OK, it's August. You've played your heart out in all the right gyms and the coaches were there watching. All your work is about to pay off and the schools should be lining up at your door. It's a great story line and it happens every year for a lot of players. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen for a lot more players than the ones who have the busy mailmen and ringing phones. There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available at many levels but when you look around the different gyms this summer, count the players and see what the math tells you. The reality is that there are colligate careers in the future of only a small percentage of the players playing high school and club basketball. So if those calls and letters you were hoping for aren't coming your way, what's your next move?
First, and probably most important, be realistic. If you've done the July club circuit for several years and there hasn't been a lot of response from the schools you were interested in, it's time to rethink your standards. Be honest with yourself and identify the level that you feel you can play on. Once you've done that, look for the schools that interest you at that level and come up with a game plan.
You've got to make coaches aware of your interest in their program and provide them with a reason to follow up. Just saying, "here I am and you should recruit me," probably won't do it. Who you are as a person and what you do in the classroom are important, but in recruiting they're still secondary to what you can do on the floor. You need to share with them game film that shows what you can do come game time. By that I mean don't send a highlight film. We know you miss shots and have turnovers. We want to see how you react to those and how you move without the ball in your hands. The best thing you can do is send two or three halves from different games. Pick your best and be sure it gives coaches a reason to keep the DVD playing.
When you send the video, be sure the letter accompanying it is from you. No disrespect to Mom and Dad, but we're a little cynical about your objectivity. Don't write a novel, but provide them with the information they need to follow up if they like what's on the video. Let them know why you're interested in their program and where they can see you play next. Also be sure to tell them where you may have played last spring or in July. They may have seen you play and have notes on you or your team. One last thing to be sure to include is the contact information for your high school and club coaches. Most often that will be a coach's first follow up call to a video that caught their eye.
Once you've sent your information to various schools. Be patient. Give them time to look over the video and follow up with your coaches. Most coaches are good about looking at unsolicited videos, I wasn't, but give them a minimum of a week from the time they should have gotten it before you think about calling them. I assure you, the folks who call to see if you got it … call again to see if you've watched it … call again to say coach so-and-so will be calling tend to get pushed down the list and had better really impress us. These days they'll also do a Web search looking for some newspaper stories. We like to read the local coverage just as long as it doesn't involve your local police.
If what you've sent catches their eye, they'll be in touch with either you or your coaches. It may involve more video or a request as to where they may see you play next. No matter what their request, be sure you respond quickly. You may need to play in a fall event on the recruiting weekend if that's the only way they can see you in person. There aren't a lot of coaches who'll sign a player just off what they see on video.
One thing you have to be ready for is that they may still not be interested. If you have not had success with the schools you were interested in, try some others. Don't lose sight of the fact that you're looking for a place to get an education first and foremost. Don't sell your soul on e bay just to have the chance to play college basketball. In that light be open to playing at a non-scholarship level or being willing to "walk on" at a school willing to give you that opportunity. A lot of walk ons have ultimately earned scholarships, but just making the team is a very difficult first step. You can't just be equal to their scholarship players, you have to be better. They have money invested in the others and they're going to give them first shot. However, you can count on a coach's greed to win. If you can make the team better, they'll give you a good look.
In the end, there are lots of opportunities out there, but there are a lot of players, too. Between NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA, Junior College and who knows what else, there are a lot of coaches are looking for the best players that they can find for their program. A large majority of these coaches are good at identifying prospects and have the recruiting process down to an art. I offer this advice; be respectful of the fact that they know what they're looking for and if they don't feel that you're it, move on. Inundating and literally chasing a coach's interest won't open too many doors for you. Every year there are a few players who slip through the cracks but certainly not as many as some parents, high school and club coaches think. If you feel you're one of those, take the steps to make them aware of your interest and show them what you can do. Who knows, you might get an invitation to the ball and Cinderella's glass slipper just might have a Nike swoosh on it.
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Mark Lewis is a columnist and national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.