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10 Things College Coaches Look for

As we near the end of July, we are in the middle of a live period. A live period is when college coaches can come out and evaluate perspective players. Per NCAA rules, college coaches are limited to how often and when they can evaluate players throughout the course of a year. As a result, a player might only get five minutes to gain the attention of a college coach. With so little time to impress, it is imperative that a player has a good showing. In order to help a player make the most of their five minutes, I’ve put together 10 things that college coaches look for when they are evaluating.


  1. Passion

Passion is what drives work ethic. When you are passionate about something, you desire to become great at it and you are willing to spend as much time with it as possible. Being passionate means you work, even when no one is watching. I can’t remember a time ever hearing my college coach say, “work harder”! The truth of the matter is, if a coach has to motivate you to give effort toward something you love, that is a big issue.

Basketball players with passion are the ones who:

  • Are ‘gym rats’! The ‘gym rat’ will spend an unlimited amount of time working on their game. ‘Gym rats’ get to practice early and stay after to work on their game.
  • Are enthusiastic about the game of basketball. They are a person who enjoys talking about the game, players and basketball topics.
  • Get excited to practice
  • Look forward to getting better


Passionate players are culture guys, they are infectious, they are grinders, they are workers, and they have winning habits. When other players see that passionate ‘gym rat’ working day in and day out, it becomes infectious and creates a working culture. Culture is everything to college coaches. When they are recruiting, they are looking for players that will fit in their culture as well as add to it.


  1. Winning Habits: Intangibles

How do you contribute to winning? How much of your game will transfer over to the collegiate level? These are questions that college coaches have to answer in their post tournament recruiting meetings when making a decision on who they are going to offer a scholarship. Putting up 30 points in a high school or AAU game may sound good, but stats can be misleading. College coaches are evaluating you through a college lense, so of that 30 points, only 10 of it may transfer over the college game. Since 10 points will not be enough to earn you a scholarship, how else can you garner the attention of college coaches?…Intangibles!

What are intangibles?

  • Motor
  • Toughness (check out the Toughness blog)
  • IQ
  • Multiple efforts: loose balls, offensive rebounds, etc.

Intangibles often times get overshadowed by 20 point games, double digit rebound games, and flashy passes, but not by college coaches. Players like Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green and Kenneth Faried are great examples of players who excel in the intangible category, and are being paid nicely for it. Before selecting Draymond Green in the draft, the Golden State Warriors had a question they needed an answer to, “what position does Draymond play?” So the Warriors staff decided to call his college coach Tom Izzo to ask his thoughts. When asked, Tom Izzo replied, “He plays winner that’s what he plays, *explicit* winner!.” Fast forward to five years later, Draymond has helped lead the Warriors to 4 consecutive NBA championship appearances, won 2 NBA titles, earned 3x NBA All Defensive awards, earned 2x All NBA awards, and the 2017 NBA Defensive player of the year award.

In the NCAA, there were only two players that averaged over 25 points per game. Scoring 20 points per game is not going to be enough to get a scholarship offer. Start excelling at the intangibles.


  1. Confidence & Attitude

Coaches cannot instill confidence in a player; they can only inflate what is already there. Self-confidence is what allows a player to overcome the adversities of basketball. College coaches watch to see how you respond when things don’t go your way. Do you put your head down after a missed shot? Do you hustle back on defense after turning the ball over? Do you yell at your teammates for making mistakes? Basketball is an emotional game; so keeping your emotions in check and remaining calm, are very important in the heat of the game.



  1. Academics

You are a STUDENT athlete, student first. Every college institute has academic requirements that have to be met in order to gain acceptance into that school. It does not matter how talented you are or high you can jump if your grades and test scores are poor, you will not get accepted. Poor grades keep a lot of talented players from even being recruited. Visit ncaa.org and find out the NCAA requirements for athletes to make sure you are on the right track academically.


  1. Fit

When recruiting, college coaches have a specific profile for what they are looking for. Sometimes the right FIT can be out of your control. For example, that program could be looking for a specific position, skill set or body type. With this being said, it is important that you excel in the right FIT categories you can control.

Right FIT…




Good Teammate


  1. Defense

Unfortunately, for some players you have to play both sides of the ball in basketball. At M14 we tell our players, no coach wants a 30 for 30 player (score 30 and give up 30). Most AAU/Travel teams do not get much time to practice before tournaments, if any. Consequently, the defense is poor and basic defensive principles like help-defense, off the ball positioning, and defending screening actions are non-existent. In the midst of this bad defense, this can be a great opportunity for a player to get noticed by a college coach. If you are a point guard, pick up the opposing point guard full court and turn him/her three to four times. Post players hedge hard on a ball screen action and force the ball handler to give up the ball. When you are two passes away, get to the help line and slide over to take a charge. These are great ways to get a college coaches attention.


  1. Skill Set

To play in college your skill level must be high. The game of basketball has evolved over the years and is very different from when your mom, dad or coach used to play. With the addition of the three-point line, the heavy influence of the European style of play, and the huge emphasis on floor spacing. The ability to pass, shoot and dribble at a high level is at a premium right now. College coaches are looking for players with skills sets that fit a specific mold for their system. By developing a broad skill set, like your ability to handle the ball, shoot from the perimeter and defend multiple positions, you can showcase versatility that can fit into any system.


  1. Character

A scholarship can be worth more that $15K which makes each player a huge investment. To ensure their success, college coaches want to fill their team with high character players. Qualities of a high character player:

  • Respect for their coaches, teammates and the game of basketball.
  • Accountability- Not a finger pointer, but a player who looks themselves in the mirror.
  • Team first mentality- College coaches want selfless players.

Anthony Davis is a shinning example of a selfless player. While at Kentucky, Anthony Davis led the Wildcats to the 2012 National Championship, won the National Player of the Year award and was selected number one overall in the NBA draft. David accomplished this by only taking the fourth most shots for his team that year. By putting his individual success to the side and making the team a priority, Kentucky was able to win a national championship. Coaches long for this type of player.


  1. Performance under pressure

What do you do in the big games, when competition is intense, and when the game is on the line? Do you hide or shy or away? Or do you have the refuse to lose mentality? College coaches are attracted to players who show up in big games.


  1. Coachable

A coach cannot help a player that does not want to be coached. College coaches look for players who can take constructive criticism. Accepting constructive criticism is very important on the next level as you will be challenged and pushed to your limits daily. No matter the level (D1, 2 or 3), the teams’ success is tied directly to the player’s willingness to be coached. In the heat of battle, that coach needs to know that you will be able to take the criticism and apply it as each possession can be critical to winning and losing.

Characteristics of a Coachable player:

  • Eye contact- Players that look their coach in the eye when being coached is a great sign of a coachable player.
  • Body language- Do you put your head down when a coach gets on you? Do you run to the end of the bench when you’re subbed out?
  • Understand your role
  • High Basketball IQ

Parents, share this information with your player. Players, apply these things in your games for the rest of July. Coaches, share this information with your players and parents to use as a tool to help your players gain the attention of college coaches and get closer to making their dream a reality.