So You Wanna Play D1, Huh?

Richard Gray

Manager of Basketball Administration - Madison Square Garden/NY Liberty

SportVU Operator - Brooklyn Nets

About Richard Gray: A basketball fanatic with a real eye for talent.  Rick is a former player and aspiring NBA GM who is fully submerged in the business of basketball.  He studies the game from the aspect of player development and coaching, always looking to grow.  You want a good debate?  Rick will hit you with facts from the depths of the most obscure basketball reference website.  We are proud he is in our network of coaches/basketball minds and look forward to many more great conversations. 


Let's put together a checklist:


1. You need a "Ball is Life" type mixtape. Ok.


2. You don't need to actually work out. Just go to the gym, take pictures and post on social media with the hashtag, #InTheLab. Be sure to do that at least 3 times a week.


3. Gear, can't forget the gear. Stance socks and a pair of KD's or LeBron's and you're ready to go.


Scholarship, here you come!


Unfortunately, that's not how it actually works out. And don't think I'm one of those grumpy old "get off my lawn" guys that don't get the new generation. Trust me, I do. Nonetheless, I want to make sure I steer you in the right direction or at least make a contribution. 


Below is our real checklist:


1. You Have to Be Eligible to Play 

You can't get the grades necessary to qualify if you don't study and put forth the effort in the classroom. There is no way around it. I had the pleasure of coaching some very talented guys who are high major prospects. When they reach out about their on court progress, I ask about grades first. There is no one without the other, if you want a division 1 scholarship, which is their goal.


2. You Have to Know How to Play


That 3.0 g.p.a and qualifying SAT/ACT score can't put the ball in the basket, block a shot or rebound. So you have to work on your game as well. Rarely is there a rare gem with God given ability, size and strength that doesn't have to work as hard. But in most cases, there has to be significant time spent developing your skill, mind and body if you want to take your game to the next level. 



After getting a good feel for the proper fundamentals of whatever it is you’re working on, DO IT GAME SPEED. The only time anything needs to be done slowly and at a methodical pace is when you are getting the mechanics down. It is ok to move at a slower pace as you get a grasp on the proper way of doing whatever it is you are working on, but once you get it down and are getting more comfortable, everything should be done at game pace with specific goals in mind (track results). The difference between every level of basketball are details and pace. Keep this in mind when getting floor work in.



You don’t take time out to work on your body because you should value your body at all times. Your diet, proper rest and the amount of time you spend on strength training, collectively impacts your body. Everyone’s body type is different, so there isn’t a blanket approach to this. However, if you are sluggish from a lack of rest and bad food intake, you can’t have a maximum output in the weight room. No matter how well you feel like you may be doing, it’s not maximum effort without sufficient energy, and diet and rest impacts that the most.



Be a student of the game. Your favorite ball players are not only gym rats but they live in the film room as well. As you go to the next level, not only does the competition get better but the coaching improves as well. The “rookie/freshman wall” usually comes into play because coaches have figured a player out so well that the player has to be able to make significant adjustments to their game on the fly and most young players aren’t prepared to.

Be a student of the game. Your favorite ball players are not only gym rats but they live in the film room as well.


Furthermore, the more time you spend watching film, the better your basketball instincts become. Visual repetition is a form of mental repetition. As players watch certain basketball scenarios over and over again, recognizing those scenarios during gameplay before they develop becomes second nature, thus putting that player a step ahead of the opposition.


3. Marketing Yourself

Every kid won’t be fortunate or talented enough to be apart of one of the major shoe company’s summer circuit (EYBL, Under Armour, Adidias Nation) for exposure but there are ways around it. 


Film/Highlight Tapes

I made a joke about the "Ball is Life" videos above, but in all seriousness, it is a way to supplement the process of getting a scholarship. Coaches hang out online all day long looking to cherry pick the process and identify who may be the next piece to their program. However, in using this as a tool, make sure you take the time to put together a quality product. Most coaches have been around the block a million times and a video highlighting a players best plays will not do the job. They can see right through it if the player is attempting to hide flaws with a highlight tape. Organize your film and include different aspects of your game that aren’t necessarily “highlight tape material” like footwork, screen and roll defense, energy, etc… Thinks outside of the box.

Film room at The University of Kansas

Film room at The University of Kansas


Build Relationships with Coaches

It may seem like a shot in the dark but work with your parents and your high school coach to coming up with a plan. Sure, your play will be the determining factor, but coaches knowing your name and school that you play for is apart of the battle as well. I’m not suggesting that the local kid not getting recruited in North Carolina should give Coach K a call, but reach out to the smaller Division 1s in the area. Who knows… with the work you put in, they may remember you  if your name happens to start ringing once your play improves. Coaches loves “discovering the next best secret”, even if you are the one that did the work to establish the relationship.


Maintain a Good Reputation

Your reputation can take you out of opportunities before you even have an chance to personally impact the outcome. Amateur athletics is a billion dollar business (the irony) and how the players carry themselves are a major part of the branding process. Sure, talent can supersede character in a lot of cases, but only for so long. Coaches will only tolerate it as far as they need you but once a replacement is available or the negatives outweigh the positives you will be an afterthought and branded as “Do Not Touch.” Play it safe, be a high character guy. It can only help you.


In closing, there is not one way to secure a Division 1 scholarship. Different combinations of what is listed above will be very beneficial to your journey. Also… TRUST THE PROCESS. There are players that go completely unknown in High School that are able to go on to Junior College, reinvent themselves and still get that scholarship that they desire. Remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Run YOUR race and don’t worry about the person to the left or the right of you. 

Esian henderson