From Kindergarten to D1… a Basketball Recruiting Story

Emma Wax is a high school senior at Montville Township High School, class of 2020. She’s a four-year starter and a two-year captain. She’ll continue her education and athletic career at Marist College, class of 2024. 

4 Things You Must Do to Get Recruited to Play College Sports

I started playing organized basketball in Kindergarten at the JCC in West Orange, NJ. Opportunities were hard to find during those young years, but my parents always found a place for me to play. As I grew older, I consistently played travel & club, and when I got to High School, I was a Varsity starter my Freshman year.
Playing competitive basketball all my life, I knew by middle school that I wanted to play in college. I worked hard and played at every opportunity. Unlike many kids, missing parties for basketball was never an issue for me. It’s what I loved to do. 

In Eighth-grade college coaches started taking notice of my club team. They came to our games, and some of us, including me, began receiving recruiting letters in the mail. Being so young and receiving a letter from a college was exciting. Although these letters were probably sent to many other girls, they were still an indication that my dream could be a reality and provided an incentive to take the next step in the process. My family and I started researching the recruiting process. This is what we learned:

4 Lessons from the College Recruiting Process

  1. Market Yourself Early & Consistently
  2. Solicit Allies to Help You 
  3. Communication and Follow-Through are Key
  4. Ideal Family Behavior Required
  1. Marketing yourself is crucial, and recruiting is a two-way street. My parents and I talked to my AAU coach, and together, we came up with a list of about 30 schools that I should reach out to in my sophomore year of high school. After developing the list, I created a highlight video of myself that featured some of my best plays from the season. Finally, I put together an email that I sent to all the schools on my list. In the email, I wrote why I’d be a good fit for their school and attached the link to my highlight video. I repeated this process regularly. 
  2. Solicit Advocates. My coaches and trainers helped tremendously. Since coaches can’t reach out to students or families until Junior year, my coaches and trainers helped by facilitating calls, sharing information, and using their connections. They also helped guide us through the process based on their experience. Check out the NCAA website for complete information on college recruiting regulations. 
  3. Master Communication.For a successful recruitment process, you must become comfortable speaking with coaches. This can be challenging, especially for teens. In my experience, the coaches are pros at drawing conversation from kids! At first, I may have been stiff, and my parents would take the calls on speaker with me. However, as time went on, I became more comfortable and began taking the calls on my own. I also learned the importance of follow-up, keeping appointments, and being on time.  
  4. Ideal behavior is expected from the entire family. As we started talking to coaches about recruiting, we quickly learned that proper behavior on and off the court is a requirement. For the player, that means always showing up ready to work hard, being coachable, having a positive attitude, and always being respectful to everyone on the court. 

For the player’s family, that means not blowing up about calls on the court, not yelling at referees, not yelling to your kids while they are playing, and not being unreasonable with your kid’s coach. College coaches are watching the parents as well as the kids, and they speak to your coaches. They know that they are going to spend a lot of time with the family along with the player, and don’t want problems! So unless you are Breanna Stuart, coaches are going to take everything, including parent behavior, into account when they decide whether to recruit a player.

The Outcome of My Recruiting Experience (H2 or H3)As I got older, interest from schools grew. I received my first division 1 offer from Rutgers University in the summer going into my sophomore year. My family and I were honored and ecstatic. This was a huge step for me because my dream of playing Division 1 basketball could come true. Although Rutgers was the first school to make me an offer, we decided it probably wasn’t the best choice for me. I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could make a real impact on the court. My parents and I did some research, and we came across four conferences that we felt I’d truly excel on and off the basketball court. I focused on schools in the MAAC, the Patriot League, the Atlantic 10, and the Ivy League.My second offer within my focus conferences came a year after the first, and this time it was from Marist College. Marist is a college in the MAAC, and I loved everything about the school. From here, I was able to narrow down my list to 4 schools: Marist, American, Lehigh, and Bucknell. Although Marist was the only school to offer me out of the 4, I was constantly talking to the coaches from those schools and visited multiple times, hoping they’d eventually offer me as well.

Besides academics, I felt that picking a school where I was a first choice for the coaching staff would ensure a positive college experience. With Marist, I knew I was one of the first girls they offered for my year. They came to many club games, and they called/texted me all the time. They showed me how much they wanted me.

It seemed like I was a second or third option for the other schools. Is it possible that Lehigh, American, or Bucknell could have offered me later on? Yes. But that also means that the girls they offered before me said no, and I didn’t want to go to a school where I was a second option. So, in February of my junior year in high school, I committed to play Division 1 basketball at Marist College. I visited Marist many times and learned about everything there is to know before making my decision to commit there. I chose Marist because of the excellent academics, the beautiful campus, and the amazing basketball program. I’m proud to be a Red Fox, class of 2024!