As a student-athlete, one of your primary goals should be to compete at the next level. Young athletes should absorb all the recruiting advice, career insight and motivation they can while working toward whatever that next level is. If you’re currently in high school, you probably want to play in college. If you’re a college athlete, you may have dreams of going pro.
As you know, this is no easy task. In fact, unless you’re a blue chipper, the odds are against you in terms of the probability of playing at a higher level.
According to the NCAA, only 3.4 percent of U.S. high school men’s basketball players will play in the NCAA, and only 1 percent of them will go Division I. There are over 18,000 men’s basketball players in the NCAA. Only 1.2 percent of them will be drafted into the NBA.
For more sport-specific probabilities, see the table below.
||High School Participants
||High School to NCAA DI
||NCAA to Major Pro League
So, how do you overcome these odds? I’ve gathered some recruiting advice and career tips from former college standouts in various sports to help you take your game to the next level.
Remember, it’s often the intangibles that separate players at the college and pro level. Everyone has an immense amount of skill and talent, but who’s willing to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd?
Here’s what 8 ex-athletes have to say about making the most of your athletic career.
1. Walter Offutt
Ohio University Men’s Basketball, 2008-2013
- 3-time All-Conference
- 3-time All-County
- 2008 All-Indiana Honorable Mention (torn ACL mid-season)
- 2-time MAC Division Player of the Week
- 2012 & 2013 All-MAC Team
- 2012 NCAA Midwest Region All-Tournament Team
- 2013 Academic All-MAC Team
Advice: Get your education and value the hard/tough times you go through. It will take you far in life once you learn from those tough times—not only from the particular sport, but from other things in life, like relationships, family problems, etc. Also, by getting your education it allows you to use basketball after basketball. Tough times don’t last, tough people do! Give God the Glory!
2. De’Sean Turner
Indiana University Track & Cross Country, 2007-2012
- 2006 Individual State Cross Country Champion
- 2007 Individual State 1600m Champion
- 4-time Cross Country & Track Team Champion
- 3-time All-American
- 2-time Big Ten Steeplechase Champion
- 6-time NCAA All-American
- Member of 2013 Team USA World Championships
- Sub-4-minute miler
Advice: The most valuable advice I can give to athletes would be to do all the little things right in order to perfect your craft. If you know you’ve done all you can to prepare once competition starts, you can be fully confident in your ability to perform at a high level.
3. Joey Peglow
University of Kentucky Men’s Soccer, 2008-2011
- 2007 All-District Team
- 2007 All-Conference Team
- 2007 First Team All-State
- Lawrence Central High School Hall of Fame Inductee
Advice: Put in work on your own time. The best players work on their skills, fitness and strength outside of their allotted team practice time. Do something to make yourself better every day.
4. Kofi Hughes
Indiana University Football, 2010-2013
- 2-time All-State Team
- 2008 State Championship
- 2009 Gatorade National Player of the Year
- 2-time team Captain
- 2-time All-Big Ten Third Team
- Signed contracts with the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans
Advice: Sports are not your purpose. Sports are only a platform. I’m all about goals. I always ask for my kids to tell me exactly what their goal is, and that they can trust me to give them the opportunity to achieve that goal, but only they can do the work. Be accountable.
5. Josh Noblet
Purdue University & University of Findlay Men’s Volleyball
- State Player of the Year
- 2-time State Champion
- 2-time MIVA All-Academic Team
- First Team All-Big Ten
- Big Ten Conference Champion
Recruiting Advice: Don’t wait to push yourself! Before you know it, your time playing will be finished and you don’t ever want to think “what if.”
6. Marcus Thomas
Loyola University Chicago, Basketball, 2006-2010
- All-Conference honors
- Indiana East Player of the Year
- National Junior College 2nd Team All-American (before transferring)
- Ranked 8th on Loyola University’s all-time made 3-pointers list
- 2-time All-Star (Luxembourg)
- 3-Point Contest Champion (Luxembourg)
Advice: Playing college basketball will be the best 4 years of your life. Through all the tough conditioning drills, practices and games, in the end it’s the best time. Cherish the sport you play. Don’t take it for granted. People would love to be in the position to get their schooling paid for and also play the sport they love.
7. D’Juan Richardson
University of Iowa Men’s Track & Field, 2008-2012
- School Record Holder in Hurdles & Relay
- Conference Champion in 3 events
- County Champion in 3 events
- Sectional Champion in 3 events
- Regional Champion in 3 events
- 14-time All-State honors
- State Champion in hurdles, relay and team
- All-American in 110 Hurdles
- All Big Ten Indoor Team
- All Big Ten Outdoor Team
- Big Ten Outdoor Team Champion
- All-American in 400 Hurdles
- NCAA Regional Qualifier in 3 events
Advice: Everybody has off days or bad days in their given sport. The people that succeed are the ones who can come back from those days and use them as motivation and/or learning experiences to better themselves for future competitions.
8. Dan Williams
University Minnesota Wrestling, 2002-2007
- 3-time State Placer
- 2-time State Champion
- Big Ten Team Champion
- 3-year letter winner
- 2007 NCAA National Championship
Advice: Consistent hard work beats talent most of the time. Do not look for shortcuts. People spend more time looking for shortcuts, and in the end it costs them when they most likely don’t expect it. Additionally, keep things simple and make weekly goals. The big picture will fall into place.
Take the time to think about the advice each of these athletes is offering. Check out their accomplishments and evaluate the correlation between their advice and their career success. Not everyone can be a LeBron James, Cam Newton or Usain Bolt freak-of-nature type of athlete. But with hard work, extreme commitment and a positive attitude, you can take your career in a positive direction and create amazing opportunities for yourself.