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How to Get a Scholarship for Basketball

Scholarships
Written by Hailey Young
Updated: August 26, 2022
7 min read
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Making a college sports team and getting an athletic scholarship is the dream of many student athletes, yet it can be extremely difficult to get an athletic scholarship. Division 1 and 2 schools provide $3.6 billion in athletic scholarships annually, but only 53% of Division 1 athletes and 56% of Division 2 athletes are receiving some level of athletic aid.

For basketball players, because the teams are so small, it can be even more difficult to get a college basketball scholarship. Across all divisions of men's college basketball, there are 32,890 athletes across 2,009 programs.

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The odds of a high school student athlete making a Division 1 men's basketball roster is 105:1 while the odds of a high school basketball player making any men's college roster is 18:1. For women's basketball programs, there are 28,305 basketball players across 1,946 programs. The odds of a high school basketball player making a Division 1 women's basketball roster is 83:1, and the odds of a high school basketball player making any college roster is 15:1. Thus, joining the ranks of basketball student athletes is a difficult task, and even a smaller percentage will receive college basketball scholarships.

man dunking a basketball

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There are several competitive opportunities, from NCAA Division 1 to JUCO programs, where athletic scholarships are available, and student athletes could receive a basketball scholarship. Division 1 college coaches offer headcount scholarships, meaning each player gets a full ride. NCAA Division 2, NAIA, and JUCO programs, on the other hand, award equivalency scholarships. Coaches at these levels have a pool of athletic aid and they can award athletic scholarships to as many athletes as they want, so student-athletes could get partial scholarships. While Division 3 college coaches can’t offer athletic scholarships, they still provide appealing financial packages that can cover a bulk of college costs.

When considering offers from colleges, it can sometimes be even harder to get a college scholarship. Division 1 is the most competitive and well-funded, so they have a lot of full-ride athletic scholarships. There are 13 division 1 men’s basketball scholarships among an average team size of 16. There are 353 Division 1 men's teams. For women's basketball players, there are 15 division 1 women's basketball scholarships per team. Among 349 Division 1 teams, the average team size is 16.

By understanding what type of school they want to go to, high school athletes can find the best match for their basketball skills. NCAA Division 1 college coaches offer headcount scholarships, meaning each player gets a full scholarship. However, Ivy League Schools do not offer athletic scholarships to student-athletes who play basketball. These players must rely on their financial need or academic record to earn aid, since Ivy Leagues offer need-based scholarships, regardless of student athlete status.

In order to win a college basketball scholarship, it is important to compete at the highest level possible. To accurately assess a recruit’s ability to compete in college, college recruiters want to see them play against high-ranked recruits from across the country. Additionally, while athletic competition is important, it is also crucial that you excel academically if you want to play college basketball.

Unless you are one of the very best players in the country, you will need to do some work to get noticed by a college coach and earn a basketball scholarship. In order to do this, you can compete in the summer. This is when college coaches watch recruits play in person since they may not be able to watch during the regular season, so playing in the summer could increase your chances of winning a basketball scholarship. You can also attend elite camps throughout the year to get the attention of college recruiters. These events, which are sometimes invitation-only, attract top talent and college coaches from across the country.

You can also make a highlight reel that will show them your athletic level. Most importantly, research, email, and call coaches in order to get their attention.

man sitting while spinning a basketball on one finger

Finally, follow the tips below to boost your chances of earning an athletic scholarship.

  1. Compete at the highest level possible: To accurately assess a recruit’s ability to compete in college, coaches want to see them play against high-ranked recruits from across the country. That’s why the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is so popular among top-tier programs—it provides recruits with a chance to play at the national level. However, this level of the AAU is the most expensive, as recruits are often required to travel to several tournaments. If this is something that interests you, consider talking with your coach about financial aid opportunities offered by the club. Additionally, while club basketball can help, it isn’t a necessary requirement for securing a scholarship. Varsity high school teams can also offer great competitive opportunities.
  2. Compete in the summer during live periods: Scheduling conflicts make it difficult for college coaches to watch recruits play in person during the regular season. So, they turn to live periods. These stretches in the offseason allow coaches to hit the road and scout several players at once. Bottom line: playing in front of college coaches in the summer is essential.
  3. Attend elite camps: In addition to tournaments, college coaches also evaluate recruits at elite camps. These events, which can be invitation-only, attract top talent and college coaches from across the country. There’s one caveat—camps at a Division 1 school tend to invite Division 2 or 3 coaches to attend, as well, but more likely than not, no other Division 1 program will be in attendance. Make sure to attend camps at schools that are at the top of your target list.
  4. Excel academically. Grades and test scores matter to college coaches. First, for divisions that offer equivalency scholarships, academic scholarships can ease the burden on the coach to provide athletic aid. More importantly, it speaks to a recruit’s character. Coaches know that students who work hard in the classroom, are responsible and independent, and will have a smoother college transition than those who don’t. Furthermore, producing exceptional academic work can make you more competitive by helping you stand out from other athletes of the same skill level who don't have impressive academic records. Not only will this improve your chances of getting noticed by college recruiters, but it will help you receive basketball scholarships, or other scholarships, so that you can be a student athlete.
  5. Create a highlight film. The best way to secure an in-depth and in-person evaluation is by sending coaches highlights and game films. Highlight film acts as a first impression—it’s a quick way to show coaches a snapshot of the recruit’s skill set. This can help convince coaches to consider you for basketball scholarships.
  6. Be proactive. Despite what families may think, coaches don’t simply discover recruits. Athletes need to put in time and effort to get noticed by college coaches. This is especially important in basketball where student-athletes are still allowed to talk to coaches via phone when they’re the ones initiating the contact. Don’t sit around. If you want a basketball scholarship, you need to research, email, and call coaches.
  7. Know your best college fit. Lastly, don’t forget to visit the college roster for every team on your target list. The last thing families want to do is waste their time emailing coaches at schools that aren’t a good fit. Here are a few things student-athletes should look at: the players who are in their position, athletic stats, and backgrounds to get a better idea of the opportunities available and the coach's recruiting process.
a female basketball player blocking another player on court

Frequently asked questions about basketball scholarships

What are the chances of getting a basketball scholarship?

Across all divisions, less than 1% of high school athletes will get college basketball scholarships. However, the chance of getting full or partial scholarships when playing college basketball depends on the division of your school. You can reach out to your college coach or financial aid advisor to see any individual stipulations your school may have regarding athletic scholarships.

What do basketball scouts look for?

Basketball scouts and college coaches look for the players who will make the most impact on college teams. Whether a basketball program needs a certain position or whether they are looking for someone with certain academic requirements, basketball scholarship recipients will be those who stand out during the recruiting process. If you want to be considered for college basketball programs, be sure to work on your basketball skills as well as your academics.

How do you try out for college basketball?

In order to try out for a college basketball program, depending on the division and size of your school, you may be able to walk onto the team. Get in contact with the coach and see if there may be a place for you on the team. If you want to be a student-athlete playing college basketball while getting a college education, it is crucial that you remain proactive. A walk on athlete might even be able to receive basketball scholarship in the future.

Bold.org has a variety of scholarships available, including basketball scholarships. Make your profile now to access these exclusive scholarship opportunities.

Hailey Young

About Hailey

Hailey is adept at writing about financial aid and scholarships. Hailey has spent the majority of her high school and college career crafting her writing skills. In high school, Hailey’s writing experience included writing for her school’s yearbook as well as writing some articles for Redefy, an international non-profit whose goals are to fight stereotypes and promote positive perspectives. Hailey began studying Literary Arts and Africana Studies at Brown University after high school. In her studies, she has taken a variety of writing workshops that have helped her hone her craft as a writer. She will earn her bachelor's degree, which includes an honors degree in Creative Writing from Brown. 

Hailey is also passionate about scholarships and financial aid, as she was a scholarship recipient through high school and college. Through the generosity of others, Hailey has been able to receive a quality education and would love to pass this gift on to others. As a current senior in college, Hailey has become well-versed in the ins and outs of scholarships, student debt, and college spending. With this experience and knowledge, she is readily prepared to help others as a Content Writer for Bold.org. 

Hailey is no longer with the Bold.org Writing Team, but we continue to value and appreciate her contributions.

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