There is no “right way” for college basketball recruits to determine where they should continue their education and their careers.
Every player is different. Each one will emphasize his own set of factors by which to make their decisions—but there are some guidelines each one should follow.
Here are 10 things every 5-Star college basketball recruit should look for in a program.
I am completely aware that this is 2013, and that most 5-star recruits would bypass college altogether if they could and go straight to the NBA.
I also understand that many elite-level players don’t take their academics seriously, so it does not matter a whole lot what school they attend or what major they select.
But, since the title of this article is “10 Things Every 5-Star College Basketball Recruit Should Look for in a Program,” we will confidently include this suggestion.
Some 5-star recruits want to begin the journey towards a degree. Having high-quality academic support in place is another plus for programs trying to get any advantage possible.
Like most of the rest of its athletic facilities, the University of Oregon’s John E. Jaqua Center for Student Athletes is, without exception, one of the most impressive setups for helping student-athletes on the student side of the equation.
Not every 5-star recruit feels the same way about having their family and friends see them play in person on a regular basis.
Some star players rate this as a very high priority heading into college, others barely give it a thought.
The bottom line is that if this is a highly-valued issue for an elite-level recruit, he should stay true to himself and allow this factor to influence his decision.
It doesn’t matter how far others travel to go to school, if players want to play hoops near home, then they should.
End of discussion.
SMU Class of 2013 commit Keith Frazier decided to stay in Dallas to start the new era of Mustang basketball.
His decision influenced Class of 2014 star Emmanuel Mudiay to do the same.
Even if a 5-star recruit has his heart set on simply playing a single season of college ball, having a good feel for what life is going to be like on campus is important.
While most of an elite player’s life is already spoken for through the basketball program, the actual environment at the school is worthy of a look.
After all, this will be home for a while, and it should be something that is enjoyed, and not just tolerated.
Some former 5-star recruits actually identify “liking college life” as one of the factors in coming back for additional years.
North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo is one of those. Insidehoops.com shared his thoughts about returning for his junior season in Chapel Hill:
I love this school and my teammates and I love being a North Carolina basketball player. There will certainly be a time when I want to play in the NBA, but right now I truly enjoy college life and I want to continue doing that for another season.
While this might be a non-factor for some, this should be given at least a moment's consideration.
A 5-star recruit should consider the type of connection he has with the coaching staff.
A lot of the daily work around practices and game preparation takes place with and through the assistant coaches. Having a solid relationship with these individuals is a definite plus beyond the recruitment cycle.
While a number of 5-star recruits do go “one-and-done,” a surprising percentage return for, at least, a second year.
In the 2010 recruiting class, Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Kansas’ Josh Selby were the only Top 10 recruits (from ESPN’s 2010 Top 100) that ended up going into the 2011 NBA draft after their freshman seasons.
Half of ESPN’s 2012 Top 10 will be back on campus for their sophomore seasons.
Most 5-star recruits games’ are already amazingly developed as they leave high school and enter college. They still, however, need to work on their game and add muscle when they hit campus.
That is precisely why they need to check out a program’s investment in skills and strength development.
If a school provides a planned process and state-of-the-art facilities, they definitely position themselves more favorably in the battle for top talent.
Kansas is a good example of a program that has a reputation for getting players ready for the next level. Their commitment to strength and conditioning is second to none.
Andrea Hudy, the Jayhawks strength coach has been labeled the program’s "secret weapon" by former KU center and 2013 national co-defensive player of the year, Jeff Withey.
It is no accident that players like Thomas Robinson and the Morris twins developed into NBA first-round draft picks while in Lawrence.
A 5-star recruit will definitely size up how well he matches the returning roster.
If a school already has lots of depth at their position, most players will look elsewhere.
Or, if a program returns a superstar that will eat up most of the minutes by themselves, most 5-stars will locate a program where they are going to get immediate playing time.
Sitting out and paying dues has almost become a thing of the past for elite-level players.
Unfortunately, there are times when it is not fully known that a star player is going to return for another year on campus.
Oklahoma State was pleasantly surprised when rising sophomore PG Marcus Smart decided to come back to Stillwater for one more season.
It is my guess that OSU’s top recruit in the Class of 2013, 4-star PG Stevie Clark, fully anticipated stepping into a starting role as a freshman.
Now, he will most likely play a reduced role as a freshman.
Most 5-star recruits look for a place where they can be seen.
They are not usually going to consider obscure schools that are rarely heard of on the national level.
Just about every 5-star recruit is looking to make a rapid rise through the college ranks en route to being a lottery pick in the NBA draft.
When Bradley Beal chose to go to Florida, he definitely understood that Billy Donovan gets the Gators into the NCAA tournament nearly every year.
He also knew that UF had been to the Final Four three times in the 2000s, winning it all in both 2006 and 2007.
When Beal played his one season in Gainesville, the Gators advanced to the Elite Eight and Beal ended up being the third pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Every 5-star recruit has certain types of programs that he has a better chance of excelling in and certain types of programs in which he might struggle.
If, for example, a recruit’s skills are best used on a team that likes to work the ball in half-court sets, then he doesn’t want to look too hard at a program that is known for up-tempo play and full-court pressure.
Even a 5-star recruit has a much better chance in thriving where his game matches the coach’s philosophy.
In 2011, Tony Wroten was wise to consider and commit to Washington.
He was a multi-skilled combo guard with size. He shined when he could penetrate and kick—or take it all the way to the rim.
Lorenzo Romar’s philosophy encourages getting up and down the floor and taking the ball to the basket.
Romar's approach was custom made for Wroten. In his one season playing for the Huskies, he averaged going to the line 7.5 times per game.
The program’s reputation and a coach’s track record for getting players to the next level is huge.
If a coach is known for his ability to launch players’ professional careers, then he is going to grab the attention of some of the best and brightest of any recruiting class.
There is no other coach in college basketball today that epitomizes this very quality than Kentucky’s John Calipari.
It’s no accident that he reels in one 5-star recruit after another.
Since arriving in Lexington in the spring of 2009, Calipari has had 17 players selected in either the first or second rounds of the NBA draft.
That’s an average of more than four players per year.
Like him or not, Coach Cal is helping make young players’ dreams come true.
There is nothing more important for a 5-star recruit than to evaluate the relationship he has with his potential head coach.
This doesn’t need to be a friendship. This also should not be where the player feels like he is calling the shots.
What a 5-star recruit needs is a relationship with a coach that is built on respect.
If an elite-level player is going to reach his potential, he needs to follow the instructions and direction of their coach.
Players need for someone, at times, to tell them, “No.”
If a 5-star to have anything less than respect for their potential coach, it will end up with him going through a year or years at the collegiate level on cruise control.
If a star player lacks respect for his coach, he will not consistently work hard or maximize his substantial upside.
Just recently, Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 5 player in the 2014 recruiting class, committed to attend SMU near his home in Dallas.
When commenting about why he chose to become a Mustang, he cited his respect for the SMU coach, Larry Brown. Mudiay said:
The program is changing under Coach Brown and I really believe in him. When he talks with me it's not only about basketball, it's about life after the game: What are my interest outside the game and how I will be able to take care of myself and my family.