If you’re a high school basketball player, have you ever asked yourself, “What does it take to be a D1 basketball player?” The odds are steep, but it’s not entirely impossible. A high school player from the United States has a 17:1 chance of making any college roster, but the odds shoot up when we’re talking about Division I college basketball: 116:1. That’s less than a 1% chance.
But then again, a less than 1% chance is better than no chance at all. In the worst-case scenario, you’d secure a college education; in the best case, you may end up being good enough to be in the NBA.
What Does it Mean to Be a D1 Basketball Player?
To be a D1 basketball player means you’re outstanding. But good doesn’t always cut it. D1 basketball players are not only talented, but they know what hard work really means.
Most high school players, especially the better ones, think that they are already working hard. Division 1 basketball makes you realize the true meaning of hard work. The intensity and edge that you must have are just on another level.
There shouldn’t be coasting anymore when you get to the Division 1 level. Players will eat you alive when you’re not giving your 100% all the time. You’ll get exposed, and you will have to pick up the broken pieces of your ego off the floor when that happens. Hell, even playing time is never guaranteed, and the spotlight could break even the strongest personalities.
Aside from the sheer intensity, the amount of pressure on everyone’s shoulders is unmistakable. College basketball is big business, one that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. Schools look to maximize revenue, and the only way to do that is to win.
That is why coaches do everything they can to recruit the best players. Their heads are next on the chopping block if they’re not successful. Apart from the new recruits coming out of high school, they need to scour junior colleges and other avenues to acquire better players.
So, all in all, pressure mounts when you’re playing Division 1 basketball. You may be the star of your high school team back home, but you may be last on the pecking order at your school now. Division 1 basketball is a dose of reality for most players. In the end, the successful ones work hard and give it their all, on top of talent.
How Many Division 1 Basketball Players are There?
There are over D1 college basketball teams with rosters carrying 12 players at the very least to 15 players max. That means there could be more than 1,500 basketball players in Division 1. The NBA drafts around 60 people every year, but not all of them are from the US NCAA. Many hail from overseas, such as Josh Giddey, Alperen Sengun, and Usman Garuba last year.
What Does It Take to Play D1 Basketball?
To play D1 basketball, you have to have everything. In a basketball context, “everything” amounts to three things– talent, fundamentals, and IQ. In short, coaches look for players who have natural physical abilities (can jump high, fast, or big), are technically sound, and has a deep understanding and feel for the game.
Sounds simple enough? Not really. Here is a fact: Only 1% of high school players go play Division 1. That means you have to be really, really good at basketball. You have to be the cream of the crop if there is ever one. You shouldn’t just be one of the top players on your team; you must be THE best player on your team.
How good are D1 basketball players? They are so good that they can probably score anytime they want in any open gym. That’s just the level they are playing in.
Another thing that you need to know is the unofficial height requirement. Division 1 basketball players have an average height of 6-foot-4. The shorter you are, the more difficult the road will be for you. You have to be exceptional to make it past the height test. Again, that’s not impossible, as Allen Iverson or Trae Young have shown, but it’s a more arduous road.
One more thing that could get you recruited is potential. Most pundits would call that “ceiling.” “Potential” is like a pass if, say, a player did not play basketball long enough to have the IQ or the foundation. But he may be extraordinarily athletic or tall, or both. Because of this, he may still be recruited if the coaches see him as a project that could bear fruit two or three years down the line.
Is Being a D1 Basketball Player Worth it?
If you love basketball, just playing it is already a blessing. But playing Division 1 basketball could open a lot of doors for anyone.
Like any D1 basketball player, playing in the NBA is probably the goal. The odds of making a professional basketball roster are almost 2000:1. So whether that’s the NBA, the G-League, Euroleague, or any of the pro leagues around the world, playing division 1 basketball is where you should start.
On the non-basketball side of things, playing D1 is a ticket to a college degree. D1 athletes have a graduation rate of over 90%. While not a surefire ticket to success, a college degree is better than nothing. The evidence that a college education improves one’s job prospects and financial prospects is enormous. Bachelor’s degree holders are half as likely to be unemployed as their peers with only a high school diploma, and they earn $1 million more over their lifetime on average.
5 NBA Players Who Were Not Highly Recruited Out of High School
If you’re not highly recruited out of high school, is the NBA dream all but over? These 5 NBA players from lesser-known NBA programs are all the motivation that you need.
1. Steph Curry
Curry was 150 pounds soaking wet in his younger years, so he surely did not pass the eye test even with his NBA pedigree. Look at how that turned out.
2. Damian Lillard
Did you know Dame was only a two-star recruit? His Weber State coach already saw that he was “too good,” but he also lamented how quiet Lillard was. Maybe that’s why nobody heard of him.
3. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is one that never lacks confidence, but he truly was doubtful if he was good enough to go pro. He was only a three-star recruit and could barely dunk until he was a senior in HS. Bash him all you like, but he is already an NBA MVP and probably a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when all is said and done.
4. Ja Morant
Morant was so underrecruited that Murray State, a small basketball program by D1 standards, found him by accident. The coaches were there to scout another player in an AAU tourney, but Ja torched him to the tune of 29 points. He became one of the best D1 basketball players ever, averaging over 20 points and 10 assists in his sophomore season. That’s something that wasn’t done before or ever again.
5. Paul George
Height and basketball IQ weren’t the issues for the young Paul George. It was his strength. Coaches from the best programs stayed away from him because they thought he wasn’t able to physically match up with the other higher-ranked kids. Good for PG, strength is something you can develop. He had seven All-Star selections under his belt and was a member of four All-Defense teams.
Wrapping Things Up: What Does It Take to Be a D1 Basketball Player?
If you think Division 1 college basketball is nothing special, think again. It takes a whole lot of talent, fundamentals, and basketball IQ to get there, not to mention the uphill battle every single day.
How good are D1 basketball players? To be honest, these players are the best sub-1% of high school basketball players. These youngsters must have the physical abilities, technique, and feel for the game that could not be found among their peers. If they are late bloomers, they could probably get away with being super tall and athletic, but they are likely viewed as two or three-year projects. Whatever the case, becoming a D1 basketball player is so tough.
Now, if you’re wondering about the question “What does it take to be a D1 basketball player,” knowing the uphill battle and unfavorable odds should not deter you. There are legit NBA superstars who were not seen as worthy recruits and made it big. These are Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Ja Morant, to name a few. No matter how the odds are stacked against you, there is nothing that hard work can never overcome.