When I hear players say that they want to play NCAA Division 1, I have one question. “Why?”

Here are some of the answers I get.

1. I want to play at the highest level.
2. I want to play against the best players.
3. I want to go to school for free.
4. I want to be in March Madness.
5. I want to play in the NBA.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to play Division 1. The thing that players don’t realize is that all Division 1 schools are different in every way. Even the scholarships are different from school to school. Literally, players get more money to attend some schools than others. That’s just the facts.

Then, there are so many levels to Division 1. Even within conferences, there are different levels. And while this may fluctuate from year to year, some teams are traditionally excellent. Others traditionally aren’t. Some teams never make it to the NCAA tournament. Some teams make it almost every year. Many teams never have a chance to win a conference championship much less a national championship. Others are in contention every year.

These levels even go to each team. In most cases, the players that start on one team are a lot better than the players that come off the bench. A bench player on one of the best NCAA Division 1 teams might easily be a starter on a lower level team.

So when a player says they want to play Division 1, “WHY” is such an important question to answer. If you’re a bench player on a lower level Division 1 team, you may never get to play against anybody. So are you really getting to play against the best players? If you don’t play, the chances of you playing in the NBA are even lower than they are already. Even if you start for a lower level team, making the NCAA tourney is very difficult. And most of the time, you’re playing against other lower level teams. You aren’t getting to play against the best teams.

Can you start for a high level Division I team? The truth is that if that’s the case, you probably already have 15 offers to mid level Division 1 teams. Coming off the bench for a top level Division 1 team, might mean you can earn a starting spot your junior year. There are always players that start on a lower level team and transfer to a higher level team because they perform so well. In some cases this works out for them, and in some cases it doesn’t.

There are so many factors that go into “success” for individual players, but then there is team success. If you had to choose, would you rather play or win? In other words, would you rather play and lose on a bad Division 1 team or sit on the bench and win on a good Division 1 team? Of course everybody wants to be the best player on the best team, but the truth is there aren’t many players that are that level.

Everybody wants to be “the man”, but not everybody is naturally talented enough or willing to do what it takes to really be “the man.”

If you have the opportunity to play NCAA Division 1 basketball at any level, you’re already better than most players out there. That’s a huge deal. But there are a lot of NCAA Division 1 players, who have poor experiences, because they aren’t quite as good as they thought.

The players who have the best experiences out work the competition, but they also outsmart the competition. They know who they are and what they want. They are good enough to have lots of options and they pick the option that best fits them.

It is simple to say but very difficult to do. If you say you want to play NCAA Division 1, ask yourself why. If it’s just to say that you did, that’s ok, but it’s going to be a tough road.

Educate yourself about other levels. You can still play professionally even if you don’t play NCAA Division 1. You can still go to school for free without playing NCAA Division 1. You can still play against the best players and compete at a high level without playing NCAA Division 1. Your path doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. In fact, I guarantee that it won’t be just because your life and your experiences are not the same as anyone else.

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