By Don Kelbick
We receive SO MANY questions from foreign players on how to play college and pro basketball in the U.S. So we decided to compile an article with advice for foreign players.
Here is an email Don sent to a foreign player seeking advice:
In a choice between education for the future and playing basketball, there is no choice. No matter where you are or who you are, basketball is only a short term situation and your future (education) is forever. If you are making a choice, secure your future. That does not mean you have to stop playing basketball. You might have to look for games, but they are around. Use the frustration you feel and develop something for the people who come after you so they do not have to go through the same things that you have to endure.
In regard to your obtaining a basketball scholarship, you have to remember that the players you are watching are among the best in the world. Of those players only a few (maybe 20) will play professionally in the NBA. The odds of making it are staggering. For someone in your situation, the odds are even longer. Not growing up in a situation where you play in the best competition will certainly limit you chances. What you see on TV is only the top college level. There are many college levels here, NCAA Div. I, Div II, Div III, NAIA (which has 2 divisions) and Junior College (which has 3 divisions). In most cases, if you are not identified as a prospect by your Sophomore year in high school, your chances of playing Div. I are slim. The lower levels work on a longer time line. You have to get yourself in a situation where you can be seen.
My best advice is for you to decide if and where you want to go to school in the U.S. and where. Once you make that decision, contact the coach about the possibility of playing on the team as a “walk-on.” He can tell you the requirements and how to try out. It will be very hard at the highest levels, a little less difficult as you go down in levels. You might be able to earn a scholarship that way. Not all schools give scholarships and at some levels, like NCAA Div. III, athletic scholarships are not allowed. The odds of earning a scholarship this way are slim but it may be better than the situation you are in now.
In addition, if you are on a professional team, that might eliminate your eligibility completely. Even if you don’t get paid, if you play on a professional team that negates your amateur status, you will not be able to play in college.
I am sorry I cannot be more positive for you, but that is the way of the world. Give it a shot and see what happens. However, your passion, if channeled properly, bodes well for people who come after you. Work for the betterment of the sport. Start some camps in your town, teach others, network with people who can make decisions in your favor. You are in a situation where you have to suffer because of decisions that where made by people who came before you. Great change starts with one person making one step.
Are you up to it?
Additional Tips For Foreign Basketball Players Seeking College Scholarships:
These tips came from a comment Don left on this blog page about Getting a Basketball Scholarship.
First and foremost, you have to get yourself in a position where US coaches can see you.
- Join a national team.
It is easier to gain recognition if you are playing with your national team.
- Become an exchange student or residential student.
To play in the US as a high school player, you could come over as an exchange student or attend as a residential student at a prep school if you are of the high school age.
- Enroll at a junior college.
At a junior college, you can enroll as a foreign student.
- Attend summer camps.
If you are not able to come over for school, you might want to look into coming over for the summer and attending some high profile recruiting camps, such as Eastern Invitational or 5-Star. Through them, you might be able to catch on with an AAU team that plays in high level tournaments during the summer.
- Send over game film.
Next, you would need as much game film as you can get. Not highlight or demonstration film, but actual game film in regular, organized and scheduled competition. This is very important because not too many schools are going to come to your country to see you play. If they do come, they need some type of indication of how good the competition is.
- Make sure your grades are good.
Just as important, if not more so, you need to make sure your grades are in order. Teams will not do anything unless you are registered for the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse https://web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/. That is the organization that determines whether you are academically eligible to play. This is especially important for you. Several countries in Africa, Nigeria included, are on a “watch list.” This is due to a large number of fraudulent transcripts that come in from those countries. It will take a while for you to get cleared.
If anybody has some helpful comments for players outside the U.S. seeking college scholarships, please leave comments below.