Every day players reach out wanting to go to a prep school to play a sport. Unfortunately, since there are only so many roster spots and financial aid available, not everyone who wants to will be able to attend one of these institutions. All of these players that reach out want to play collegiately. And they still can! Here are the other alternatives available to high school graduates if they want to play college basketball. As with anything in the basketball world, be sure to do due diligence on any of these routes.
– In one of my early episodes of the PREP Athletics podcast I interviewed JUCO Advocate’s Brandon Goble. This episode educated many listeners, including myself, on the pros and cons of playing at a junior college. I walked away from this conversation knowing that this is a great option for certain players.
It is much more affordable than a prep school and there are hundreds of JUCO options located across the United States. There is no guarantee that doing one or two years at a JUCO will lead to a college scholarship, but it is a chance to at least play at the collegiate level. If you want to see behind the scenes of one junior college basketball program, check out the series “Last Chance U: Basketball” on Netflix.
– We recorded a podcast with NAIA National Championship winning coach, Kelly Wells where we discussed all things NAIA. There are approximately 283 NAIA basketball programs. A lot of these programs have larger roster sizes and are located in nearly all the fifty states. Reaching out to a regional school could be a good option as a coach will be familiar with your team, coach, and competition. These schools can also be a more affordable college option.
3) Division 3
– Some high school players that want to go to prep school for a post-grad year already hold D3 offers. These players want to do this extra year to see if they can level up to a scholarship level program. However, if prep school roster spots or financial aid is not available, players can go straight to D3. To learn more about the D3 basketball world be sure to follow D3 Direct on social media. We also recorded a podcast with Karl, the founder of D3 Direct which you can listen to/watch HERE.
4) Basketball Academies
– This option you must choose at your own risk. These programs can offer a post-grad year, just know that they are not brick and mortar prep schools. This option could work as long as you find a reputable one with an established history. They are out there. But it will take a lot of research to find one. And know that one bad business move could shut one of these academies down (See Denver Prep and Donda Academy.) Be sure to read this article to find out what questions you should ask before committing to one of these places. They might be able to place you, but these academies are not all created equal. See Bishop Sycamore + Nations Christian.
Also our most popular article on our website shares the differences between a prep school and basketball academy. I had bad experiences working with these places many years ago and won’t do it again, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t viable ones out there. As I said before, do your due diligence.
5) Train on your own during a gap year
– I know a player in the Class of 2020 who turned down prep school offers, to instead train full time with a basketball trainer and strength coach. He played each day against former college players. This actually might have been a smart move due to Covid shutting down a lot of official competition. He is now a walk-on at a D1 program. A player will be fully responsible for their college placement unless they hire a consultant to help connect them to college programs.
– College basketball is not for everyone. Each time a player goes up a level there are less roster spots, and competition gets tougher. It is an option to be a college student and enjoy playing intramurals. Some leagues across the country are very competitive and they often compete against other schools for bragging rights.
I support outside the box thinking and know that the prep school option is not for everyone. These are some suggestions that might be a good alternative for some high school players.