How to Walk-On a College Basketball Team

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6 Steps to Surviving College Basketball Walk-On Tryouts

Written By Lamar Hull @ Google+

davidson wildcats in the prosHow do I know?

Because I actually did it. 

I successfully walked-on to a division 1 basketball program and earned a professional contract overseas!

All I ever wanted to do was play Division 1 Basketball. At first I didn’t care where, I just wanted the opportunity to experience it.

As a 5’9″ point guard that played like a shooting guard in high school, I wasn’t highly recruited. I averaged 28 PPG my senior year and received tons of accolades, such as; North Carolina Mr. Basketball Runner-up.

I had a GPA of 4.1 and had put in the time every day to improve my basketball skills, so that one day I could sit at the table and sign that acceptance letter to a D-1 program. That never happened!

Several division 2 and division 3 schools gave me a look, but none I was interested in. The only real chance I had to get at least a partial basketball scholarship was with Clemson University. 

My high school coach had a connection with their staff and their assistant coach actually came to watch a 6’9″ freshman who was playing varsity my senior year. As a senior, I would take over and dominate games, had a positive attitude, was a great teammate, and a hustle that would never quit.

Clemson’s assistant coach started to like my skill set and continued to come and watch me play. Conversations started happening around me signing a letter of intent to play basketball at Clemson University. Clemson is known for recruiting smaller guards who are very quick and can control the pace of the game.

My dream almost came to fruition, until head coach Larry Shyatt resigned my senior year. I was shocked and disappointed at the same time and thought my dreams of playing division 1 basketball was over, but God had different plans!

One thing to note about me, I never quit and if there is a will there is a way. Before my next move, I started to think about my future. 

So, I asked this question…

Why did I want to play D-1 and what school would best fit what I wanted to do after college?

Well, I wanted to play D-1 because it still gave me hope in making it to the NBA. I was still oblivious at this point of the odds of making it to the NBA, I just knew there was still hope.

On the contrary, I had a plan B. If I didn’t make it to the NBA, I wanted to play basketball professionally overseas. Whatever the case was, I wanted to play basketball after college. I worked too hard every day to call it quits at the prime of my career.

signcontractI was fortunate enough and blessed that Coach Bob Mckillop and Sean Kilmartin paved a way for me to play professionally in Europe. I still can’t believe my name is carved in as a college division 1 basketball player that played professionally after walking-on at Davidson College.

What I learned about Davidson through some older players at my high school who attended Davidson was that Coach Bob Mckillop had great connections with professional basketball clubs overseas.

A lot of his graduating seniors got the opportunity to play professional basketball in Europe and I wanted to be a part of that!

Not knowing how I would get a basketball scholarship this late in the game my senior year, I was going to do whatever it took to play basketball at Davidson College under Coach Mckillop!

So, this college basketball walk-on guide will show you what I had to do to fulfill my dreams and in the words of Malcolm X, by any means necessary…hence why I walked-on to Davidson Men’s Basketball team!

scottie pippen basketball walk onWe have all heard the inspiring stories of athletes that walked on (like Scottie Pippen) to college basketball teams and changed history, setting records, and some, becoming legends.

There is an insurmountable demand of effort, dedication, energy, drive, talent, and passion that are required if you ever want a chance to walk on to any team. This is especially the case if you desire to walk-on to a basketball court and make an NCAA college basketball team. 

Anything is possible as I know from personal experiences. If you believe in yourself, put the time and consistent work-ethic in to it, want it badly enough, and follow these 6 steps, you can achieve your dreams! 

“Everyone is not going to get a college basketball scholarship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play college basketball.”

Here are 6 motivating tips to help you prepare for that long-awaited walk-on college basketball tryout. 


1. Think you’re in shape now? Keep going. 

Be in the best shape of your life…you will throw up a few times during or after your tryouts!

If you want to stand a chance against those who already play for the team or who have had years and years of basketball training experience, you need to understand that your energy needs to power over the others.

Most tryouts consist of individual workouts, so you better be able to sustain through it with every ounce of energy. If you can’t, it will show and you won’t make the team! 

If you take anything from this article, it is being in the best shape you can be in!

If you have to train with or against another walk-on like I did, you better hustle your heart out, it will demonstrate your work ethic, drive, and dedication to the potential team. 

pointing fingerIf there is a loose ball, guess who better get it….YOU!

Coaches will be able to quickly recognize that you are serious and committed to making the team — hustle for the ball, play strong and tight defense, play smart offense, pass, and drain those jump shots when others are becoming tired and slowing down.

If you can get yourself in the right shape, you have checked off the first and one of the most important steps for potential walk-on acceptance. 

Another aspect to getting into the best shape of your life is running. Running is not fun for many of us, but you don’t have a choice if you want to make the team. 

Walking on a collegiate basketball team is tough because the coaching staff expect you as a non-scholarship player to be able to perform at the level of their scholarship players from a talent standpoint. Therefore, the first step is conditioning and being in shape to run with those who have earned a scholarship.

You will need training, conditioning, and built up endurance to keep up. Don’t allow anything but domination over the other tryout athletes. Make it obvious that you stand out from the pack and one way to do this is be better conditioned.

What are some essential ways to run to help you to be more conditioned for a college basketball tryout?

  • Play full-court pickup games. There is nothing like playing against great athletes several times a week. This will keep you in superb condition, while also distracting you from the fact you are running. 
  • Run 21 miles per week, no excuses. This equates to 3 miles per day. If you feel like a three-mile run seems easy, then you’ve reached a good level of fitness improvement and are likely in good shape. If you know tryouts are in 5-6 weeks, then prepare now and get those legs strengthened by running a few miles each day.
  • Have a trainer put you through hard individual basketball workouts similar to what you will go through during your walk-on tryouts.


2. Strength Conditioning is Crucial

As you prepare to tryout, create and fulfill a conditioning program that can help isolate the core areas of your body that are essential to success on the court.

Be sure to organize it so that you can rest and recover in certain parts of your body — avoiding injury or over exhaustion

If you are a post player, then you will want to put more emphasis on your core, legs, and back. For you perimeter players out there, concentrate on fast-twitch muscle exercises, focusing primarily below the waist.

It doesn’t matter the position, if you plan to make a college basketball team, you better improve your upper body strength and whatever else you need to hustle in full-court play. 


3. Jump Shots and Lay-ups

basketball layupThis may sound extremely obvious, but you cannot practice this enough. It doesn’t matter if you are a big man or a point guard, you should put every ounce of effort into making your lay-ups and jump shots within the 15-foot range.

It seems like that is all I did in my walk-on tryouts. You will be stunned when you tryout and see that many of the players didn’t practice enough or work on these skills during the summer and can’t pull it off.

Consistency is key!

Can you lock in and knock down shots and make layups at the beginning of the workout and more importantly at the end of it?

Be sure to have proper form, fluid hand and wrist motions, and show that you can handle the basketball with both hands. 

You will want to be sure to practice any of the core basketball drills that are traditional for many players and teams. You will likely be asked to perform the three-man weave, three-on-two drills, and some ball-handling drills. The last thing you want is to get on the court and have no idea what a lot of the drills mean. 

Impress the coaches not only with your basketball conditioning, strength, consistency, but impress them with your basketball IQ. If you are trying to walk-on to a Division 1 basketball program, you better have been working on your game and familiarize yourself with a ton of basketball drills.


4. Gain a Relationship with the Coach

Let’s face it; politics are surely involved when it comes to selecting players for a big name team. You control what you can control and just work hard and standout. Let the chips fall in place!

Don’t suck up to the coach, but be sure to initiate a relationship with him. Talk with the coach, introduce yourself, and ask for advice. The coach will see your intentions and it gives him a better opportunity to tell you what you need to do in order to make the team. 

This is crucial and don’t forget this step. If coaches can’t see your character after your tryout, they won’t remember you.

In the end, the coach makes the call and he will be the one able to assess your odds of making the team: providing you with a step-by-step walk-through of how you can dominate on the court. 


5. Play With Those Who Are Returning

Don’t be embarrassed to do this — this may be your only shot — but reach out to returning players on the team and figure out when they play during the off-season. You can either play with them or watch, gaining the advantage of getting to know the players and what you need to do in order to outdo them. 

I did this a lot. I also just played a lot in the gym so if a coach happened to walk in while I was playing, he could see my talent!

You can also get a definite idea on what the team might be lacking and the role that you might be able to fill.

We all have our ways of playing, but don’t hesitate changing your game to better fit the needs of the team — you are wanting to make the team and show your coaches how you can better the team as a whole. 

During my tryouts, I didn’t know if I would make the team, but I knew if I did, I would focus my full attention on helping the team. That’s what coaches are looking for because they didn’t recruit you. 

They will look at their team and envision how you can help the team get better!

Lamar Hull


6. Have Confidence, but don’t be Cocky

No one likes playing with the showboat or ball hog. Coaches don’t want that kind of arrogance on the team. You do not want to walk out on the court and act like you are better than everyone else. One, it will turn the coach off and two; it will irritate your potential teammates. 

After I made the Davidson basketball team, I did gain some confidence that turned in to a little bit of cockiness and it effected my relationship with the other PG. We later became really great friends, but remember you are there to help the team and improve your teammates’ performance and yours as well.



Lastly, be confident in your skills, your passion, and the work you have put in so far. Don’t think too much while playing. Play your heart out and understand you have done everything you could.

Whether you make the team or not, you can unlace your shoes and walk off that court knowing you gave it your all.

Walking on to a college basketball team no matter the level will be tough, but if you follow the 6 steps above the tryout process for you will be much easier giving you a higher probability of making the team. 

I would love to hear from other college basketball walk-ons and what they did to make their respective team. If you were cut, what did you learn?


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