For my high school students, I try to talk to them a lot about they need to be creating options. My intent is they work hard as a student, take demanding classes- so when they get ready for college they have options. They can choose a college and not be as limited.
The same is true for high school athletes. Some of them want to continue to play in college. If they have a good work ethic and develop their skills- they can have an opportunity to continue playing whether at a junior college, D3, D2, or D1 level.
Some players and some parents are so focused on college scholarships, they never get a chance to enjoy their high school experience. It can be an obsession about being able to say, "She got a "scholarship" to ___ school. Obviously a competitive athlete wants to usually play at the most competitive level they are capable of playing at. And 90% of us can use financial aid to help. But sometimes I have actually seen parents turn down better financial aid packages at a D3 school to take a token D1 scholarship of $2-3K just so they can say their child got a D1 scholarship.
While you want to create options, the key is to choose the option which is best for you. Some mistakingly think the key is to choose the highest option. Sometimes it can result in getting into a place where you do not play and do not enjoy.
The critical question for athletes and for parents is whether if they are talented, develop their skills, and work hard- will they be found. This is where you find some 'club" and "AAU" coaches, as well as "personal coaches" jump into the mix. They will imply the athlete NEEDS them in order to be found. For the top 15 players in Illinois who are national recruits, there is a high end AAU program that will be important for them. But most of the other club, personal coaches, etc- do nothing for the athlete in terms of discovery.
Their is an program within 60 miles of Galesburg where the coach (es) have put together a website boasting how many of their kids they have placed. You look at the numbers and it is very impressive. Then you look inside the numbers at the "placements"- Spoon River, ICC, Sandburg, Eureka, Monmouth, Wesleyan, Blackburn, etc. I would argue none of those kids ended up being "found" because of this program.
Some of these club, AAU, and "self-appointed" personal coaches are people with good intentions and with some expertise. But all too often you find some of them to be people who either have never been able to get a high school or college coaching job, or who have been unable to keep a high school or college job. As a result for some of these "coaches" it could be argued they need the players much more than the players need them.
Colleges will find kids who can play. There are not any secrets out there. Colleges are too good at what they need and must do- evaluating and recruiting players. In the last 25 years we have had about 50 players receive financial aid for their basketball at Juco's, D2, and D1 level. We have had over a dozen get full rides to D1 and D2 schools.
How are players found?
1- Coaches talk. In our conference you have conversations about players with other coaches. And each high school coach has conversations with certain college coaches. I will have college coaches ask me about players from Moline, Rocky, and Alleman. Sara Wood ended up at Kirkwood in a large part because Jay Hatch from Alleman has been good friends with the Kirkwood coach for years.
2- As a high school coach, you try to set up opportunities to expose your players. Our trips to Charleston have gotten our players seen by coaches in that area of the state who are widely respected. For years our playing in the summer at Maine West and playing Maine South and New Trier has helped our kids gain state recognition in terms of all-state teams.
3- College coaches know where the best high school basketball is being played. They look there.
The following is a classic story. It is the story about a high school player who as a soph and junior did not start for her high school team and averaged under 5 points per game. She is going to St. Louis U on a basketball scholarship. She came off the bench for state power Maine South as a soph and junior. She was found by the colleges. She played for a good high school program, a good high school coach, and for a team with state exposure.