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What top College Coaches look for - real insights

Jacob Rigoni, Lat Mayen, Isaac White (more info here): 3 talented individuals heavily recruited for their character traits as well as their basketball talents.

What do College Coaches look for?

In the US, every coach is different, every school is different. This is one of the exciting things about our sport in the US, it is so much bigger than Australia. Australia has a pathway that is very, very small indeed in comparison.

As you move higher up the pathway less and less people's opinion on you matter in Australia. That is not to say the people making assessments are poor at it, because they are not, they know how to identify talent in most cases. They have ability to identify and harness talent in the right way, however ultimately there will always be subjectivity in making assessments and very few people that matter are making those assessments in Australia. In the US every coach sees players slightly differently and there is not a tight, integrated network like there is in Australia.

I wanted to relay some stories and thoughts, which demonstrate what coaches in Division 1 programs consistently look for from my many conversations with them. I did not want to focus on the x's and o's or basketball aspects, but more the intangibles. These traits are things I often hear Aussie junior coaches talk about that coaches at higher levels want, but I wanted to give readers value by providing some real life insights and examples.

Fortunately, the guys on the featured athlete’s page have epitomised the values that coaches look for. They are high character, hard workers that help teams win. Guys I would take into battle ANY DAY and have proven this time and time against the upper echelon of talent in this country and abroad and have often been able to overcome adversity to succeed.

Hungry for it.

Recently I caught up for a coffee with a former NBA and current Div 1 college coach here in Adelaide for a visit. He used the analogy of a piece of nice steak for what he looks for in talent. He said if there were 4 guys sitting here now who had not eaten for 3 days and there was a nice piece of steak in the middle of the table would the player in question get it. What would he be prepared to do to win that steak? He said the guy that would get the steak against all the odds, no matter is the guy HE wants in his team. He likened this example to how Delavedova plays and trains who has worked out at his school quite a few times.

High character people.

Here is an email from a coach in a very upper mid-major Div 1 school, quite a well known program indeed. This highlights a conversation he had with a recruit, what he looks for is clear. They are looking for something more than a player in their program, they are looking for "high character" kids, hard workers that will find a way to win.

I spoke with xxxxx yesterday for about a half hour. There are many aspects to our evaluation process at xxxxxx, and one of the reasons that we have had such stability and consistent success at xxxxxxx is because we always recruit high character kids. From our conversation yesterday, it was beyond obvious that xxxx is a very impressive young man. He had researched xxxxxxxxxxx, prepared for our conversation, and asked great questions. I could not have been more impressed. Seems like a terrific kid and I was very excited about how well our conversation went.

Thanks for all of your help, as always, with everything.

Have a great weekend.

Will represent the program in a positive light at all times.

Last year I had a coach visit from the Division 1 NCAA in the America East Conference. One of the guys he was evaluating accidentally did something wrong. Just a mistake that could be misconstrued in a fishbowl type environment such as living on a college campus. The coach went off. His point to me was that at my school our students help fund our basketball program, likewise boosters, they are our fans and our athletes live and work amongst our fans. We cannot have any risks of a student athlete bringing our program into disrepute off the floor, even if accidental, because that could impact our fan base and our funding. Coaches don't want risks, they want someone that will uphold the values of their program AT ALL times. They are on campus so they are always under the spotlight.


This note is from one of the top education institutions in the world. It is indicative what many schools will want early in the process. They will ask for eligibility information, good grades (in some cases great grades), academic transcripts and SATS.

Can we set up a time for a phone call? I would love to recruit your players. Are they strong students as well?

Grades are important. Coaches want good students that will uphold their programs GPA, who have passed the SATs, who are eligible and will complete their 16 core subjects. If you are an outstanding student it also says alot about your work ethic and the kind of person you are to coaches.

EVERYONE speaks highly about you as a player and your character.

Coaches DO their homework. College Coaches are paid sometimes very significant amounts of money. They are under the spotlight of the population of the campus' population and fans. They only have 13 scholarships to offer and if they bring in guys that will not perform in their program, are going to be problems to the program and not high quality people they will risk their reputation, that of their program, funding and even their jobs. They do their homework. They DO check your social media, they do check up on people around you. In my experience coaches that regularly recruit Aussies will have very vast networks in Australia. They will do reference checks with coaches, scouts, family members, parents, even teachers. It is vital you see your reputation, your professionalism, your work ethic, your coachability as vital assets that have toe always be upheld to the highest levels. College coaches will not take a risk and a bad reference can prove fatal to your chances.

Have to play well, not just good highlights.

Highlights of your games are important but ultimately it will not get you an offer. Coaches will almost ALWAYS want to see full gametape before they get serious in recruiting you. They will want to see more than one gametape and against top, ranked, national talent. School level high school games will not count for much because these guys, in my experience, are absolute experts in assessing talent, they will see the opposition you are playing against are good or otherwise.

I hope this helps. Ultimately the quest for young men to strive for college scholarships will be a healthy one. Good academics, great work ethic, high character, positive brand amongst the basketball community are all very important traits beyond basketball too.

College Coaches and others, if there are any other non-basketball specific qualities you like or related anecdotes then just drop me a line I'd be keen to hear.

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