High school basketball players have often asked me about their visits to prospective colleges for whom they have been recruited to play college basketball. One unsigned senior asked what he should do to prepare for his two visits in a couple of weeks. What kind of work should I do in the gym? Any last minute tips?
Here was my advice:
- I would say you should define what your superpowers are.
- Commit to selling yourself. This is not a time to be a wall flower.
- Have a plan to demonstrate those superpowers.
- Ask meaningful questions. “What does it take to really excel in this program?” Ask the players, managers, and coaches. Know that managers and players will be reporting back to coaches. As will secretaries and perhaps the janitor.
- Keep a small notebook with these questions and write down the answers given. Ask coaches “Do you mind if I take notes?”
- Ask coach: “Can you tell me about your goals for next season and beyond and how you view me as being able to help?” Clarify understanding and perhaps tell a brief story as to why they are correct and that where you are specifically a cultural fit.
- At end of meeting ask: “Is there anything about me that makes you think I might not be a perfect fit here?” Then address that possible previously hidden objection. Respectfully but confidently. Do not dismiss the objection. Coaches know you have weaknesses. Explain your plan to take valued feedback and turn it into an action plan. Tell a story that demonstrates you have done this with another weakness and how it is a strength now.
- Have fun. Be likable. Authentic. Play that up. If you have interpersonal superpowers, demonstrate.
- You may face temptations on this visit. This is absolutely not the time for drinking, sexual activity, or outlandish behavior. Trust me, this all gets back. Even if the players are headed to a keg party, you are not following the “When in Rome…” philosophy. Also not the time to discuss your views on abortion, get a tattoo, break out the stylish man capri pants, or bash your high school coach. USE GOOD JUDGEMENT!
- Send handwritten thank you notes to everyone that took the time to show you around. Be specific in the thank you. “Thanks for showing me that cool off campus pizzeria – just the type of thing they don’t show you in the school catalog.” “Thanks for being candid enough to tell my handle is pathetic… worked out two hours on it this morning.” These thank you notes should be handwritten and mailed the day you return.
Many visits involve an open gym session with the players. For the unsigned senior or recruit, this is a bit of a tryout. I still remember the unsigned senior visiting my old college that complimented a move I made and asked me if I might be able to show it to him when we were done. It was sincere and it left an impression that the kid believed in self improvement. I shared that with my coach. I also shared my scouting report.
As far as last minute training, I would focus primarily on getting reps on the defined superpower list. At 110% speed. In other words, take your sharpest knives, and sharpen them some more. Not the time to address weaknesses from a teaching perspective. Shooting workout yes, shooting teaching no. Dribbling workout yes, new move development no.
I am, however, a huge proponent of taking that interview feedback and using it as your developmental blueprint. Players at this stage have often ignored development as they have been focused on exposure. Well, that weakness list you received means you were exposed. We all get exposed so don’t be disappointed. Meaning if you have not addressed fundamental flaws, magnified strengths, then you are really only playing for conditioning and perhaps to strengthen basketball IQ thru reps. College players who excel develop body, mind, and skills. All three. Playing more games, scrimmages etc. rarely addresses body or skills. This is a cultural problem in American basketball. That list you get from interviews with coaches is your blueprint for skills development. You need to thank them for that so they know you are willing to do the work. Magnify strengths, address weaknesses. Develop.