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Mapping the NCAA Basketball Recruiting landscape

Where are the top recruits coming from? A lot of private schools.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Maryland vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We at the The Daily Gopher have been interested in where recruits come from for some time. As some may recall, we previously delved into the curious lack of football recruits from our national parks. Today, we begin a series looking at men’s basketball recruits focusing on two questions: Where are players recruited from, and what are the biggest basketball cities in the country?

Our data from this series comes from 247Sports database of recruits. The database has a little over 10,000 recruits from 2003-2019. To this basic information, we have added location data for each hometown along with counties. Tomorrow, we will use this to map prospects.

The men’s basketball recruiting landscape has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. In the beginning of the 2000s, AAU teams had ascended to the primary place for college recruiting. Top recruits joined together on all star teams to play in tournaments around the nation. In Minnesota, the dominant all star team has been the Howard Pulley Panthers of the Nike EYBL. High school teams became increasingly irrelevant because top players were also on AAU teams.

Beyond AAU teams, prep schools and basketball factories rose in popularity during the later half of the ‘00s. The basketball factories were so popular and so obviously academically deficient that the NCAA ended up cracking down on them. Nevertheless, prep schools continue to be a popular way to improve basketball skills and be noticed by college recruiters. The same is true for Catholic schools. The table below lists the Top 20 programs by number of Division 1 recruits in the 247 Sports database from 2003 to the Present.

Most Recruits by School from 2003-Present

School total
School total
Brewster Academy 73
Oak Hill Academy 68
Notre Dame Preparatory School 51
Findlay Prep 46
Montverde Academy 46
IMG Academy 43
New Hampton School 37
Northfield Mount Hermon 37
South Kent School 37
St Benedict's Preparatory School 35
Bridgton Academy 33
Worcester Academy 32
St. Thomas More 31
Mater Dei 28
Sunrise Christian 28
St. Patrick 27
Huntington Prep 26
The Winchendon School 26
Arlington Country Day School 25
Hargrave Military Academy 25
Montrose Christian School 25
Wheeler 25

Only Wheeler High School in Georgia is public. There are multiple reasons for this. By and large the Catholic leagues and the national prep circuit provide better competition because they can recruit top athletes. In areas of the country with long histories of Catholic Leagues (the DC/Maryland/Virginia area and New York/New Jersey), almost all top prospects attend Catholic schools.

One example of this phenomenon is Brewster Academy. Brewster Academy began its basketball program in the late 90s. Since then, it has become the nation’s leader for D1 prospects. Minnesota most recently recruited Mo Walker out of Brewster. The school plays against other prep schools in the New England Area, is located in rural New Hampshire,and has less than 400 pupils. What’s the draw then? All of its basketball players are D1 prospects. Brewster provides a place for players to be seen by college coaches, have extended time to focus on skills, and play against high level competition.

Another consequential decision for top prospect was the NBA’s implementation of the “one and done” rule in 2005. The rule specifies that a player must be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school in order to qualify for the NBA draft. As a result, where top high schoolers would have simply declared for the NBA draft they now had to choose between going to college for a year or playing professionally elsewhere. Far more top players choose the former than the latter. The one and done rule is almost certainly unjust for top players, but its effect on recruits more generally is wildly overstated because most recruits are not good enough to play professionally at 18.

To review then, basketball players come from top AAU squads and the best tend to play in private schools or prep schools. Tomorrow, we will look at what places produce the most recruits.