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Will Smith | The US Prep School System. What it's like, things to look out for and look for

June 30, 2018

Intro by Coach Janx


Will is one of the rare few of coaches from Australia coaching in the United States, even rarer in that he is from South Australia and even rarer again in that he coaches in the Prep School level of competitions.


In South Australia he previously played Premier League with Forestville Eagles, before moving to Eastern Mavericks and then starting his coaching journey with Eastern.  Quickly finding a real love for coaching he decided to take the big plunge into fulltime coaching, packup shop and head to NBA China to work in the youth basketball sector there.   He has since moved over to the United States working for St Louis Christian Academy a private, prep school with a strong basketball program, whilst still running a coaching program in China called World Hoops Basketball Academy.


In this article Will takes us into the very different world of high level US High and Prep School basketball, what to look for in bad vs a good prep school, the style of game played, as well as some tips and advice on selecting a college.  This is a good read for any athlete, parents, coaches and supporters who are might be considering US High School/Prep School or just interested in learning more about overseas basketball.  Whilst we always enjoy reading content and opinions I HIGHLY recommend that any athletes considering this pathway seek out advice from a number of coaches with experience and knowledge in basketball pathways, both here and in the US, before making such a decision, there a lot variables involved.  I’ve seen poor decisions made without speaking and listening to the right mix of people first and considering specific variables for themselves.


Over to Coach Smith


 PICTURED:  Will and the team from St Louis Christian Academy Prep School at Game 6 of round 1 of the NBA playoffs between the Cavs and the Pacers.


For High School aged athletes the talent level, level of general competition, amount of games and the whole deal I believe is unsurpassed in the world compared to the United States.


Unfortunately a lot of this derives from the harsh realities we already know; For many kids in the USA- basketball is their ticket to a better life. Some players struggle with school, have bad situations at home, or come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. However, this painful truth has also helped borne a fire, hunger and passion unrivaled. Games are intense, filled with scrappy players who fight tooth and nail every possession. The competitive nature of getting ‘an offer’ from a college team makes each game, tournament and season much more important.


USA High School Basketball Landscape


For those who don’t know- players are ranked inside America for their class. This is one of the aspects of US High School ball that makes it unique to other countries.  The 2018 kids will be ranked by various websites such as espn etc. It is subjective, but players in the top are generally pretty similarly ranked depending where you look. They can also be ranked by position.


This forms an extremely public scrutiny of high school players. It also creates excitement and pressure. A bad couple games or tournament can certainly hurt a kid’s ranking. These rankings are certainly closely monitored by college coaches/scouts when they are evaluating players for whom they want to offer scholarships to. As with any commodity, highly sought after things create higher prices- so sometimes a top 10 ranked kid will obviously be very hard for colleges to sign. This is where the not so kosher side of the basketball business thrives.


On the flip side-many schools and coaches want to find that diamond in the rough that somehow slipped through the cracks and is unknown- easier to negotiate with, manage and obtain. I’m sure we have all read countless stories of these scenarios- Manu Ginobili picked in the 50’s, Isaiah Thomas picked with the last selection in the draft etc.


 PICTURED: The NCAA Final 4 of March Madness.  Not too many tournaments in the world like it and all for college kids.


International Players in the USA


Now- for international kids- getting these offers is even harder. Basketball in America is a bit of an old school business- coaches believe what they see with their own eyes. They want to see players in the flesh, watch them train-watch them play games, watch them interact with teammates and coaches etc.

Watching a highlights video can be good and bad for coaches. I have seen countless videos of players who look a million dollars in highlights and when you see them- they are terrible. Everyone can look good on edited highlights that only show your good side! If a coach is actually interested in a player, they will usually ask for full game footage also. This shows the players ups and downs through the natural flow of a game.


As an international student, it also can be difficult for coaches to get a good grasp of your abilities. There can be many big fish in small ponds and this syndrome is a realit