Hundreds of New York kids are embarking on multiple camps and showcases throughout the US during the live periods in an effort to impress college coaches and recruiters/scouting services.
The idea is to increase their stock but many student-athletes make critical mistakes in their quest to impress.
The most common mistake, I see when I am scouting student-athletes is watching them playing out of position. Here are the bottom lines when it comes to a player's position on the court as it relates to what impresses and what doesn't.
While it feels great to score a lot of points and you may think that's impressive, there are certain circumstances where scoring a lot may have the opposite effect.
If you're a point guard, and especially if you are a smaller PG, driving to that lane and scoring a million points does not impress. College coaches want to see how well PG's facilitate and get other players involved. Being able to handle pressure defense, dribbling well with your head up, bringing the ball up court confidently and setting up the offense are also good looks. Colleges want to see how well you play defense and they want to see a point guard score as a last resort. Also, shy and quiet point guards have an uphill battle before they hit the court. Point guards lead, they don't follow. Rarely do quiet point guards succeed. That would be like having a quiet quarterback in a huddle. In a noisy gym, point guards must learn to be vocal. If being a loud mouth doesn't come naturally, make it come unnaturally but open your mouth and take control of the situation or choose a quieter sport like golf or chess. Again, most D-I's that are seeking out point guards already have scorers. They need facilitators.
For shooting guard, college coaches primarily want to see is how many ways can you score, so being the master facilitator all the time is not a good look unless you are trying to be a point guard or a combo. Shooting guards are usually taller guards so scoring off the dribble, around screens as well as getting to the rim are important traits as well as creating your own shot. Being able to pass and defend well are also important as well as dribbling.
If you are striving to be a combo guard you've first got to show your defensive skills along with your ability to bring the ball up the court in cases where you are the off guard. Colleges also want to see how many different ways you can score (ie. Off screens, catch and shoot, creating your own shot etc.). Combo guards, if they play their cards right can have the best of both worlds but most often than not, they shoot too much and get pigeonholed as an undersized shooting guard. The ideal CG is the best of a point guard and shooting guard combined.
Forwards & Centers
Because guards control the ball most of the time, forwards tend to fall into the trap of trying to act like guards when they get frustrated due to lack of touches. The definition of an accident waiting to happen is a forward or center trying to go coast-to-coast (unless you're a wing). The bottom line for forwards is do what you do. If you're a shot blocker, be the best shot blocker. If you're a forward/wing, show your inside out game. Don't try anything new, stick to your game and what you know.
Show your ability to play with your back to the basket as well as face up. Show your footwork and show your midrange shot. Be a tenacious rebounder and shot blocker. Run the floor regardless of whether or not you get the ball. When you get the ball in your sweet spot (which should be anywhere in the paint) go to work.
Because you may grow or stop growing, playing in the paint but also out towards the foul line impresses. Protect your house and don't get out of character.
Overall remember your position on the court is really not determined by the position you want to play but more so by the position you are able to defend against. A 5'11 shooting guard will probably have a hard time defending the opponent's Division I 6'4" point guard and a 6'5" power forward will probably get run over by the other DI team's 6'9" power forward. If you're that substantially shorter guy trying to play up, know that a Division I scholarship will not only be an uphill battle but one in which you are also wearing lead boots. In this case, a DII scholarship is a more realistic expectation.?
Playing both ends of the court
Nothing irritates college coaches and scouts more than a player who doesn't get back on defense. Do the math. If you score 20 points but give up 30 points on the defensive end, you are actually worth a -10 to the team. In this case, a college coach would much rather have a player who scored 10 points but only gave up 2 points on the defensive end. That player would be worth a +8. When the +8 player gets recruited over you, even though you outscored him or her, do the math.
Sometimes in showcase or all-star situations, especially if you're not a backcourt player, you cannot control your touches but you have total control of your defensive capabilities. You can block shots, get steals, and grab rebounds to set up transition points.
Lastly, if you miss a basket, don't stand there and make the gas face. Get back on defense and get a block to make up for the miss. Standing behind whining and being pissed off at yourself or the ref for missing or not getting the call compounds the problem because your team is now forced to defend 5 on 4 until you get it together and decide to run up court. Get over it (fast) and get back on defense.
Be the cure, not the disease:
Be the ultimate team player, not a whiner. Encourage your teammates, don't chastise them.
Jawing at refs does not make you look good. It makes you look desperate
When your coach subs you out, don't pout, make the gas face or go off to the end of the bench by yourself. One college coach told me he judges character by how a player acts on the bench. No coach likes a head case or player who brings negative energy
Play hard all the time. Oftentimes a college coach will only see you for a random split second and follow up with a second and third look later on. They say you only get one chance at a first impression. Don't let your first impression, be of you pissed off and screaming at a teammate because you didn't get the ball and therefore didn't get back on defense. Play as if you had dynamite strapped to you and it would detonate the second you stopped playing hard.
If you are serious about getting a college scholarship, at the end of the day, you have to have the grades. You are wasting a coach's time if your grades can't get you in the school. Make a commitment from today forward to hit the books and hit them hard. If the choice is between you with poor grades and another player who's almost as good as you but has good grades, you will lose. If you are not willing to put in the work to qualify, no matter how many high DI offers you brag about and how many stories are written about you, the reality is you will be going JUCO when its all said an done. If the light bulb finally goes off while in JUCO and you make it to DI you will have substantially fewer years to make your mark. Don't make an uphill battle steeper than it already is. Screw the light bulb in NOW
For many players, you've already been seen by college coaches and they may have already formed an opinion, negative, positive or undecided. If your game has flaws or deficiencies, they are looking to see improvement. If you've worked on those flaws and deficiencies, show and prove. If you've been doing the things I said not to do throughout this article, make a drastic change starting today. If there are parts of your game that will take practice to improve, practice them during your down time and get better if not the best at it.
Now go get it and good luck with it.