From discussion with youth players (age groups 11-15 and 16-19) and their parents, they did not have much understanding of what the US collegiate experience might be like, what the options were, how to navigate the different eligibility systems or how to begin selecting a college.
Coaches, agents, and players explained the one important consideration when selecting a college to attend was the different divisions and conferences that American schools are a part of.
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA):
The NCAA is the biggest conference of four-year schools and colleges. Within the NCAA there are three divisions: Division I, Division II and Division III.
There are two key differences between the divisions, identified by coaches, agents and players: the level of competition and the value of scholarship.
The below depicts the NCAA eligibility timeline:
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA):
The NAIA is a college athletics association for small colleges and universities in America. One advantage to the NAIA system is there are no age limits, unlike in the NCAA where you have to enrol on your college course within a certain number of years after graduating high school.
National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA):
The NJCAA is a collection of two-year schools and colleges (often referred to as Junior College). The route offers an alternative to NCAA schools for several reasons:
1) the schools offer high level of basketball and coaching along with full and partial scholarships
2) it enables players that do not meet the stricter NCAA eligibility criteria to attend a two-year college and become eligible for NCAA schools and colleges
3) for players who have not received offers from a NCAA school that they wanted to attend, this route offers exposure to NCAA schools and colleges.