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Scoring a Basketball Scholarship

There are more than one million men and women playing high school basketball in the United States and many thousands more playing in countries around the world. Yet, on average, only 50,000 of them receive basketball scholarships.

If you’ve set your sights on being one of them, you need an experienced partner to help you navigate the college planning and placement process. Without clear direction, a solid plan, and a trusted advisor to lean on, this process can be intimidating– especially for international students who may not be familiar with the guidelines and requirements of the NCAA and the NAIA.

SPIRE has a college planning and placement team who, together with the Academy’s coaches, are prepared to lead and guide student athletes and their families through the process, giving everyone the best opportunity to make the right decision for them.



  • Make the Grade & Meet the Deadlines

    When it comes to capturing the attention of a prospective college coach or recruiting stack, don’t just rely on your talent and ability. Stack the deck in your favor by communicating well with the decision-makers, doing your homework on the college or universities you’re interested in (not just their basketball programs), and demonstrate your maturity and independence at every opportunity.

    Off the court, make sure you’re doing all you can to:

    • Improve Your Grades
      • Good grades are a big advantage in the recruiting process. If you are a student athlete who meets the minimum qualifications to receive an academic scholarship, your offer does not count against the athletic budget of the coach. That’s a big plus for you—and your prospective team.
      • Meeting the following requirements does not guarantee that you will receive an academic scholarship; it only makes you eligible to receive one. Incoming freshmen need to:
        • Have a 3.5 GPA
        • Be in the top 20% of their class
        • Have either a combined Math & Reading SAT score of 1140 or an ACT composite score of 100. 

    Attend College Basketball Camps and Showcases

      • Basketball camps are summer camps run by colleges that have basketball programs. Attending one of these is a great way to learn more about the game from established college coaches and get exposure to scholarship decision-makers. You will also be able to talk to other student athletes from high school and AAU teams—those connections can sometimes lead to experiences that improve your game and your exposure.
      • Basketball showcases are events that give you a stage on which you can play with other prospective college basketball recruits and display your skills on the court and your leadership ability to scholarship decision-makers. Costs are higher than camp fees but provide excellent exposure and experience. Many basketball showcases will create a video of your games to assist in your recruiting process.

    Don’t Miss Deadlines

    Applying to schools and getting a scholarship are two separate processes. You must apply and get accepted to the school you want to attend. Find out when the application deadlines is and plan ahead to be sure you submit your application on time.

    • Know when the recruiting deadlines are. There are certain signing periods for each sport. Outside of these signing periods you will not be able to receive a scholarship.
    • It is also important to register AND be cleared by the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers so that coaches know you are academically eligible.

    Natural talent, coachability, and maturity are all important, but they won’t help you get a college basketball scholarship unless you make the grade, meet the eligibility requirements, and follow the application process carefully. 

  • What is a college basketball scout looking for in a potential recruit?

    With a limited amount of money to award in scholarships, scouts will be looking at every aspect of your physical profile, your game and your academic performance.

    • Your Physical Profile:
      • Are you finished growing?
      • Are you tall enough to play your position at the college level?
      • Is your body frame able to add more weight through college basketball performance training and conditioning programs?
    • Your Game:
      • Scouts, recruiters and coaches will rate you as “Strong, Fair, or Weak” in:
        • Ball Handling
        • Passing Skills
        • Spot Shooter/Free Throw Shooter
        • Boxing Out
        • Offensive Rebounder
        • One-on-one Offense 
        • Defense/Away from the Ball and On the Ball
        • Penetrator
        • Quickness/Aggressiveness
        • Leadership/Attitude
  • Getting Noticed?

    Coaches start scouting top level basketball talent when the players are in middle school. 

    Sound early? It is, but coaches want the opportunity to follow the best players throughout their high school playing careers. 

    That’s why taking a few steps as early as possible to get on a coaching staff’s radar makes sense. 

    Here’s how:

    • Create a Recruiting Profile
      • Research recruiting websites that allow players to post profiles and videos online.  More than 90% of college coaches say they begin the recruiting process online. They use the Internet to search for athletes and do their preliminary skill evaluations. Talk with your parents, coaches, or mentors about setting one up.
    • Reach Out
      • It doesn’t cost anything to start reaching out to coaches through email or telephone, but let’s be clear: this is something for you to do. Practice with your parents and mentors but make the call or send the email yourself. This type of initiative will introduce you to the coaches you’re interested in playing for and set you apart from other athletes. Having someone else call or email for you will do the exact opposite. Just don’t.
    • Email: 
      • Emails are not the same as text messages. Start with a greeting, end with a closing, and type your name and phone number at the bottom. 
      • Have a professional email address. Keep it simple.
      • Think about your message. State what you want the coaching staff to know about you clearly. If you have stats, put those in.
      • Proofread and use spell check.
    • Phone Calls
      • Manners matter. Everyone’s time is important. Thank the coach for taking your call. If someone takes a message for the coach, thank them as well.
      • Be enthusiastic and informed about the college’s program so you can offer something to the conversation.


  • Start making a list!

    If you’re a player with your eye on a college scholarship, chances are you’re probably following college hoops now. You probably have a pretty clear idea of the various college programs out there, as well as the coaching styles that drive the teams, just by watching games on TV.

    If you don’t know about the colleges’ and universities’ academic programs, you need to know just as much about them as you do about the coaches and the basketball program. Most schools have great websites and social media pages. Hit the Internet and start doing your homework on the academic offerings at the colleges and universities that appeal to you. Getting the entire package is going to be important to you—as an athlete, and as a member of the future workforce.

    • Start making a list of the schools that interest you.
      • Give some thought to the type of school you want to attend—location, size and environment–and the major you think you want to study. Do some research online. Do you know anyone who goes there, or someone who may be able to connect you with a student or faculty member? Find out about the coaching staff and their backgrounds and philosophies. Learn about the cities and towns where these colleges and universities are.
      • When you can describe what you want a school and a basketball program, the coaching staff will perceive you as a mature and responsible candidate with clear goals or aspirations. At some point, you can begin to pare your list down with the help of an experienced mentor, but for now—concentrate on educating yourself.
    • Visit as many schools as you can
      • If you have been able to connect with a coach via email or telephone, ask that coach if you can visit the campus and meet with them. This is a mature step that demonstrates a strong desire to attend that school and play for that program. If a coach agrees to meet with you, take advantage of this opportunity to impress them in person.
      • Keep in mind that scores of talented high school and PG athletes are trying to get the attention of college coaches and recruiters. Concentrate on separating yourself from the pack with an extra degree of motivation and maturity.


  • Know Your Terms: What’s the difference between the NCAA or NAIA?

    Know Your Terms: What’s the difference between the NCAA or NAIA?

    The NCAA and the NAIA are two separate governing bodies for college athletics. 

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the organization that oversees 23 sports and athletic championships at more than 1,200 colleges and universities in the United States. A high school athlete who is interested in playing a collegiate sport is required to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center for clearance based on their academic profile and amateur status.

    The NCAA requires student athletes to complete a certain amount of core classes during high school. High schools have a list of NCAA-approved core courses that are acceptable for a student athlete to take to be cleared to play NCAA DI or DII athletics.

  • What’s the difference between a “head count” and an “equivalency” sport?

    When you’re exploring the college and university athletic scholarship availability, you will see sports referred to as “head count”’ or “equivalency” sports. The size of the athletic scholarship available to you depends on which of these two categories your sport falls into.

    • Head count sports produce a lot of revenue for the college. There is a set number of scholarships for these sports available per team, and all of them are a full ride. Basketball is a head count sport.
    • Equivalency sports produce less revenue for schools. Coaches are given a certain amount of money for their entire team, which they can divide into scholarships of varying amounts for different team members. These are usually partial scholarships.
  • How many teams and how many scholarships?

    Here’s the current breakdown of basketball programs by division level:

    • Men’s Basketball Programs
      • There are approximately 1,844 men’s basketball teams in total.
        • There are 344 NCAA Division I teams in men’s basketball.
        • There are 282 NCAA Division II teams in men’s basketball.
        • There are 403 NCAA Division III teams in men’s basketball.
        • There are 255 NAIA teams in men’s basketball.
        • There are 560 NJCAA teams in men’s basketball.
    • Women’s Basketball Programs
      • There are approximately 1,834 women’s basketball teams in total.
        • There are 335 NCAA Division I teams in women’s basketball.
        • There are 298 NCAA Division II teams in women’s basketball.
        • There are 426 NCAA Division III teams in women’s basketball.
        • There are 256 NAIA teams in women’s basketball.
        • There are 519 NJCAA teams in women’s basketball.
    • How many basketball scholarships are given each year?
      • Nearly 4,500 players are on scholarship at the Division I men’s level. More than 5,000 women basketball players have been awarded scholarships to play at the DI level. Athletic scholarships offered to DI, DII and NAIA programs, women’s and men’s combined, total over $2 billion.
      • NCAA DI universities and colleges may offer only full scholarships in men’s and women’s basketball. Men’s programs are restricted to 13 scholarships. Women’s programs can have 15 scholarship players. 
      • NCAA DII and NAIA schools may offer full or partial basketball scholarship
      • NCAA Division III schools may not offer athletic scholarships. (Student athletes can benefit from earning academic and merit scholarships available to all students registering to attend those institutions.)
      • Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships.


    # of Scholarships Limit per Team Avg. Amount of Scholarship
    Division Men’s Women’s Men’s Women’s
    NCAA I 13 15 $16,154 $17,114
    NCAA II 10 10 $6,329 $7,650
    NAIA 11 11 $7,329 $7,762


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