With March Madness and state basketball playoffs ongoing, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the concept of college recruiting of HS basketball players. To that end, I asked Noah Savage, who served as the captain of the Princeton basketball team in 2008 and who, as a 6-8 sharpshooter, was an All-Ivy selection, to come on the Sports Edge this AM to talk about what aspiring players (and their parents) should know about playing in college.
Being not that far removed from being a HS player himself, Noah spoke candidly on a wide range of topics and handled a number of calls. Here’s a brief recap of his suggestions:
Division I or III? If you, as a player, don’t know where you might fit in as a college player and at what level, Noah cautioned that pretty much every teammate of his at Princeton had been superstars at their respective HS programs. That is, regardless of how much playing time they got in college, they ALL had been All-this or All-that in HS. Noah recalls that when he was being recruited by Princeton, one of the recruiting coaches told him that Noah — who was All-State in New Jersey – would be competing against a kid from Ohio who had recently scored 52 points in a game.
But as Noah points out, the game changes dramatically once you’re in college. “Let’s say you were a 6-5 center in HS….in college, suddenly, at 6-5, you’re being seen as a guard. The kids are bigger, faster, and stronger than the kids you competed against in HS. And for many players, it’s just too bi of a jump.”
ASK THE COACH DIRECTLY
In any event, Noah had some good advice. “Go to a showcase or summer camp, and ask the college coaches there who have seen play — ask them directly for their assessment of where they think you can play. These coaches will tell you the truth. It may not be what you hoped to hear, but unlike a lot of AAU coaches, or HS coaches, or even parents, the college coaches will tell you the truth.
“And by the way, if the coach says you might be a preferred walk-on, don’t be seduced. Walk-ons rarely play, and often get cut the second year as new recruits come into the program.”
I pointed out that, according to the New York Times, close to 40% of all college basketball players transfer out by the end of their sophomore year. “That’s because the college coach tells the sophomore player that the kid is not as good as we thought he was going to be. In other words, the coach is telling the sophomore that he’s probably never going to see any playing time.
“That’s a tough conversation, but at least it’s honest. Then the player can decide for himself whether he wants to remain in the program, or transfer out. In other words, the kid can decide what’s best for him. And a lot of them do transfer out.”
TWO KEY TAKEAWAYS
Noah also advocated two other key points:
One, you MUST do your homework and ask the recruiting coach the tough questions, e.g. where do I fit into your program? How much playing time when I have my freshman year? Will I be on the travelling roster? What year is the kid on the team now who plays my position? And of course, how much scholarship money will I receive?
Being told you’re a preferred walk-on, or let’s see what kind of freshman year you have and then we’ll talk about possible scholarship for your second year are serious red flags. In other words, the coach is under no obligation to you at all.
And two, leave your parents out of the decision. Yes, they can and should meet the college coach. But after that, all communication should come from the athlete to the coach, never from Mom and Dad.
To hear the entire interview, go to WFAN.com and find the link for Rick Wolff’s podcast.