're a junior. But with so many athletes and so few college programs, it is your job to market yourself and make sure coaches know who you are, where you play and what your intensions are! You also have to remember grades. That's right, getting a college scholarship, or for that matter, just getting onto a college team depends greatly upon how you do in the classroom. As someone who has been involved in youth sports, both at the high school and college level, I've seen just about every type of athlete go through the recruiting process . including myself. Twenty years ago, if you were a dumb as a door knob, but could post 35 points a game, you were going to college. Today's college admission standards have changed all of that. Besides, coaches realize that athletes who struggle in the classroom will likely struggle on the court. So do whatever it takes to maintain a 3.0 GPA or above. If you don't, you will lessen your chances at playing college ball, or going to college at all.

Now let's look at schools.

Depending on what grade you are in will determine the amount of schools/programs you should look at. Law of averages says that the more schools you apply to, the more likely you will find one that suits your needs. This means DO NOT bet your future on five schools. Open you doors of opportunity and look outside your comfort zone. Look for schools that have studies you are interested in, ones that are flexible and allow you to change your major without losing a year of credits. Things to consider:

  1. Academics
    First and foremost, attend a school you feel will challenge your intellect. Basketball will be an important part of your experience, but ultimately, your education is what will pave the roads to your future. Always look at the school first, and the basketball program second.
    1. How much time are you willing to spend on your studies?
    2. Does the school offer a solid program in your field of interest?
    3. How important is the school's academic reputation?
    4. How recognized is the faculty?
    5. What is the student-teacher ratio?
  2. Basketball
    Of course this is important! You will need to like the athletes, respect the coaching staff and believe in the program.
    1. Do they offer a program you can fit into?
    2. How many players play at your position and are they an all-star line up?
    3. Can they offer you a scholarship? If not, what help can the program offer you in the financial aid process?
    4. What is the reputation of the coach and how close is their style to your play?
    5. How does the program rate within their conference and/or nationally?
    6. How important is it for you to play right away?
    7. How financially sound is their athletic department? THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU REALIZE.
  3. The University
    While you are busy worrying about everything else, don't forget about the university itself. Some schools are close-knit communities that offer a wide selection of challenging experiences. While at other schools you are more likely to function anonymously and have to work to get attention from faculty and staff. To find out more about the school, log onto their website, read about their campus, their student organizations and campus functions. You can also log onto www.collegeboard.com and create a list of potential schools based on your answers to their questions.
    1. Do you want to attend a small, medium or large school?
    2. Do you want to attend a liberal arts school?
    3. Public or private?
  4. Location
    There are more schools than those in your backyard, so open your eyes and look into states you have never looked into before!
    1. Do you want to attend school in a rural setting or right downtown?
    2. Do you want to stay close to home? And if so, why?
    3. How easy is it to travel home?
    4. What type of climate do you prefer?
    5. Is money an important factor?
  5. Finances
    If you are not being offered a full-ride scholarship, it is time to find alternative means to pay for college. Don't think that if a school is out of state or private that you can't afford it. There are more grants, scholarships, loans and sneaker cash than you realize.
    1. How much is tuition, room and board?
    2. What kind of financial aid / scholarship package will they offer?
    3. Which school offers more free money vs. loans?
    4. What is the cost of living at each location?
    5. What coach is willing help with finding you money?
After you've settled into what schools are best for you, it's time to look at the type of student/athlete is best for each school.

We would like to thank Anthony Calderon of the Blackboard Media Group, Inc. for supplying us with this information. He will be providing additional articles in the coming months in a series on the college recruiting process. He finished his full-time coaching career in 1997 after helping lead UCLA women's gymnastics to its first national title. For the past six years, Mr. Calderon has managed one of the largest and most successful college planner campaigns in history. He now plans to take his passion for amateur sports and combine it with his knowledge of publishing to create a valuable tool for high school student athletes, the Ultimate Recruiting Guide and Planner.

Blackboard Media Group, Inc. publishes the Ultimate Recruiting Guide and Planner in a sport specific style planner for college bound athletes. Current sports available include baseball/softball, basketball, track and field, and football. The planner is a highly recommended purchase for the athlete looking to get ahead in the world of college basketball. It features information on Division I programs as well as lists of Division II and Division III colleges with basketball programs, as well as a daily style planner for keeping notes, and helpful monthly tips relevant to the school year (testing dates, etc.). A great all-around product.

Continue to Part Two

author: Anthony Calderon, publisher
Blackboard Media Group, Inc.

Our thanks to Human Kinetics for sending us some excellent coaching books. You can't beat the price, less than $20.

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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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"My son's high school coach gave him a copy of the book and he read it in two days. Now he is leading the effort to get himself a scholarship. The book is inspiring and effective for high school athletes."
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