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How to Get the Best Experience from Your College Basketball Program

Whether you’re a prospective student athlete, an incoming freshman looking to walk onto your university’s basketball team, or a college player who has been on the court for a few years already, we’re giving you tips on everything you need to know to make your college basketball season the best one yet.

 

What are the best basketball colleges?

This is a common question, so we’re going to answer it, but we’d like to preface the answer by saying that going to a school known for basketball won’t necessarily make your student athlete experience better. You may prefer to be a big fish in a small pond or just fit better with another team. Maybe you’ll learn more from a less-winning basketball program. Plus, you want to make sure college is the right match for you, both academically and socially, as well as athletically. 

 

The list of the best basketball colleges is fun to look at, but ultimately it shouldn’t be the largest factor in determining where and how you’ll have the best college basketball experience. Plus, a team could be incredible one year and not play so hot the next, so don’t pick a school based on team ranking alone! 

 

According to NCSA power rankings, the top men’s basketball colleges across all four division levels (D1, D2, D3, and NAIA) are currently:

  1. Stanford University
  2. University of Florida
  3. UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles)
  4. Princeton University
  5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  6. University of California
  7. University of Michigan
  8. Harvard University
  9. Georgia Institute of Technology
  10. University of Georgia

For women’s basketball, the NCSA lists the colleges almost the same, except Yale University is number nine. The NCAA currently has colleges ranked for women’s basketball in the following order:

  1. Stanford University
  2. University of Louisville
  3. University of Connecticut
  4. North Carolina State University
  5. University of South Carolina
  6. University of Arizona
  7. Baylor University
  8. University of Oregon
  9. Texas A&M University
  10. UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles)

While getting recruited to a top basketball program is a prestigious honor, it’s not going to be the make or break factor of how your college basketball experience goes.

 

How to have the best college basketball experience

1. Focus on the college experience.

Don’t bank on getting drafted into the NBA. Even if you’re an incredible player, the odds of getting drafted into the NBA out of college are low. In fact, the NCAA reported that only about 1.2% of college athletes make it to the pros. Although it’s a cool goal to strive towards, don’t make it your whole life.


While you’re still focusing on your athletics, especially if you have an athletic scholarship, you should also care about your grades, social life, cool festivals, and anything else that will enrich your college experience. Think of basketball as one part of your college experience, not the entirety of it.

 

2. Keep your grades up.

If you’re on an athletic scholarship or any other type of loan or grant, you probably have certain GPA requirements that you need to meet, similar to the GPA requirements you must meet to maintain NCAA eligibility. Don’t let your grades slip and risk putting yourself at financial risk or losing the ability to play basketball (or worse, not attend school altogether). Getting behind on classwork is going to make you stressed both on and off the court, impacting every area of your life—from how well you can shoot a free throw to your ability to impress someone on a first date. Slacking off and getting yourself into a hole that’s hard to dig out of is not fun.


One of the benefits of being an NCAA student athlete is the plethora of resources at your disposal. Most schools will offer tutoring for student athletes and you may be granted access to the first pick of classes so that your class schedule can work around your basketball practices and games. There may even be study rooms in your athletic building. Most likely, there are tons of tools at your disposal—so use them! You can also talk to coaches and team captains if you need guidance or have questions about available resources.

 

3. Focus on your health. 

Staying in tip-top shape is critical for every college student, but it’s especially important for basketball players and other student athletes. First and foremost, that means focusing on your nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Follow the advice of your trainer or nutritionist (lots of university athletic departments offer these!) to learn how to eat right and care for yourself. Stretch and work out separately from designated practices to make sure you’re keeping your body in a peak performance state, even on “off” days and seasons. Check out the NCAA’s resource about nutrition for the basketball student athlete to help you get started.


Get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Your coaches will tell if you’re tired or hungover when you show up to practice, and they may choose not to play you if they think you’re not ready for it. Getting an adequate amount of sleep minimizes your risk of injury and improves your game, while also allowing you to focus on studies and schoolwork. If you’re getting run down, reduce the number of nights you go out on the weekend. If you make your health a priority, your schoolwork and athletics will be a lot easier as a result. 


It’s not all about physical health, either. Taking care of your mental health is equally as important as physicality when it comes to being a strong basketball player. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just overwhelmed, visit a therapist on campus. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with talking to someone who can help you get in the right mindset for your life and games. Your college experience will be a much more positive experience if you do! 

 

4. Be approachable. 

Athletes are inherently cool. People rally behind school spirit and throw on their favorite Campus Colors gear to come watch your team play in a game. Don’t let that “cool” factor go to your head. An ego is never appealing, even for an athlete. The coolest athletes are those that are friendly, outgoing, kind, and make friends outside their sport. Being approachable means being friendly to people in your classes as well as anyone you come across in your sport, like team managers, staff, and athletic department employees. You never know where a little kindness will get you.

 

5. Build a relationship with your coaches.

Your coaches are there to support you and your success both on and off the court. Don’t be afraid to ask your coaches for advice about improving your layups, balancing college sports and schoolwork, sleeping better, managing your time, or even making friends. Most coaches will be more than willing to offer assistance or guidance, and they’ll also be happy to work with you if you’re still figuring out how to optimize your schedule and balance sports and school effectively.

  

6. Stay in the moment.

You’ve probably heard it a lot but hear it again: college goes by fast. Freshman year feels like it goes by slowly… and then graduation comes before you know it. It seems to go by particularly quickly when you’re playing a sport as so much of your time is dedicated to athletics.


To have the best college basketball experience, stay present in the moment. If you’re at practice, give it your all without thinking about school. If you’re in class, focus on studying and not on the big game that weekend. If you’re hanging out with friends, enjoy the time without worrying about the next big exam (as long as you’re managing your time well). Being mindful is the single best way to ensure that every day feels special in the four years that seem to go by all too quickly.  


Want more advice to have a great college basketball season and an amazing college experience? Check out these 50 unique tips to prepare you for college and how to make your freshman year (and beyond) incredible. 

 

Have the best college basketball season

We love basketball as much as you do, and we care about all the basketball players that come to Campus Colors for advice, college-themed gear, and community. Thanks for keeping the game alive for us! You deserve to treat yourself. Check out our awesome gear, from sweatshirts to hats, so you can rep your school and team all year long. Select your school here to start browsing. 

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