I love this question. This question gets asked a lot and it has many answers. When players ask me this question I always ask who they want to be recruited by and that determines the answer.
Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky... When you hear the names of these schools what do you think of? These are great college basketball schools and programs. The kids that these guys go after are a lot different than the Mount Mercy College or the Division III programs of the world.
That's why I say it depends on who you want to be recruited by. Let's talk about this for a bit and explain the difference. The aforementioned schools recruit players who can come in and play right away for them.
They want the kids who are good enough to play or compete to play against the best teams in the country as a freshman. They want players who have NBA aspirations and expect them. Sure, not even close to all their players will play in the NBA, but they understand that and need those players also to act as compliments. They want players who are extremely athletic, can shoot, defend and score. They want it today.
I believe in honesty with kids and though I will never take away their dream, I will make it very clear what they have to do to get to that level. So let's talk about that.
You have to be seen. You have to put yourself in a position to be recruited. If a coach doesn't know you exist then he won't recruit you - plain and simple. The best thing kids are doing now is playing summer basketball. It is big time and coaches live at these tournaments. If you think the way to Duke or North Carolina is through doing well in a few high school games then you have another thing coming. They want to see you in tournaments playing against the best players in the country.
When I played against Jason Kidd in a summer league tournament I realized that he was a little out of my league. This guy was amazing. I knew that he was better than me and that wasn't going to change no matter how much I worked at it. Jason Kidd is a rare exception, but the reality is that after playing against him I understood why Duke, North Carolina, Illinois and those great schools weren't looking at me.
As a senior in High School I played with one of the top 40 high school players in the country. He was recruited by a number of large schools including Kansas. I spoke with Roy Williams one day after practice and he told me exactly what I could expect. I respected him for that. I knew where I stood and why.
I was a 6 foot point guard, very fast very quick and a good passer. I couldn't dunk and I wasn't strong at all. I weighed 150 pounds. Do I believe I could've played at Kansas? Of course I do. But I knew that I would be a kid who came off the bench when they were beating Baylor by 40 points and the crowd wanted me to score. That's what I mean, who do you want to recruit you.
My father is good friends with a number of coaches throughout the country and we often have this very conversation. The coaches look for winners. They want kids from winning teams. They have to be able to project players. Many times you'll see a very effective 6 foot 3 inch post player who will score like crazy in high school but won't see the time of day when it comes to being recruited. Coaches know that this kid can't play post in college. They project you. They want to be able to see what you will be like in a few years.
The taller the better and that is obvious. The smaller you are the more athletic you need to be. Either that or you need to have a skill. I will say that if you can shoot the basketball you will find a spot somewhere. You don't have to be the best athlete to be recruited if you can shoot the ball. Pass only point guards are a dime a dozen and are everywhere.
Coaches want kids who are threats with the ball. They want kids who create their own shots or players who can take advantages of mismatches when recognized. They want to see kids work hard on defense and hustle.
Why was I recruited and what did I do to get recruited? I played everywhere I could at the time. Don't be afraid to fail or succeed against the best. I was a good shooter who could get his own shot and get any shot for another player on the floor that I wanted. Why didn't I get recruited by the bigger schools? I wasn't a good enough athlete. I wasn't strong enough and didn't project that I ever would be. I had a very hard time guarding players bigger than me at my position because of that lack of strength. I didn't play my best when I needed to play my best. I'm accountable for that. But I'm proud having accomplished what I did.
Please remember this if you are young and have questions about recruiting. PLAY the game. Play as often as you can. I don't care if it is a backyard or a church gym or wherever. Practice and as you get older, lift weights to gain strength. This site promotes many wonderful products that I used over the years that truly helped. I always looked at it like if I purchased the strength shoesand they helped pay for my college then I was doing ok. I treated it like an investment that happened to pay off.