Rules of Thumb for July

The July recruiting period is right around the corner, so I wanted to share some practical advice to help prospects, parents, and grassroots coaches. Huge thanks to Coach Raveling for providing this forum to share ideas, and I hope people find some of these thoughts to be helpful.


NOTE: none of these recommendations require any talent whatsoever.

Proactive communication with college coaches

College coaches don’t stagger around aimlessly in July hoping to find some kids they like. Rather, they do research beforehand so their daily schedules are organized. If you will email a bunch of college coaches with your pool play schedules as they’re released, you’ll greatly increase the odds that college coaches will deliberately see you play (always include a link to video and your academic info in any email to college coaches)

Be aggressive (but not selfish or stupid)

If you have a clean look from inside your shooting range, let it fly. Or, if you have a lane to drive because the help D is out of position, attack and try to make a play (for yourself or for others- college coaches like scorers and playmakers and they especially like kids who can do both). In the regular high school season, it often makes sense to pass up a good shot to work for a great shot. In July, if you have a good shot (a “good” shot means you can get it off cleanly and it’s a makeable shot for you based on your practice habits), let that thing rip. In July, playing timid or scared is worse than missing shots, and everyone on both teams is better off with high possession games. In short, be very aggressive without being selfish (refusing to pass to wide open teammates who have an immediate and easy scoring opportunity) or stupid (shooting shots that you can’t make consistently or blindly driving into traffic).

Hide your weaknesses

July is NOT the time to experiment with aspects of your game that aren’t fully developed. For example, if you’re not a good shooter from 3 point range, you shouldn’t shoot 3 pointers (you need to be able to consistently make AT LEAST 50% from 3 unguarded in practice before you even begin to think of yourself as a “good” shooter). Or, if you’re a good shooter but you’re just not very good with your handle or you lack the strength to keep your balance when you drive, then don’t force things. The goal of July is to show off your strengths and leave college coaches wondering about your weaknesses- you’re in MUCH better shape if a college coach tells the rest of the staff, “I really liked him, although I didn’t really see him shoot” than if he tells the rest of the staff, “I liked him, but he can’t shoot.”

Leave the referees alone

Have you ever changed a ref’s mind by arguing a call? No. Have you ever turned a ref against you by arguing a call to the point that the ref was screwing you on purpose? Yes. Yet, despite the universal answers to those 2 questions, many kids continue to waste energy arguing with referees. This makes no rational sense whatsoever, but it’s especially counter-productive in July, because many college coaches will correctly question a crybaby prospect’s intelligence and self-control. Obviously, if you’re stupid and undisciplined, perhaps you’re better off keeping those traits to yourself rather than putting them on display for college coaches to witness.

Scream like a psychopath on defense

Any time you would normally talk on the court (calling switches, calling out screens, etc), do it at a VERY HIGH VOLUME so college coaches notice you. College coaches like kids who talk on D, and the more you LOUDLY talk on D, the better. You really want to carry on a conversation at a HIGH VOLUME the whole time you’re on defense. If you SCREAM things on defense like “HEY I HAVE YOUR HELP LEFT” or “NO SCREENS COMING” you will a) show the college coaches that you care more about winning than looking cool, b) demonstrate a good basketball IQ, and c) get the attention of every single college coach in the gym, even the ones passing by headed to another gym or watching another game from a nearby court.


Specifically, sprint the floor, dive for loose balls, be willing to take charges, recklessly pursue every rebounder (unless your coach assigns a different role like getting back on D), and pressure the ball defensively. Most prospects don’t play hard, so if you do, you’ll stand out and coaches will notice you.

Be a great teammate

In addition to things almost everyone does, such as showing some token of appreciation for an assist or helping a teammate up off the floor, you should also encourage your teammates with a hopefully infectious positive attitude- this most especially applies to when you’re not in the game. Be alert and be unselfishly happy for your teammates when you’re sitting on the bench.

Take care of your body

General fatigue is a huge problem for kids in July, partly because NCAA limits on open evaluation periods force kids to play way too many games in a far too condensed amount of time, but partly because kids don’t take care of themselves. For example, July should be a carbonated beverage and caffeine free month, as both of those drinks dehydrate the body and cause cramps. You need to drink a lot more water than you normally would, at least a gallon a day, and potatoes and bananas are great sources of natural potassium, which can help with cramping as well. Also, Pedialyte is in my opinion a superior rehydration/anti-cramping beverage than Gatorade and Powerade, although the traditional sports drinks are cheaper, better tasting, and more readily available. It’s also a good idea to eat some vegetables and lay off very sugary things, but I’m honestly not that convinced that diet makes a huge short-term difference in the athletic performance of teenagers. Finally, you should get off your feet and try to get at least some rest, because you play a lot more games closer together in July than you ever would in a high school or college season, so there is a high level of wear and tear that occurs. Again, as is the case with the diet, teenagers are unbelievably resilient physically, and I’m personally aware of tons of teenagers who were on the Vegas strip later than I was but nevertheless played very well in a 9:00 AM game the following morning. However, I’ve also seen kids who were out all night stink up the gym the next morning, so as a general rule of thumb, get some rest (on a 10 point scale of importance for prospects in the month of July, I’d say hydration is a 9 or 10, diet is a 3 or 4, and rest is a 5 or 6, so all 3 are at least somewhat important).


Know your role

Your role is to support your child during and after the games, and hopefully to support his teammates as well. July isn’t about you, it’s about your child, so you have no business drawing attention to yourself. As a parent, there is absolutely nothing you can do to help your kid attract interest from college coaches, but you can certainly hurt your kid based on your public behavior. Obviously, context matters- if your son is a top 10 player in the country, you can show up butt naked to every game and slap a referee in the face as part of your pre-game ritual and your kid will still have plenty of college coaches recruiting him. But, in most cases, decisions about who to recruit and offer scholarships to are close calls that a coaching staff makes after discussing dozens of angles and factors. Basically, if a kid is substantially better than the next prospect on that school’s recruiting board, it would be rare for a school to decide not to recruit that kid because of his dad’s or mom’s public behavior. However, if the talent is close between the top 5 kids on the board, as it often is, concerns about having to deal with “difficult” parents can absolutely cause a kid to be dropped from the top of the recruiting board. With this in mind, here are some specific behaviors to avoid in order to ensure that you are never the reason any school would decide not to recruit your son:

1. Abusing referees (although this is fairly common in our society and most other societies, the truth is that berating a stranger in a public place for making an honest mistake is in no way acceptable, and the vast majority of people who do it are either lunatics or assholes- so please just leave the refs alone)

2. Coaching from the crowd (conflicting messages don’t help- even if you’re right and the coach is wrong- but also, you shouldn’t advertise your habit of undermining your kid’s coaches while his potential future coaches are watching you)

3. Taking stats (unless you’re the official statistician at the request of your son’s coach and you’re taking stats on all kids, “Stat Taking Dad” is a huge red flag because he very rarely turns out to be a reasonable person regarding the topics of a) his son and b) the game of basketball)

4. Talking antagonistically to the kids/coaches/parents from the other team (you don’t know them, and they don’t know you, so mind your business and just support your son and his teammates)

Grassroots Coaches

Proactive communication with college coaches

To me, there’s absolutely nothing more important for you as a grassroots coach to do than get the word out about your kids and your team’s schedule to every college coach in the country. You can purchase an affordable email address database online ( or are 2 examples) and you can blast emails with your July schedule (and your pool play schedules as well) to hundreds of college coaches in a relatively short amount of time. It is insane to expect the tournament directors to promote your kids for you, and it is insane to expect college coaches to watch a team they don’t know anything about. How are the college coaches going to find out about your kids and your team? By you telling them. This is your #1 responsibility and obligation as a grassroots coach.

Have backup rosters printed out for college coaches

It’s a mistake to rely exclusively on the tournament director and staff to include your team in the packets of information they sell to college coaches because a) compiling those books is a massive undertaking where mistakes are very common and b) a lot of college coaches don’t have the budget to purchase the packets, which means if they’re there to watch the other team, they won’t have any idea who your kids are. In my opinion, not only should you figure out a way to hand out the rosters to all the college coaches at your court, but you should hand them out to college coaches on neighboring courts or any other time you see a college coach (between your games, at a restaurant, in the hotel lobby, etc). It’s against the rules for a grassroots coach to have conversations with college coaches during the live events, but the rules don’t say anything about a grassroots coach being unable to hand a piece of paper to college coaches. To me, the rosters you print out to hand to college coaches should include all the standards (name, grad year, height, and jersey number), but should also include academic information (GPA and test scores) and contact information such as email addresses and cell phone numbers.

Understand the point of July

July is about exposure, not about winning. Obviously, the 2 are inter-connected, as winning in pool play helps you advance to a bracket with better teams and more coaches watching and winning in bracket play allows you to continue playing. However, if you as a coach are over-focused on trying to get your kids to buy into a “role” or if you as a coach want your kids to pass up a good shot to work the ball around for a great shot (again, high possession games are good for everyone) or if you as a coach shorten your bench so much that talented college prospects are playing 4 minutes per game because they’re not quite as talented as the kids in your 6 or 7 man “rotation”, then I think you don’t get it. The only record that matters in the world of grassroots basketball is a program’s track record of sending kids to college. That’s your role, and your legacy will be defined not by the number of pools or platinum brackets you won, but by the number of kids you helped get to college.