So you’re thinking of leaving us to pursue your basketball oversees. Moving anywhere can be a bit scary, so this page is aimed to give you the facts so you can decide if playing in the US is for you. We will take you through the process, requirements and cost to give you all the information you will need to make the right choice for you.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the organisation which decides whether you are able to qualify to be considered for a US scholarship. There are some criteria which you will have to adhere to if you want to apply to play in the US under a scholarship.
If you wish to participate in NCAA basketball, you need to be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Centre (link). You need to qualify academically and you will also need to be cleared as an amateur student-athlete. You are responsible for achieving and protecting your eligibility status, and all the information can be found on the NCAA website (link). You will need to register on there and have available details such as basic personal information, academic history, extracurricular programmes, and sports history. Sounds a bit legal right? Well below is a breakdown of the main things you and your parents need to know and consider when deciding if the process is for you, and if it is how to go about doing it.
An annual US College programme will normally cost around $20,000 – $35,000 before a scholarship award.
So colleges in America are broken down into three divisions, one being the highest.
Division 1 – if you’re attending a college in division one, it’s likely the whole scholarship will be covered and you won’t need to pay any tuition fees. The NCAA also offer the total cost of attendance to some students, including books, accommodation etc.
Division 2 – These colleges are technically allowed to offer a full scholarship but most don’t because they don’t have to budget so you will be expected to pay for some of the tuition yourselves or find additional funding for this. If you are successful in obtaining a scholarship award it can reduce the cost to between $6000 – $10,000
Division 3 – These scholarships are usually academic only. They don’t have a budget to offer athletic scholarships, but are able to offer money towards academic studies.
Unfortunately, student loans are not available to UK students who decide to study abroad.
A full scholarship is a big deal, and players only get this if the colleges are confident their playing and academic ability is worth it. So moral of the story – make sure you concentrate at school...they take your grades into account as much as your playing skill!
Each scholarship used to be for one year, on the condition of certain academic and playing results depending on receiving the next year of funding. More often than not now is that a scholarship can be over the whole four years, which will guarantee your education and playing opportunities, as long as you are within the agreements in your scholarship contract. This makes going to the US a lot more viable option now for players in the UK as your funding is much more secure for the whole of your education as opposed to one year at a time.
To be able to have time to make your mark on those college coaches and gain a scholarship to the level you need, a common way to do this is to finish your studies in the UK, and go to America for one year of high school or prep school. This will give you the chance to play in tournaments where coaches are assessing players’ abilities and deciding where their scholarships should be placed. We recommend you research into high or prep schools that have high profile basketball programmes and start a rapport with their academic and coaching staff. Your parents could film a game you have played in and send it over to them to show your abilities or you can direct them to your club’s video content if they have some.
Normally, the rules to apply for NCAA state you must apply no later than one year after you have graduated from your studies.
The NCAA recognises that us brits can continue studying at a British secondary school for further qualifications, which you will need if you’re intending to go to a British University. The NCAA will move the graduation date (which means they will extend the eligibility date for enrolment) for the following qualifications:
AS-Level (1 year) (requires two or more exams passed with grades of E or higher)
BTEC National Certificate (1 year)
A-Level (2 years) (requires two or more exams passed with grades of E or higher)
BTEC National Diploma (2 years)
NVQ level 3 (2 years)
Important: The NCAA does not recognise equivalencies to AS-levels in accordance with the UCAS system - prospective players must complete the full two-year course.
So basically – if you’re doing any of the above the NCAA will extend the amount of time you have to apply for a scholarship to one year after you finish your further studies.
There are loads of FAQ’s available on the NCAA website which help you with why you need to register and the documents you need to provide. Attached are the scenarios which mean you are eligible apply for a college basketball scholarship.
The NCAA allows you to play for a BBL or National League team before you go over to the states to play college basketball as long as you are only receiving expenses and you play for them whilst in education or in the one year after where you are still eligible.
KEEP YOUR ACADEMIC RECORDS! These might seem really unimportant at the time, but if you want to qualify for a scholarship, the NCAA takes this stuff really seriously and they’ll want to see them. If you don’t have them, it’s worth talking to your institution about getting copies as it’s likely these will have records of them.
You need five subject passes, and you have to have a social science qualification such as psychology or sociology which isn’t on the curriculum here in the UK. If you’re serious about applying to play basketball in the US, you should think about doing one of these qualifications outside of your normal studies.
Recruiting is not just based on your skill level, other factors will be looked at like:
• Your size
• Your position
• Your athleticism
• Academic Profile
• Reputation in your own country
• National Team Performance
Eligibility is viewed on a case by case basis as no two applications are the same. We never said the system was perfect, but hopefully there is enough guidance here and throughout the site and your club coaches to be able to have the basic pointers to help with your application.
The NCAA system can seem complicated (it is!), and if you don’t fully understand it, it may stop you from being eligible to play. Talk to your club, regional and national coaches to get additional information on how to apply if you think this route is for you. You can also contact us (link) and we can guide you as much as possible.
More Info can be found at the NCAA.
If you have decided the US college route is for you and want to know more about the recruiting process you can download our guidance document here.
If playing in the US college system isn’t for you, there are other ways you can learn and play basketball abroad. European colleges have developed more basketball opportunities in recent years, which offer you another option as a talented player looking to progress. The best thing to do is learn as much as you can about all the options and decide the one which is for you. Check out our section on the European route here.