Complete Guide to College Basketball For International Players (NCAA, NJCAA, NAIA)

If you live in the United States you probably know how tough it is for athletes to go play NCAA Division 1 (D1) men’s and women’s basketball. Only 4% of high school athletes make it to the next level. But if you’re an international player, it’s probably harder.

Before we go into how to make or even get a scholarship to play college basketball in the US, you have to understand your options.

There are several options when it comes to College basketball and each has its benefit. NCAA Division 1 is considered the highest level of competition and is usually highly marketed. There are more than 300+ teams in D1 basketball with an increase of international players playing with nearly 80% of teams having at least 1 international player.

With that being said D1 schools start recruiting when players are at a young age, usually U16 athletes. For more information on D1 recruiting click here

Unfortunately, any division in college other than Division 1 is overlooked and snubbed. But for international players, it’s extremely important to not snub those options because it could be your ticket to playing college basketball in the States. Here are a couple of reasons why, as an international athlete, you shouldn’t snub those options.

1- Free education:

If you work hard at it you can earn a scholarship to play and learn. Every international athlete understands the value of education specifically education earned at American Universities. Almost all college levels offer athletic and academic scholarships, except the division 3 level which offers academic scholarships only.

2- Later recruitment:

Unlike D1, other college levels start recruiting when players are U18 and even U20. This doesn’t mean that D1 colleges look only at U16 they usually look at U18 and U20 as well. But they usually follow more closely athletes from U16 up to U18 and that’s when they sign them while investing less time in the recruitment of new U18/U20 players.

3- Basketball Resume:

American Universities look GREAT on basketball resumes when deciding to play overseas or even back home. By having played at the college level in the states you increase your value as a player and in return increase the probability of having a chance of playing at the pro level and even increase the amount of money you earn like a pro.

If you’re wondering what types of colleges there are and what are their benefits, keep reading.

NCAA Division 2

NCAA Division 2 is the next option recruits look for. It’s highly competitive and takes recruiting more seriously because it might not attract big names as Division 1 can. Usually, Division 2 gives out athletic scholarships as Division 1 but has fewer available scholarship spots. Check more information about types of scholarships by clicking here.

There are currently more than 300 schools that have D2 basketball teams according to NCAA. With more than 90% of athletes chasing D1 scholarships, D2 teams have more regular openings. Just because D1 has the most coverage in college sports and maybe the most-watched basketball tournament doesn’t mean that the quality between D1 and D2 is huge. More and more athletes get a chance to play professional basketball or even in the NBA after a stint at a Div 2 school.

Most Notable Division 2 NBA Players:

George Gervin “The Iceman”

Scottie Pippen

Dennis Rodman

Ben Wallace

and more…

NCAA Division 3

While NCAA Division 3 doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a scholarship. D3 are usually private schools and can offer academic scholarships, housing and other financial aids that can get you into high athletic/academic opportunities.

Another plus is that if you’re very good academically and athletically Divison 3 might be the best fit for you. Division 3 recruiters have it the hardest since they’re looking for good athletes but the good athletes are in search of athletic scholarships which Divison 3 recruiters don’t offer. Read more on types of scholarship here.

Because of your aspirations of a quality education combined with a career as a professional athlete, you should give Division 3 a chance, they offer other scholarships that can pay for your education, they’re always looking for high-quality athletes, and they have elite programs. Some NBA players played in a Division 3 program like:

Duncan Robinson

Devean George

Horace Jenkins


The National Association of Intercollegiate Association, or NAIA, is often the most overlooked collegiate level because of the name brand. NCAA has built a huge name brand behind being THE collegiate association to provide both high-quality education and athletics. But don’t overlook the highly competitive NAIA school members.

NAIA, unlike NCAA, is more flexible when it comes to recruiting. They give more freedom to their member schools and conferences to handle their financing allowing them to allocate their recruiting scholarship money as they please. Although they do have limits that you can read about here.


National Junior College Athletics Association, usually referred to as JUCO, is a great stepping stone to reaching NCAA or NAIA level. NJCAA or JUCO is the easiest to get into in this list in terms of academic qualification. Unlike NAIA and all 3 divisions of the NCAA, student-athletes are not required to have ACT or SAT scores to enroll in the school. In the NJCAA, each team has 15 athletic sponsorship opportunities, meaning that almost every player on the roster can earn a scholarship either full or partial. If you want to learn more about what athletic sponsorship opportunity means click here.

NJCAA is a community college meaning that they only expect you to take two years of education in their academic programs. That also means that they don’t expect you to play for more than two years with a program. This means that the purpose of the program is to get you to the next level whether that’s NCAA or NAIA or even pro. Coaches at the NJCAA understand the level they’re at and know what it takes to help you get to the next level.

The NJCAA is an excellent option for international athletes because of the academic and financial flexibility and commitment to help them get to the next level.

Options Outside USA


Canada has two options for pursuing college-level basketball. It has the NCAA D1 equivalent in USports and the JUCO equivalent in CCAA. The level of basketball is highly competitive and the country has been heavily investing in the sport.

In USports they usually do not look for SAT or ACT scores and accept National Highschool diplomas or GSCE or IB diplomas too. The academics are usually at a cheaper cost and a high academic level equivalent to the US. Most Canadian universities are ranked high in different research fields globally.

Canadian universities are different when it comes to eligibility and scholarships. To read more on Canadian University/College basketball click here.

United Kingdom

The UK is rarely mentioned when it comes to high-level basketball. While it might not be the highest level on the list it’s a great option for two reasons. One the entry barriers are less for the university and the pro level. Britain has two leagues that intertwin. They have the British Universities & Colleges Sport & National Basketball League D1. Both are competitions that give you an easier pathway to your goal of a highly competitive sport while pursuing an education. To read more on British Basketball click here.

We understand that there are many choices but even with all these choices it is not easy to make it as an international student-athlete there are very different barriers than just skill. If you want to learn more about how to make it to a college as an international student-athlete click here.


If you’re really interested in getting a scholarship to play at the college level but don’t know where to start, sign up to our mailing list for personalized information on how to achieve your goal and get a free email template to start reaching out to coaches right away right HERE!

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