Believe it or not at one time it was really easy to choose a summer basketball club team. In fact, there were so few teams that you had to be the one chosen to play! Clubs would hold a weekend tryout right after the high school season ended and literally dozens of players would show up and compete for a few coveted roster spots.
Those who made the team were literally the "best of the best" in their geographic region and club tournaments then became ultra competitive battles between several "All-State" teams. Many of those players received college scholarship offers at the end of the summer and it wasn't long before more and more players wanted to be involved.
The obvious solution was for existing clubs to add more teams and then to divide the players according to skill level. This allowed many more players to play "club" basketball even if they weren't considered to be one of the elite. At the same time completely new clubs and teams were formed and suddenly nearly anyone and everyone who wanted to play in the spring and summer could find a team to join. Now with so many options at their disposal, athletes can actually pick and choose which club team is the best fit for them.
While it sounds over simplified, finding the right fit should be the number one priority when it comes to choosing a summer club team. If the fit is right then playing club basketball can be a lot of fun and very worthwhile. However, if the fit is not right then the entire experience can turn out to be a gigantic waste of time and money.
The first question that a player must ask himself is "Why do I want to play club basketball?" Is it because you just like to play? To travel and see new places? To play against different/better competition? To get seen by colleges and universities? To improve as a basketball player? To work on playing a different position? The primary answer to that question alone can be a great indicator of which direction you should head in looking for a club that fits your wants and needs.
The next thing you should consider is who is doing the coaching as there are a wide range of coaching options when it comes to club basketball. There are some extremely qualified and legitimate coaches on the club circuit but there are also those on the other end of the spectrum as well. Some teams are coached by well meaning adults who happen to love working with young athletes; others are coached by parents with enough game knowledge and experience to run subs in and out but not enough to actually help you get better and improve your skills.
What is the coach's practice philosophy and schedule? Does he hold a couple practices before the season starts but never again once the team begins to play games? (It's really hard to improve your skills that way!) Do the practices involve working on all the fundamental areas of the game or do they just involve scrimmaging and nothing else? Is there any individual work and attention or is everything done in extremely large groups?
There should be a good balance of practices and games and of individual attention and group work. In other words, practices should be very similar to what you would experience on a top notch high school or college team. Remember, if you primarily want fun and exposure then pick a team that plays a lot of games. (Keep in mind though that if you don't improve your game the exposure you get may end up costing you a scholarship instead of landing you one!) If you want to improve your overall game then pick a club that emphasizes practice and skill work.
Along with a coach's practice philosophy and schedule you should also find out about his playing and coaching styles. Is he laid back and quiet or is he intense and loud? There's nothing wrong with either style as long as you can respond and play for a coach like that. What does he like to do on offense and defense? Is the offense built around multiple scorers or just one main scorer?
While checking out the different coaches you should also do a little research on the roster makeup of the team. Is there a balance of perimeter and post players? That could be an important thing to know. For example, many players are forced to play in the post on their high school teams because they are the biggest guy in school and so look for club teams where they can play out on the perimeter. If that is you, then you don't want to join an undersized club team who will put you right back into the post because you are the only one with any experience in that position. The same holds true for other positions as well.
Last but not least you need to check out the "business" aspect of choosing a club team. Where will the team be practicing; is it close or really far away? Will you be able to make it to the practices? What nights are the practices? If you routinely have something else going on that night (practice for another sport?) the choice of clubs might turn out to be an easy one.
How much money is everything going to cost? Not just club dues but travel, food, hotel, uniforms, entry fees, gym rental for practice, etc. Does everyone pay the same amount or do some players pay more so the "elite" players can be given a "scholarship"? (It happens a lot!) Who pays for the coach's family to travel with the team? Are there any other hidden costs that could affect your decision?
As you can see, there are a lot of factors in deciding which basketball club team is the right one for you. As with all big decisions you have to make, carefully weigh out all the options and factors and don't rush into something too quickly. If you are going to invest a significant amount of time and money you want to make the best decision possible!