Today is Signing Day and it’s become a near national holiday for high school football players and other fall sports participants. Basketball players, of course, can sign during the early period the first week of November or in the spring. Today is a great time to let young players in on some facts about signing with a college.
College Signing 101 — What You Need To Know About College
For thousands of student-athletes and their family, today is a dream come true as they sign their National Letter-of-Intent. Some of the nation’s top football players appeared on national television today to announce their intentions and others quietly signed on the dotted line.
But what does signing a LOI mean for a basketball player?
For those boys and girls basketball players who will sign in the spring, or are underclassmen who want to know what they’re getting into, below is what you need to know about signing with a college.
Five Things You Need To Know
1. It’s About The School
The LOI is a binding agreement between the prospective student-athlete and an institution. It clearly states that a student-athlete signs with an institution, not its head coach or the coaching staff. This is important to know, because recruiting is mainly about building relationships and the player is still bound by the LOI’s provisions.
2. You Don’t Have To Do It
There is no rule or regulation that a players has to sign a LOI. Remember, a scholarship is a one-year guarantee and a player who is worried about not getting that guarantee would be best advised to sign it. The normal practice, not exception, is for colleges to renew all of its scholarships every season. If you think the coach that recruited you may leave or that the school is about to go on NCAA probation, the option should be explored to not sign the LOI.
3. Know Your Level
All men’s Division I basketball programs get 13 full, all-or-nothing scholarships. That means you get everything paid and any walk-ons have to pay their own way. Division II programs have 10 full scholarships and they can be split up as the head coach desires. There are no athletic scholarships for Division III programs. NAIA Division I schools can offer up to 11 full scholarships and NAIA Division II schools can offer up to six.
4. You’re Signing Your Free Time Away
There are sacrifices to your social life that you will have to make in order to be a great player at the college level or one that reaches his/her potential. That means little or no free time. If no one tells you this, you’ll understand it the first day of summer workouts and summer school.
5. Everyone Isn’t A Superstar
There are more role players in college then superstar types. Be prepared to step into a role once you get to college. The competition for playing time will be much more intense than what you’re probably used to. You will likely find that other teammates have skills in certain areas of the game that exceed yours, whereas on your high school or travel team you were literally the best at everything. The coaches will be studying to see how you best fit into the team concept.
Five Things College Coaches Won’t Tell You
1. This Is A Business
College basketball is big business and you are an investment. A college scholarship is worth a lot of money. While you are looking for the best institution, college coaches are looking for the student-athlete that will be the best investment of time and money for their program. While the recruiting process can and should be an enjoyable experience, you will be expected and required to work hard to maintain your scholarship.
2. Fantasy VS. Reality
The person that recruited you WILL NOT seem like the same person once he/she is coaching you in practice. On your recruiting visit, they want you. Once you’re in the gym, they have you. When you and your parents are sitting on your couch while the coach is kindly persuading you to choose their college, don’t think that’s the way he/she interacts in a practice setting. Coach will likely be more intense and demanding. They will be doing their job and you need to do yours, too.
3. You Don’t Know Everything
There is a lot you have to learn about the college game, so even if a coach tells you they intend to start you as a freshman or that you will get plenty of playing time, that’s based on what they feel you can grasp and where you can get better at. It’s NOT based on how good you are today. Even though you may think you’re a great high school player, college basketball is a completely different animal. Your weaknesses will be exposed much quicker and the scouting of opponents is ten times more detailed.
4. You Already Have Parents
A college coaching staff’s No. 1 priority is what is best for the program, not what is best for your feelings. They are your coaches, not your babysitter or parent. Just as any college student might have, you are going to have bad days and your personal problems are not the coaches’ problems. More often than not, they will refuse to make them their problems. You can’t expect your coach to be your friend on most occasions.
5. You’ll Need a Job One Day
Only about 2.8 percent of high school players will get a Division I scholarship and only 1.2 percent of Division I players will play in the NBA. It’s up to you to care about your own education. Although most programs institute study hall and tutoring to ensure that you have all of the resources necessary to be successful in the classroom, it is ultimately up to you to utilize those resources.
Jerica Williams, who played collegiate ball at UCLA and San Diego State, contributed to this report.