Basketball is more than just a game.
As overused as that phrase may be, it is an undeniable truth that can be interpreted in many ways. For professional players, basketball is more than just a game — it is their life. Basketball puts food on the table, and basketball secures the future of their families.
But, basketball being more than a game can also pertain to what’s happening outside the court. More specifically, the people who constantly work with the players. Scouting does not get enough credit and attention even though it plays an essential role in developing the players we love and watch.
These days, however, people are starting to see the impact of good scouting. More than that, more people are now interested to find out what it takes to become a professional basketball scout — and this is what this article is all about.
What is a Basketball Scout?
Adam Sandler’s Hustle, released in June 2022, showed the side of the sport that most people tend to overlook: scouting. The film reflects on the journey of a professional NBA scout and how it intertwines with the journey of the players who dream of playing professionally. Hustle raised awareness and genuine interest in scouting.
Outside of basketball, the term “scout” is often used in the military context. Back in the day, scouts were people sent out to go ahead of the pack and check possible routes or obstacles. A scout’s job is to gather necessary information and relay it to the upper brass to help them make the necessary adjustments.
A military scout and a basketball scout practically have the same job.
In the context of basketball, scouts are there to gather the information that will help their team win. A basketball scout is a professional hired by organizations to watch games, take films or notes, and report what they’ve seen to the team.
The job of a basketball scout may sound simple, but observing and analyzing games or prospects is not an easy task. More so, not everyone can become a scout — especially at the professional level. Compared to amateur and college scouts, scouts for professional teams cover a wider area. Professional basketball scouts are also expected to have better judgment and more in-depth findings.
The point is that basketball scouts are the tireless workers that ensure the longevity and success of our favorite teams.
What are the Different Types of Basketball Scouts?
In professional sports, scouting can refer to two things: scouting opponents or players. The coaching staff of a team is the one responsible for scouting opponents. In these instances, scouting allows coaches to study their opponents’ tactics and plays. After scouting usually comes film reviews and team meetings to discuss information and adjustments.
The other type of scouting refers to scouting players, particularly prospects who can be an excellent addition to the team. Teams hire player scouts to scour the globe in search of players that their employers may be able to benefit from. Apart from working in different areas, scouts also search at different levels.
Scouts go as deep as the High School level. Even though recruitment in High School is not as big as at other levels, scouting still plays a big part in ensuring that young and talented players get the exposure they need to get to a good college.
Speaking of college, this is the level where scouting gets a lot more serious — especially for NCAA Division I teams. In college, scouting ensures an influx of talent for powerhouse schools like Duke, UCLA, UNC, and more. However, several factors make a college scout’s job challenging.
First, a significant number of college players go “one and done,” meaning they’ll only play for a year before declaring for the NBA draft. College basketball scouts must constantly find talents to replace players with short-lived stints with their respective teams.
Second, besides the hundreds of NCAA schools across all divisions, college basketball scouts compete with international basketball scouts. Nowadays, more and more professional teams wish to recruit players at a very young age before these teens declare themselves for the NBA Draft. Just take Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LaMelo Ball as examples of players who opted to play professionally before the NBA instead of college.
What Do You Need to Become a Professional Basketball Scout?
Admittedly, being a basketball scout seems like a fun thing to do. Many hoops fans would consider being a scout their dream job — and we couldn’t blame them. With that said, here’s how to become a basketball scout through different skills and qualifications.
1. Eye for Talent
What do NBA scouts look for? Well, talent.
An eye for talent is essential for basketball scouts. After all, the main job of scouts is to look for talented players. Without an eye for talent, scouts would not be able to discern whether a player would be good or not.
Furthermore, with scouts’ busy schedules, they only have the opportunity to watch prospects play once before going on to the next game. An effective scout should be able to gauge whether a player has potential or not all in one game.
More so, prospects can have off nights, and scouts have to see through the missed shots and bad plays. On the other hand, scouts may also catch some players who are just in the zone for a particular game but could end up being a one-hit-wonder only.
2. Understanding of Basketball
A scout also needs a deep understanding of basketball, not just at the surface level. Aside from knowing the basics, a scout also needs a good feel for the game. Former and current players make good scouts because these people know what impacts a game. More so, scouts who are former players of the coach of the team they’re scouting for would know whether a prospect is fit for the team or not.
You need to know basketball on a high level to know whether a prospect could make it or not. If you know what it means to play the game, you’ll see whether a prospect has it or not.
3. Communication and Relationship Building
Communication skills are essential for any professional, not just in basketball. For basketball scouts, though, good communication is vital in negotiation and starting relationships with others. You’ll be in the middle of players and managers, so if you’re bad at communicating, those two parties won’t get each other.
Furthermore, having excellent people skills will get you on the good side of the prospects you’re eyeing and the people you’re scouting for. These skills will allow you to build a relationship based on trust and openness. And once you have this relationship with the people you work with, better things will come.
With good communication comes good opportunities.
1. Experience in Basketball Organizations
Most people who watch basketball only see the work the players and the coaching staff put in. However, basketball teams are more than just the players and the staff. Professional basketball teams are complex organizations with their unique systems and internal bureaucracy.
Much like any job out there, you will need experience. You need to know how the sports industry works and how you can be an effective asset within the organization. If not, you might get caught in the waves and go through a culture shock with how fast the industry moves. Previous professional players and coaches have the experience, but people who have worked on the corporate side of the teams also have the right tools.
2. Good Network
As a scout, your primary job is to search for talents. Having a good network to lead you to the correct prospects is vital to staying efficient at your job. You will spend countless hours traveling from one place to another to check out if there are potential players in the games that you watch. Without a network of agents and other scouts, you might end up going to and watching random games with hopes that a player would be worth watching it for.
3. Relevant Degree or Certification
Passion and knowledge of basketball can take you far as a scout, but relevant degrees and certifications ensure that you know what you’re doing and that you’re legit. Most scouts graduate with sports-related degrees, such as sports management or marketing. After graduating, aspiring scouts usually take post-graduate degrees or additional courses to help them zoom in on scouting and get a basketball scout certification in the process.
How Much Does a Professional Basketball Scout Make on Average?
The salary and incentives of a professional basketball scout depend on a couple of these. Like any job, experienced scouts are offered more than those still starting. At the same time, scouts also get bonuses and all sorts of incentives for their performance. The area where a scout is assigned can also be a factor since teams need to consider living arrangements and other logistics of the scout.
According to several reports, the salary of professional scouts in the NBA can range from $17,000 to $70,000. Scouts who have less than two years of experience get around a max of $18,000. Those who have been working as a scout for 2-5 years make around $30,000. And lastly, veteran scouts who have worked for more than five years can get up to $70,000.
The NBA pays a lot across the job board, so it’s not surprising that scouts in this league make more than those in college or overseas.
Wrapping Things Up: What it Takes to Become a Professional Basketball Scout
Professional scouts live and breathe basketball. These people go out to the farthest parts of the world and watch an insane number of games in their lifetime to look for the next big thing. The basketball stars that we love today are where they are not just because of their skill but also because a scout saw something in them.
Some scouts work for college or high school teams, while others work for international teams. However, scouts for NBA teams are among the best in the world — and it takes great skill and qualifications to be one. A professional basketball scout must have excellent communication skills, an eye for talent, and the highest level of basketball knowledge. These people also need the right mix of experience, network, and educational background to succeed in the industry.
Being a scout seems like a dream job for fans of the sport, but a scout’s life is filled with challenges. Passion and perseverance are the most important things to have if you want to be a scout. Passion will get you through the obstacles, while perseverance will lead you to success.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.