I receive a lot of inquiries from basketball players who played high school ball — maybe only a little bit of high school ball — who want to know what they can do to get to their next level of ball.
Perhaps you’d be surprised to hear that some of these players think they can skip college and play overseas ball next.
In my experience, from what I’ve observed with these players, many of them would be lucky to even play college ball.
In this article, I’ll explain the hows and whys of what a high-school-experienced player needs to do next to have a basketball career.
Your Next Step Is To Play In College.
I know: you probably don’t want to hear this.
Which is exactly why I’m saying it. If you just wanna hear more of the smoke-up-your-ass bullshit that got you to where you are, you don’t need to be reading this.
If You Can’t Accept This Part, You’re Done.
Any high-school-experienced player who doesn’t want to accept that you need to play in college, here’s what you should do next: Go apply for the truck-loading job at UPS or FedEx.
Learn to fix broken iPhone screens.
Or join a network marketing company.
Because your basketball career is over.
I know, I know: every player thinks / wishes he could skip all the hard work (NOTE: “hard work” entails MUCH more than just practicing on the court) and go straight to sports superstardom. You want the basketball world to just recognize your greatness and lay out a yellow brick road for you.
I know. I wanted that too.
And so do 30,000 other players — most of who won’t do the work, and will be working alongside you loading those delivery trucks.
You can try. It’s your life. Just don’t claim ignorance or hard luck when your plan fails.
Don’t Like School?
I can respect that. School aint for everybody, especially athletes who already know what you want to do with your life: play sports.
Here’s the thing though: In America, the system works like this:
- Pro players usually comes from college (even if the HS-To-NBA route were open again, most American-born NBA players played in college. Go and count them yourself).
- To play in college, you have to be a student at a college.
- To be eligible to play in college, you have to attend classes and achieve a minimum GPA.
- The longer that you’re in college, the longer that minimum GPA must be achieved and maintained.
I figured this game out early in college. I knew that as long as I earned a “C” grade, that would be enough to not only be eligible, but also good enough to earn a college degree. “C’s get degrees,” is what I heard a coach tell a player once.
I was intelligent enough to do better than a “C,” but dammit, I didn’t want to give the effort academically. So I didn’t. I graduated with a business degree from Penn State, with a “C” average GPA.
And I was academically eligible for all four years.
That’s the game. Learn to play it. Don’t be stupid.
You Were Either Not Good Enough To Be Recruited, Or You Fucked Up Somewhere Along The Line…
So now you feel stuck.
Fine. Maybe you just weren’t that good in high school. I wasn’t; I sat the bench for the one year I played.
Or, maybe you were good, but you did some dumb shit off the court. We all fuck up here and there in life; it’s just that some of us (soemtimes) get caught while others don’t.
Either way, YOU are the reason why you are where you are. Let’s agree on that.
So, your next step may be what you see as a step “backwards” or lesser than what you think you’re capable of. It’s fine if you feel this way. I’m not here to convince you otherwise. But I will tell you: this “backwards” step is the fastest way for you to get (back) to where you feel you belong.
So, suck it up, exercise some damn discipline and be a hustler.
Let me explain to you how a hustler’s mind works.
The hustler sees what game is is in, sizes up that game, and understands that, even if he does not like nor agree with the game, his best bet is to play the game anyway to regain his advantage.
The loser is the person who does the opposite of this.
Which one are you?
Overseas Basketball Is Not What You Think It Is.
Most players who have not played overseas basketball think that overseas ball is a free-for-all where an American player can just freelance and do whatever you want.
Wrong. Very wrong.
Overseas ball is often much more structured than anything you’ve experienced in the USA. There’s a style to overseas basketball that you’d better be ready to adjust to. They don’t ask to you — YOU adjust to THEM.
Or you’ll get sent home (or even worse, never signed in the first place). Your choice.
Believe me, or learn the hard way.
No Overseas Team Is Signing A High School Player Unless You’re A LeBron-James-Level Talent.
Why would they, when there are accomplished college players available who have — unlike you — already proven they can perform at a high level?
Not players who have TALKED about it — players who have PROVEN it.
Newsflash: there’s a 99,999 out of 100,000 chance that you’re not LBJ or Kobe or T-Mac or Kevin Garnett. Which is perfectly fine — Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard all went to college to get better before becoming pros.
From what I see, they have all done pretty well in basketball.
There’s nothing wrong with playing college basketball as a grooming ground for the pros. And, as I’ve noted, there are players who are a lot better than you who also needed college.
If you think you’re the exception, stop reading now and sign one of the contracts you’ve already been offered.
Oh, there aren’t any? Then maybe you need to change your thought process.
You’re The Rule, not The Exception.
This isn’t a bad thing. Most of the professional players playing right now are The Rule, too. The player who can skip steps, steps like college basketball, is a rare player. Stop looking for shortcuts and commit to doing the fucking work. Going to school, staying eligible, earning a roster spot and playing time, is WORK.
That shortcut-seeking mindset is what messed you up before. When will you learn?
Everyone “Just Needs A Chance.” We Know. Find A Better Argument.
Actually, don’t find a better argument — just play ball and prove that you are worthy of a chance. No more talking.
I don’t want to hear a basketball player fucking talking aout what he can do. If you could actually do it, you wouldn’t need to be talking about it, now would you?
School is over. Hand-holding is over, too. Pleads for sympathy and asking someone to do something for you while offering nothing in return? That ended when you graduated (or didn’t graduate) high school.
In the adult world, you have to bring something to the table in order to take anything off the table. That’s how it works in any profession. Don’t show up — to an opportunity, or to anyone’s inbox or voicemail — without something to offer.
Children ask for handouts. You’re not a kid anymore.
You Need Four Years Of College Seasoning.
This is the medicine that most high school flameouts (read: no college offers after high school) don’t want to hear.
Maybe it’s because you don’t have the discipline to do school work. We covered that above.
Maybe it’s the people in your ear, who tell you how great you are and that you don’t need to follow protocol because of your talent.
Where has that gotten you?
Maybe you’ve been watching too much TV and think you’re one of the guys who’ve already made it, when YOU haven’t yet done shit.
Maybe you’ve tasted success on some level, somehow fucked it up, and think you’re still a star while your reality is the exact opposite — and you refuse to acknowledge it.
Maybe you have conditioned yourself to seek shortcuts in life and no one has ever told you the truth. That’s one reason why I wrote this.
One reason you need college: you’re not a professional-level player yet.
How do I know? You’re not signed to a professional contract. Being a pro is not about what YOU think. It’s about what the decision makers think.
Another reason: you need to grow up.
Listen: I’m not a big fan of the collegiate education system. It’s antiquated and tries to fit people into simple boxes of knowledge. College tuition is overpriced. Nothing that I learned in college helps me run my business today. Not one thing.
My time in college helped me to mature.
It forced me to learn valuable people skills.
I was allowed to make mistakes, grow up and become an adult.
Most teenagers need the same things that I needed.
Are there exceptions? Yes.
The problem with exceptions: everything thinks they’re one of them. We can’t all be exceptions.
Pro Teams Look At College Clubs For Their Next Signings.
This is the most practical and simplest reason for you to go play in college.
College is the feeder system for professional basketball. So, if you’re smart, you need to be where the scouts and teams are looking. I shouldn’t even need to put much time into this point.
The best indicator of future performance is past performance. Your college performance is the “resume” that will help you look like a solid candidate for playing in the pros.
College ball is your best showcase for pro ball. You’d be a fool to skip this step.
You’re Not A Good Enough Player Yet.
How about this one: You just need to get better!
By age 16, my junior year of high school, I knew what I wanted to do with life: play basketball for a living.
But I also knew I probably wasn’t gonna be drafted out of high school (this was when that was still a thing). I wasn’t even getting college offers, let alone looks form the pro scouts.
So I knew that college would be part of my plans.
Fine. I walked on in college, got better over four years, and started my professional career five years after sitting the bench as a high school senior.
That wouldn’t have happened without those years of college ball.
I’m not a huge proponent of humility just for humanity’s sake. But there are times when it’s useful. I was humble enough to know that I would need sometime to earn my confidence, and college provided me the time and environment for doing so.
You Don’t Know How To Play Yet.
See my notes above about the difference between Amerian pickup games and rec leagues, and the overseas playing style.
College ball will at least teach you how to make your skills fit within a system, as most college basketball systems force players to sacrifice some of their games for the better of the team (or the wishes of the coach).
You’re not even 25 yet — there’s plenty of life ahead of you. And if you’re smart, some of that life can be spent playing basketball.
You just need to be disciplined enough to accept your situation and take the necessary steps for moving forward.
There are hundreds of colleges out there. Find one that will take you, enroll and play your way onto the team.
This is YOUR job to do. You’re not a kid anymore.
You know how to use Google. You have a phone and email. Do the work. Own your life and career.
Best of success.
Read all my articles for athletes — covering everything from on-court issues to contracts to agents and having a pro career — on my Athletes page here. And, get my book The Overseas Basketball Blueprint for free at BallOverseas.com.
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