There are over 80 Division 1 Australian athletes in the USA on college basketball scholarships with double that
amount playing at different levels. Although challenging it can be at times living in a different continent Australian player’s have adjusted to life in America. Generally, they have thrived in the Mecca of basketball by achieving great feats on and off the court.
In my time as an intercollegiate basketball coach I have had the privilege to have coached ten Australian student-athletes. Over this time and as a kid with a dream to play college basketball I have learnt the best ways to be recruited which sometimes can be very difficult for Australian College basketball prospects. This article will assist you in understanding the most effective ways to be recruited, the process, and choosing a school that would be the best fit for you.
Stage 1 – Sell Yourself
For every young boy and almost every young girl that plays a sport in Australia it is their dream to someday play on that particular sport’s biggest stage. For young basketball players it’s no different, their dream is to play in College, the NBL, and/or the NBA.
The question many players’ have is how do I go about getting to College? How do I get a college basketball scholarship? And how do I get recruited? Honestly, Australian’s have a harder time than most in terms of being recruited. A College Coach can drive or fly a short distance to see a player anywhere in the USA while many Coaches will not see the value in flying all the way to Australia to see a player who could be comparable in skill to a local in-state athlete. Even many Australian players at the highest representative levels do not get recruited. That’s why it is so important to promote yourself and to get your name out there to College Coaches. This can be done in a variety of ways.
Sending emails that are short and specific, highlighting your major accomplishments with a link to a short highlight clip. That brings us to the method to get your name known; Highlight clip/DVD. Having all your games filmed is essential in making a high quality highlight clip/DVD. It should be short in nature with your best highlights at the start. A Coach can receive up to 50 DVDs or youtube clips a day. That’s why the start is the most important either a Coach is going to keep watching or turn it off so gage their interest quickly! Dunks, three-point plays, game winning shots are all clips you can start with and even finish with and it’s always ok to repeat your best clips. Also include your personal information at the start and beginning specifically your email address. A Coach then can get in contact with you and ask for a full game DVD etc.
Remember it is all about marketing and selling. If you don’t do a good job of that you won’t stand out. Creating a spark of interest is all that it needs.
Many players that are serious in going to College go on American Tours. The AAU (summer club team basketball) circuit is the biggest stage to be recruited in America the teams from Australia that tour in the US Summer usually play at these tournaments. These tours can be fun and a life changing experience but exposure to College Coaches can be limited if not promoted properly. I was recently in Indiana at an AAU event which featured hundreds of teams playing at ten different venues. I knew of only 1 Australian team from Western Australia that was going to be there because I received an email from a friend from over there telling me about the team. I went and saw them and was blown away by how talented they were and subsequently from that I am now recruiting three of their players. On the other hand I was watching a team from Colorado and by chance saw this team that looked like Aussies I was surprised to learn that they were Australian. Their team name had no indication where they were from and I had received no email about their team and as a result no College Coaches were at their games.
The team you travel with – you should trust. They should be sending out emails to Coaches in promotion so that they know you are going to be there, you are international, and you have talented players on your team. You can also do that for yourself in sending a schedule of your games, a highlight clip, your stats and your contact information. If you feel that the organizers of the trip/team just want to make money – don’t go with them!
Stage 2 – The Destination
Now that you have a name for yourself, created some buzz, and several schools are interested in recruiting you, you have to choose a school wisely.
The school you think would be the best fit for you might be the worst. The school has to be a good fit for you both with the other players in how you gel with them, the environment, the academics, and your relationship with the Coaching staff.
One may ask how do I know if a school is seriously recruiting me? Division One Coaches can have a list of a couple of hundred recruits they send mail outs to and are recruiting. When I was at Ohio University a mid-major division one school it was no different. We had a list of two hundred student-athlete high school prospects we were recruiting and subsequently contacting regularly. Obviously a school only has 10-12 scholarship spots over 4 years so a program will only sign 2-4 players per season and that makes scholarships that much harder to come by at any College level. In short, the best indicator that you are being seriously recruited by a school is if a Campus visit is organized or a scholarship is offered. Division two are a little more specific on who they are targeting and who they want in their basketball program. Basically, go somewhere that wants you the most and where you can be more valuable to the team.
Everyone has a dream of playing division one even though it might not be sensible or practical in your situation. Realistically, it doesn’t matter where you go, it’s how you play.
Current Boomers player’s played at a variety of different schools from David Barlow, and Mark Worthington that played at the division two level to Aron Baynes that played in a high major conference. Andrew Bogut was the NBA’s number one draft pick but played at a Mid-Major school as did Patty Mills. No matter where you go, if you play well you will be noticed. At the end of the day it’s the championships you have won, and the impact you had if you want to play past College either professionally or representatively.
You will know at the end of your freshmen year of college if the school you are at is the right fit for you. It’s not usually about playing time; it’s more to do with your relationships with the team and the trust between you and them. You always have to be patient with playing time no matter what level you are playing. A good example is Ryan Broekhoff who is now entering his senior year at Valparaiso University in the Horizon League. He struggled with the playing time
he was receiving as a freshmen but pushed through it. His sophomore season his playing time increased and his confidence grew. His junior year he was not only the leader and best player on the team he won the Horizon League conference player of the year and made it to the final cut of the Australian Olympic team for London. Playing time will come with experience and skill development but the main concern is the relationships you have with the Coaches and your teammates.
Remember recruiting is a process – start early to get your name out there. Also, reach out to player’s who have played college basketball they can be a great resource in your preparation to go to College. They can give you sound advice in choosing a school that would suit your skill level and even get you in contact with College Coaches. Good luck with your pursuit to get a college basketball scholarship and have the experience of a lifetime all while gaining a degree. Who knows you may be Australia’s next big thing!
He has coached and been mentored by some of the games best Coaches including current University of Illinois Head Coach John Groce.
Leeworthy has Coached at Ohio University, BYU Hawaii, and is currently in his fourth season at Western State Colorado University.
He has coached 10 Aussie players, and 13 players to go on to play Professionally.
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