Elite Players seem to have some things in common. When I mention Elite, I am referring to players that have multiple Division 1 opportunities from major programs. It seems that many kids want major college opportunities but fail to do some of the things that Elite players do. Obviously there are many ways that some players become Elite but a few things seems to be common among them. I will use the top players in the country because the are the Elite of the elite according to college coaches.
1. Focused- Research the top players in the country and the overriding fact is that they do not play multiple sports in high school. Some players will run track or play volley ball but the majority of Elite kids are focused on basketball. Players like the Ogumike sisters of Stanford played volleyball in high school and remained Elite. They, and other super athletic Bigs, are the exception. Skilled guards and forwards that seem to the achieve highest level of college opportunities are overwhelmingly focused on getting better in BASKETBALL. This is no different than an Elite piano player not spending a considerable amount of time learning the trumpet. Cross training at a young age is probably a good thing. However, the introduction to early skill set through training has sped up the Elite game.
For instance, in the Baylor vs San Diego St game yesterday, the broadcaster spoke of how good Baylor guard Odyssey Sims was in middle school. Apparently, a SDST guard remembered playing against Sims in an middle school camp and looked forward to playing against her again. I would bet that it was the Jr Phenom camp in San Diego, a camp that I first saw Sims at when she was a 7th grader. Sims was on another level then, as she is now. Her early specialization has lead her stay far ahead of her peers that are not as focused on basketball.
2. Training- In my transition from the boys side of the game to the girls, I have noticed how important training is in the development of young players. Training has really stepped up in regards to both girls and boys, but girls are now getting the attention that used to be reserved for boys. Elite girls, by in large, have consistent training in middle school years. I will use sensational guards Skylar Diggins(Notre Dame) and Alexis Jones(Duke) as examples. Both players are supremely skilled and both have trainers(fathers) that worked with them tirelessly in their formative years. Diggins' stepfather has been chronicled often as being credited with introducing the game to her through constant drilling and playing.
Training is probably more important to an Elite girl than a boy. The reason is that boys play basketball much more often during free play than most girls. Of course some exceptions to the rule exist, but Elite boy basketball players play for fun much more often than Elite girls. The lack of free play by most girls basketball players on a consistent basis leads to a need for more training. Elite girls typically are involved in more training while young in comparison to non elite players.
3. Watch Basketball- As silly as this may sound, Elite basketball players watch basketball more often than others. Imagine that!
I remember growing up being Magic Johnson. Then I became Micheal. On the days that my counter parts took their turn being Magic or Micheal, I was Byron Scott or Gary Payton. When my love for the game deepened, I became college stars. More watched games led me to be more players. Terry Dehere on Monday, Penny Hardaway on Tuesday, Chris Jackson on Wednesday. Everyday, I became a new player. This goes on across the country, young elite boys "being" their idols while honing their game.
The girls side is different. The women's game is growing but lacks marketing and mass appeal that the men's game has. What is true to both boys and girls, is that Elite girls follow men's basketball too. Just take a look at the twitter feeds of some of the most talented high school girls in the country. They speak often of being fans of superstar players and root openly for professional teams. Frequent chatter about the Lakers, Lebron, Blake Griffin, D-Rose and the likes are common among these Elite girls basketball players.
I find it alarming that so many kids aspire to be Elite and attain scholarships yet rarely watch basketball. This is like a future music major not listening to music! Watching basketball helps instill Basketball IQ. Show me a kid that understands things like clock management, great use of fouls to lengthen games, or advanced individual moves and the use of them and I will show you a kid that watches basketball often.
(Side note: I mentioned Twitter with caution. Dating myself by admitting emulating Magic Johnson, I tend to be wary of adults who Twitter or Facebook with teenage kids for an inordinate amount of time. I understand college recruiters have a job to do and these forms of communication are useful. However, I find it uncommon when grown ups are constantly befriending kids on these mediums. BUT, for a parent, Twitter is a huge resource! If your child is being recruited by a particular school, search the Twitter of current players and see what you will find. See what kind of nonsense players being recruited by these institutions are broadcasting for the world to see. It may save you from making a very crucial mistake in choosing a program that claims one thing but tolerates another.)
Many things separate players, from Elite players. The common ingredient that separates the two levels is surely time. Time spent on working on your game will obviously pay off but the few above mentioned practices are apparent in a lot of Elite players.