Updated: Jan 30
I didn't start playing basketball until I was in the 4th grade. At that time my elementary school system started a basketball league among all of the Murfreesboro City Schools. I eagerly waited to find out if I would be able to join the team but I was disappointed to find out that I was too young to participate. I would have to wait until the following year to get a chance to show how far my new found interest had taken me. Fast forward to my 5th grade year and I find myself sitting on the bench of the most important game of the year. Yes, the championship game. I didn't even touch the floor. I didn't go to the scorers table. Coach didn't even look in my direction. That was the moment that changed my life. It was like I a light switched on in my head. I practiced every single day. I quit playing my summer past time sport which was softball time and traded it in for an AAU team. I literally didn't leave the gym. I would stay in there for hours just dribbling around, shooting or imagining what it would be like for me to be the best player on my team. I didn't know it yet but I was beginning to start a habit for myself. A habit that would take me much further than my 6th grade mind could understand at the time.
From then on, I wanted to be a player that people knew was good and there was no doubt about it. I put in thousands of hours into being the best that I could be and sometimes I felt like I was overlooked.
I always knew that I had the skill set, the drive and the leadership ability to play at the Division I level. During that time we didn't post our offers as much on social media, but we kept quiet until we decided where we wanted to commit to. I didn't receive my first offer until the summer before my senior year and I finally felt like all of the efforts that I had put in were worth it. After that first one it felt like the rest came in all at once.
But the thing is, these offers we earned. In order to become a better shooter, I changed my shot and spent extra hours to make it become natural. I spent early mornings in the gym when all I wanted to do was sleep in. I spent many hours in the gym practicing the parts of my game that I felt were beneficial for me. I was blessed enough to get to play at the Division 1 level and compete against the best competition.
Every kid that loves basketball and wants to play in college has the thought or desire to play at the DI level but do they have the drive? The hard work and consistency that goes with it? Every day is a different grind and the best players learn how to work through those moments of doubt, pain and even loss. I believe that DI players have these key qualities and skills that set them apart from other players:
1. GREAT MENTAL TOUGHNESS: Mental toughness is almost self explanatory now. You have to compete with yourself everyday. There has to be this thought in your mind that says "I'm getting up today to be the best version of myself on the court and no one can stop me but me."
2. EXCELLENT BASKETBALL IQ: It's important to know why you do certain things on the floor. As an elite player you need to be able to read the entire floor to see what's going on. You need to be able to read your defender in order to score on them. Predetermined moves during drills in a practice setting are okay because you're trying to practice so that you can use them in a game. When you take that practice into live play, it's time to show what you can do by reading defenses. Another suggestion for you would be to WATCH FILM. Most players don't like watching themselves mess up in games. They only want to see the highlights so that they can edit those parts out to make a reel on IG. If you really want to develop excellent basketball IQ then watch yourself and critique your own mistakes.
3. ARE ABLE TO SCORE AT ALL 3 LEVELS: When I say "all 3 levels" I mean finishing at the basket, scoring from the midrange and shooting the 3. Finishing in traffic, shooting floaters, or bullying your way to the basket are all ways for you to finish. Whatever you get comfortable with stick to it and make it good. The midrange game is starting to really come back into play more and more now because players are understanding the value in it. If you're able to create your shot at any moment then you're creating an opportunity for yourself to be in the game when it's crunch time and for college coaches to notice what you have to offer. It's easy to take 3's but how many are you making? A solid percentage for 3 point shooting is to be in between 30%-35%. Take high percentage 3's and make them! That means you need to be taking way more 3's in your own time so that you're ready to shoot during game time.
4. CONSISTENT HARD WORKERS: This is probably one of the most important elements of elite players. They are always working. You cannot get them out of the gym! They are taking time out of their day to make sure that they get better at something new or refine an existing skill that they already have. I can tell you from experience that I and the best players that I played with and against were productive when we were working. It was important that we did more than what was expected because that was the only way that we knew that we could get better results.
Working hard everyday can be hard on your body, so start taking care of yourself now. Stretch before and after you have a workout or practice, drink the necessary amount of water you should drink a day (8 cups), eat things that will fuel your body the right way, and take the time to some type of yoga. If you start now it will keep your body stronger and healthier so that you can player longer and you won't get burnt out.
Ask yourself this question and be honest: Am I doing everything that I can do to be the best player that I can possibly be?
If the answer is yes then don't get comfortable. Keep looking for new ways to elevate your game because you can never stop getting better.
If your answer is no then start identifying what you need to work on. Maybe you want be shiftier with your handles or you really want to add the step back and side step to your bag. Figure out what you want to work on and make a plan to do that.
If you need help in your planning you can always reach out to me and I can help you, or I have workouts and videos that show you different types of skills, techniques and moves that will help you on your journey to being elite. Here is the link to that: https://en.alevelathletics.com.br/private-training
Remember, everyone wants to play at the Division I level. Less than 1% of high school athletes get the chance. What are you doing to set yourself apart from the 99%?