All high school players and parents participating in WCBA this spring were invited to attend a question & answer session with NC Wesleyan head men's basketball coach John Thompson on Thursday night.
Thompson opened the hour-long discussion by speaking on several topics of importance to college coaches. First, Thompson explained that there are between 550,000 and 600,000 high school basketball players in the country, yet there are only 18,000 NCAA basketball players. Thompson said the question he always asks players is, "What's so special about you?"
Thompson went further, explaining what college coaches look for in players. Of course they're looking for things like shooting ability, athleticism, and rebounding, but that's not all.
According to Thompson, college coaches want to see things like toughness, communication, and how players interact with each other, coaches and officials. He said coaches are evaluating players off the court too. If a player goes to get a Gatorade at the concession stand, they're being evaluated, Thompson said. "Did you say please and thank you?" he asked.
How college coaches find talent is a question many players and parents have each season.
Thompson explained that his staff finds players by going to as many games -- AAU and high school -- as they can get to. Because NC Wesleyan is a Division III school, Thompson and his staff can evaluate outside of NCAA live periods.
Thompson also listens to high school and AAU coaches who he trusts, who have sent him players before or who know his program.
Thompson spent much of the evening answering questions from parents and players. The first question asked was about the importance of academics.
Thompson said academics are critical. "If you have a C- average, I can't recruit you," he said.
Social media is full of people claiming offers from colleges. Some freshmen and sophomores already claim offers too.
One parent asked about the legitimacy of those offers. Can a freshman or sophomore actually commit to or sign with a school? Thompson said they can commit, but it's not that simple.
Some players may be interested in attending a school and trying out for the team as a walk-on. Others may be offered a "preferred walk-on" roster spot, which Thompson says is a relatively new phenomenon.
Thompson said there are many reasons a player may opt to walk-on at a school, but he said you should not do so with any expectation that it will turn into a scholarship.
A WCBA player asked Coach Thompson what would happen if a player signed with a school, but then received an offer from a bigger school or got a better opportunity.
In short, it's up to the school to determine if they will release you from your letter of intent once you sign the dotted line.
WCBA has several high-academic players on high school rosters. One parent wanted to know about Division III opportunities for high school students who are strong academically.
Thompson explained that Division III schools do not have athletic scholarships, but they do have academic money. And in some cases, a Division III school may be cheaper than a Division II school, even if the Division II school is offering some basketball scholarship money.
Players, parents and coaches get inundated with invitations to basketball camps and elite camps at colleges. Are those camps worth it?
Thompson said it varies. According to Thompson, you may be able to tell the worth of a camp by how much it costs. He said NC Wesleyan runs elite camps, but they don't charge very much because they're not trying to make money, they're trying to get kids on campus to be evaluated. Thompson suggested that you may learn more after attending a camp. If you attend an elite camp and never hear back, they probably aren't interested, he said.
There are numerous paid recruiting services out there. Companies will contact players and parents and offer them a package that provides exposure to college coaches for a fee. One parent asked Thompson if those services are worth paying for.
Another WCBA parent was curious about when college coaches can contact high school player and vice versa. Thompson explained that it depends on the division of the college. Division I schools have specific contact periods, while Thompson, as Division III coach, can contact players any time.
Often time Division III schools have very large rosters, sometimes with more than 20 players. Thompson said there are many reasons for that.