Every day I have players reach out wanting to go to a prep school to play a sport. Unfortunately, since there are only so many roster spots and so much financial aid available, not everyone who reaches out will be able to attend one of these institutions. All of these players that reach out want to play in college. 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.
1) JUCO – 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 junior college. I walked away from this conversation knowing that this could be a great option for certain players. It is much more affordable than a prep school and there are hundreds of options across the United States. There is no guarantee that doing 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 a junior college basketball program, check out “Last Chance U: Basketball” on Netflix.
2) NAIA – PREP Athletics is working on an upcoming podcast episode going over all things NAIA. There are approximately 283 NAIA basketball programs. A lot of these programs have larger roster sizes and are located in almost all the 50 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 an affordable options.
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 compete in 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, but 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. 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 for examples on when things can go drastically wrong.
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.
6) Intramurals – College basketball is not for everyone. Each time a player goes up a level there are less and less roster spots, and competition gets tougher. It is a viable 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 thinking outside the box. Each player’s situation is different and there is not a one size fits all. Almost all of the players that reach out to me have the dream of playing D1 before going to the NBA. But don’t discount all the other available options out there that can still be played at a high level.