Hi Teammates! There are an estimated 1500 players that finish their college eligibility EACH year in Division 1 men’s basketball alone. That does not count Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, and some Junior College players that do not make the move to one of those leagues. If you add those players, that number would be well over 2000 players EACH YEAR.
For women, those numbers are similar except that women have far fewer opportunities overseas than men because there are fewer professional teams.
I can tell you from experience, that most scouts, GMs, and coaches focus primarily on D1 players first. We all know that there are various reasons that a player does not end up playing D1 basketball. We all know that there are some terrific talent in the lower divisions. The problem is that the people over here do not have the time to investigate the lower levels. For them, D1 is the highest level of college basketball, and with about 1500 players each year to choose from, why would they waste time by looking at the lower divisions? There are far fewer jobs available each season than the 2000 players. Yes, I also understand that not everyone will want to play overseas so the numbers are technically lower.
If you count the number of professional players that have already played overseas and are looking to receive a new contract, you can imagine that there are even fewer jobs for those players who just finished college. And then you have the players that were not picked up the seasons before but still like to play overseas. The competition is fierce! You have to stand out to have a small chance.
If you play in D2, D3, NAIA, or Juco ball, you will probably be overlooked unless:
- A team has a personal relationship with a player or coach on one of those teams
- The player is an All-American or an incredible talent that gets him/her a lot of exposure.
But, sometimes lower division players can have luck. In Europe, the higher the level of competition, the more they will rely on stats, agents, and having players that were D1. Lower-level teams will often look specifically for players in lower divisions in college because they will be deemed to be less expensive.
Here is a personal example. When I coached in the German 2nd League, my budget was not very high for the foreign players so first I looked for players that I knew personally that I knew were good players but maybe had some bad luck with injuries, an off-year statistically, or other reason why they might want to play for me even though I didn’t have a huge budget. I then looked at D2 players or NAIA All-Americans. I found two because my agent at the time was also their agent.
Teams in even lower leagues will typically dig a little deeper because their budgets will be considerably lower than what I was dealing with. For example, I know for a fact that a team in Portugal’s 3rd league is paying one of their American players 400 Euros per month plus meals. I know the coach personally and we spoke about how he recruits players he typically chooses players from smaller schools because their expectations are usually less than those of D1 players. This may not be always the case, but that’s the perception.
The chances to be discovered by scouts and agents surely decrease with each level under D1, but even if you play D1 there is no guarantee that an agent or scout will take a chance on you. Your play will ultimately be the deciding factor.
Also, how you play will dictate if an agent believes in you or not. Or should I say, if they believe that they can make money off of your talent level? With scouts, your play will dictate if they believe you can make their team better and they are not looking to develop a foreign player either. They can do that with their native young players.
Teams overseas will rely HEAVILY on your stats. That is what will catch their eyes first. This is not to say that if you average 5 points a game you won’t be able to play overseas, but it makes it easier to attract an agent or catch the eye of a team if you have good stats. Teams are not looking for “glue guys and girls”, but for game changers and high-level talent…even if they do not have the budget for such high-level talent.
These teams get profiles in stacks each day, so they do not have time to find out the backstory on if your coach didn’t like you or COVID messed up your season or any other story. They will first look at the level of play (D1 etc.), your level of competition (conference), and your statistics.
If you pass the eye check, they may decide to dig deeper. Hopefully, you have an agent that can highlight your upside while hiding your weaknesses.
Please do not get discouraged if you read this and do not play D1. It is my responsibility to show you how decision-makers over here think, but there are plenty of examples of players that went to small schools having long and successful careers. Your path is your path. Don’t let anyone make you think you are inferior because you didn’t go to a D1. And if you did go to a D1, don’t think its an automatic reason why you will be chosen.
If you can play, you will be seen!