Part 3: The Process of Chasing Your College Basketball Dream
Before we talk about The Process in Part 3 of Chasing the Full Ride – A Definitive Guide to Your College Basketball Dream it’s important to understand how and why so many players get intimidated and are undervalued or left out entirely in the recruiting game and how many more are just intimidated by the process itself. Part 1 and Part 2 of the guides are also available for reading by clicking on their link.
Showcase Events & The Harsh Reality
In an effort to gain more exposure prospects will often attend showcase events run by a variety of different organizations in the summer, fall and spring. Showcase events also occur during the high school season when organizers look to schedule multiple games pitting non-conference opponents against each other in a day-long, weekend or a holiday setting drawing recruiters while they look to cash in on sponsors, fans, concessions and merchandise. Showcases are very often attended by college, prep and junior college coaches from all levels and give kids a chance to really make a great impression. However, prospects can also often leave these events overwhelmed, intimidated and under the radar with such an influx of talent all at one location in a condensed time setting. Various factors including politicking by high school and all-star coaches as well as parents and even the showcase promoters cause a high percentage of quality prospects to miss out. These events have become platforms for grassroots organizers to promote their product while putting on a great show which showcases individualized play. AAU basketball which used to dominate summer has actually taken a back seat to major shoe companies such as Adidas and Nike as well as local, regional and national celebrities who now run about 99% of showcase events. Off-Season basketball has become big business and many people could care less about finding a partial scholarship for a local “super-star” who isn’t getting a full ride and is “just” playing AAU ball.
Location, location, location and international prospects
New York City is known as a breeding ground for point guards. Nate Archibald (Bronx), Mark Jackson (Brooklyn), Earl “The Pearl” Washington (Brooklyn), Bob Cousy (Cambria Heights), Sebastian Telfair (Brooklyn) and Kenny Anderson (Queens) to name just a few have given the world of basketball some of the best pure point guards ever seen. On the flip side of the city life, there are the Larry Bird-prospects that rise to the NBA from rural small towns in underpopulated remote areas. The players that live in obscurity but gain national attention with their incredible basketball talent. Then there is the international fundamentally sound geniuses like Sarunas Marciulinois and Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania), Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc (Croatia), Tony Parker (Belgium-France), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Steve Nash (South Africa-Canada), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon (Nigeria). These players have become household names for basketball junkies.
Unfortunately, the NYC point guard, small town legends and international studs are rare finds and for every one sure thing, there are thousands of prospects in these locations who are left behind. How do these kids get exposure each year? Who’s going to fulfill their basketball dreams? That is where the importance of The Process really comes into play.
Choosing the right school for both academics and basketball can be a very daunting, time consuming, expensive endeavor but if attacked carefully and with due diligence all students can and should find the perfect fit. The Process starts as early as freshmen year in high school for many college recruits.
Eligibility Center for Basketball Dreams
In order to qualify for the NCAA clearing house, NCAA D1 and D2 schools require a specific academic track beginning with the first year of high school. The core courses are defined as “an academic course in one or a combination of these areas: English, mathematics, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy” and high students seeking a NCAA division 1 or 2 scholarship need 16 core course by graduation. NCAA D3 schools don’t require a core courses to play.
Students seeking an athletic scholarship to a NCAA I or II school or an NAIA school need to register through the associations respective eligibility center prior to receiving athletic aid. It is recommended that students register at the beginning of their junior year. The clearing house also requires that all incoming student-athletes provide information about their amateur status as part of their registration into the NCAA Eligibility Center. The purpose of this is to keep a level playing field. The NAIA has a similar process to the NCAA Clearing House which was enacted in the fall of 2010 called the NAIA Eligibility Center or “PlayNAIA.”  The idea is the same concept as the NCAA with the intent to track all student-athletes at the national office level to be sure that everyone is in compliance. The cost of the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Center registration is $70 for US students and $120 for international 
SAT / ACT Scores
The NCAA also require SAT or ACT minimum “sliding scale” scores for admissions. The sliding scale is in place to give students flexibility in regards to their low GPA or test scores. To qualify to play intercollegiate athletics at the NAIA level, students must meet two out of the following three requirements; a minimum of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT (Critical Reading and Match only), earn an overall high school GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale and/or graduate in the top 50% of their graduating class. The NAIA offers the two out of three instead of the NCAA sliding scale test score method but both have the same purpose, give lower academic students some flexibility to become eligible. Passing through NCAA and/or NAIA Eligibility Center does not guarantee admission into a given school. The final decision for acceptance to a school and the completion of The Process lies in the hands of the admissions department at each respective institution.
A typical admissions checklist for a college or university will include an application ($40 fee), official high school transcripts, letter of recommendation and a brief essay. Admissions departments will also encourage a campus visit and once they have the prospective student touring their grounds, they will conduct an interview. More and more schools have moved to the on-line approach of recruiting which enables them to attract and filter through large numbers of recruits without physically having them on-campus. While college coaches are targeting student-athletes for their teams as early as middle schools, the admissions process typically begins junior year in high school when students, guidance counselors along with parents and or guardians will target schools and map out some possible campus visits. Some highly regarded academic high schools have students begin this process their sophomore year but generally some prep work and “feeling out” is done junior year and The Process really takes flight senior year. Students will prepare essays (1-2 pages), gather letters of recommendation (usually 1 or 2 from a teach, guidance counselor or other school official) and official transcripts (complete with grades, class rank and test scores) while deciding which colleges they would like to apply to and figure out if they want to go for early or general admissions to the chosen institution(s). Once application files are complete, schools make a decision and put the ball in the court of the recruit.
Financial planning & financial aid
Financial planning and financial aid are often a deal breaker in the recruits’ decision to where they go to school. While the hope is that students will be able to afford college with a full-ride athletic scholarship (Part 1) or some sort of family trust, nest egg or a big dip into savings, the reality is that two thirds of all students take advantage of academic merit scholarships, athletic scholarships and/or FAFSA as discussed in Part 2 (link or even excerpt here). Students can apply for FAFSA beginning on January 1 of their senior year in high school. Early application is encouraged as much of the funds are awarded first come, first serve once the need is determined to be equal. The Process for the ‘average’ basketball recruit is complex and while finances are a huge factor, the level of comfort, value and attention the player has from the team can close the deal.
Where to start and how to get there? Narrow down your choices
Put quite simply, the more a coach wants a player, the more attention he or she is going to get during The Process. However, recruits should never stop trying to prove themselves and should not settle for a team because it is local, or their sibling or friend is there or because they are being pushed there by a community, parents, high school coach or some other outside influence. If you are looking to get a start in narrowing down college choices that might be a fit for you, then I recommend you use a tool developed by a company I am involved with. The Sport Source has a tool that is free for 24 hours use that permits you to input some of your criteria and also qualifications and then helps create a personalized database of which schools could be a fit for you. Click here to learn more about MATCHFIT.
The campus visit is vital in getting the proper level of comfort with a team. A chance to bond with the players, sit down with the coaching staff, check out the facilities, possibly catch a game or practice and just take in the environment where they may spend the next four years of their life is high encouraged. In other words, don’t wait to get chosen, choose yourself!!
Once this has been done, recruits should seek out what their athletic value to team could possibly be. In order to reach the point in The Process where a recruit is truly wanted and valued by a program, most prospects must use their “knowledge and persistence as weapons” They have to be able to “accept criticism, be honest with their ability in order to find the best fit”. Players develop by taking advantage of their strengths and really working to get better in the off-season. Individual Workouts, hiring a Basketball Trainer, and utilizing teammates are all ways to close the gap on the competition and earn a spot on a college team.
The Process then becomes what you make of it. Enjoy The Process, make it an experience of a lifetime while carefully navigating through colleges and basketball programs that fit your need, comfort level and desires as a college basketball player and before you know it you will be living the college basketball dream!
 The Truth About AAU Basketball – By Ryan Wood, iHoops.com
 Top 10: New York City’s Greatest Point Guards – By Kevin Askeland (MaxPreps.com)
 The 30 Best Players Born Outside Of The States In NBA History – By Joseph Duruaku
 NCAA Course Work Requirements – College Board
 Information about the NCAA Eligibility Center formally known as the NCAA Clearinghouse
 NAIA Eligibility Center
 NCAA Eligibility Center
 Eligibility Center Quick Reference Guide
 NAIA Eligibility
 College admissions in the United States – Wikipedia
 Financial Aid: FAQs
Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Aid –