So the narrative about AAU is very prevalent. The idea is that you have to play “AAU” or travel basketball to get recruited. We’ll look at that as well as the idea that playing in high school is a waste of time. If you don’t care about getting recruited, stop reading.  This doesn’t apply to you.  If you do want to get recruited, read this over and over again.

There are 108 “circuit teams” between Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas.  If there are 15 players on a team, that’s 1,620 players.

There are approximately 350 Division I schools. If each school brings in 4 freshmen per year (which doesn’t happen because of transfers), that’s 1,400 scholarship opportunities.

First, you have to understand that there are different levels of college athletic programs. Even within a conference, there are better programs and programs that aren’t as good.  When we talk about “better programs”, we mean on a year in and year out basis, they have pretty consistent results.  It doesn’t mean they don’t have a down year, but usually, those are few and far between.

Even programs that traditionally struggle can have a good year occasionally. How many times does a coach at a program like that stay there? So many times, their success affords them a higher-paying job somewhere else. And then all of a sudden, the program struggles again.

This goes for every division and every conference.

We’re going to put schools like Duke and Kentucky in that top tier of Division 1.  If you want to go to a “blue-blood” program, you probably need to play for one of the best EYBL, 3SSB, or UA teams.  You’re probably also playing for a very good high school team like IMG or Oak Hill or a program that is a serious contender for state championships. It’s not a requirement but the best teams have the best players. The best schools are going to recruit and sign the best players.

Are you a top-tier talent? Being able to self-evaluate is critical. Odds are, you’re not.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Most players aren’t. Are you willing to do what it takes to get to that top tier? Are you willing to do those things even if you might not get there? Either way, can you evaluate yourself accurately?

If we take the top 10% of D1 programs and say they bring in 4 freshmen per year, that would be around 150 players.  If you’re not in the top 150, you can still be a really good player.  The next 150 players are still really good.

There have been plenty of top 150 players who have not had good college or professional careers. And there are plenty of players who weren’t “ranked” that highly who were more successful in the long run.

Right now, we’re talking about the top 300 players in the country in any given class. Let’s look more broadly.

There are 108 “circuit teams” between Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas.  If there are 15 players on a team, that’s 1,620 players.

There are approximately 350 Division I schools. If each school brings in 4 freshmen per year (which doesn’t happen because of transfers), that’s 1,400 scholarship opportunities.

Clearly, there aren’t enough spots for everybody.  It’s true, that some will play professionally.  Some won’t qualify and will have to play in junior college. But it also doesn’t mean that just because you play “on the circuit” you’ll play Division 1.

It’s also true that you don’t have to play on one of those teams to play Division 1.  There are players that play on other teams that play Division 1.  There are players that get overlooked.  There are talented players who don’t get the opportunity to play on any team.

The truth is that most players will never play Division 1.  Most players will never play in college on scholarship at all. The facts are that there is SO MUCH time and money being wasted on something that will never produce the results.  Instead, players need to be WORKING on their game.

So what about the other levels?  D2, D3, JUCO, NAIA?  Well they don’t have the time or resources to worry about freshmen, sophomores or juniors.  If you’re good enough to play for them when you’re young, you probably won’t be when you get older. So many of those programs fill their rosters with transfers from other levels.  The free agent market is just as strong as the high school senior market, and those players have experience.  So if you’re not a D1 player, and you hope to play at a different level, you better be working on your game so that you can beat out a transfer.

There’s a reason most players never play past high school.  They don’t put enough work in.  They think that playing is work.  They think that playing “AAU” is the answer.  It’s only the answer if they put in the hours and hours of work that it takes to be at that level.

Granted the genetically gifted players who are significantly taller than average have an advantage.  The ones that are significantly more athletic than average have an advantage.  No matter what, work is still required.  If you don’t have those “genetic” advantages, it’s going to require even more work to close the gap.

It’s not more work with your team.  it’s more work on your own when no one is watching.

Similarly, players play year-round. They play with their travel ball teams all spring and summer, then they play with their high school teams all fall and winter.  When is the player’s off-season?  The best players have an off-season and they are already elite.  Why shouldn’t everyone else?

You’re probably not going to have college coaches come to watch your regular-season games.  They are in the middle of their seasons with practices and games trying to either keep their jobs or get the next job. Recruiting for them is primarily an off-season activity.  They will keep in touch with recruits that they saw in the spring and summer.  They might go “baby-sit” a player that they’ve offered for a game. They don’t really have the time to go sit in gyms and look for players.

If they recruit high school games, it will be at a tournament where they can sit in one place and watch multiple teams play over the course of a day or two, not one gym with two teams.  These tournaments could be Christmas tournaments or conference or region tournaments.  But don’t expect college coaches to be out running around to random high school games looking for players.  They just don’t have the time.

So then the question is, why should I play high school?  Well it’s different for everyone, but if you’re serious about getting recruited, you probably shouldn’t. The high school season should be the off-season where players are working on their skills, their shooting, their strength, and conditioning. In our opinion, an off-season is critical to your mental and physical health as an athlete.  It’s the time when you “add something to your bag”.

If you’re not ready to play at an elite AAU level, then maybe you should play in high school.  We do think it’s important to play.  But if you can’t make your high school team and you can’t make an elite AAU team, you need to work and work and work some more.  Don’t play in the rec league or some other “AAU” team.  Get to work.

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