Gordon State College
February 15th, 2023
How Many NCAA Players Actually Go Pro
The NCAA offers multiple sports ranging from football, basketball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball, just to name a few. After graduation and, in some cases, before graduation, many of these student-athletes are looking to take their talents to the professional level.
Playing professional sports is one of the most difficult professions to get into. The NCAA is divided into three levels, including NCAA Division 1, NCAA Division 2, and NCAA Division 3. For example, the numbers show that there are about:
(450) NBA players
25,000 college players
551,373 high school players
20 million youth players
As you can see, there are more participants than jobs at the professional level. College athletes who earn the opportunity to play at the professional level usually have several qualities and traits that enable them to perform at a high level. For example, the following are examples of features that real D1 athletes have.
Don’t have D’s & F’s on their report cards
Don’t miss summer workouts
Don’t finish last in condition drills
Don’t fake injuries to avoid conditioning
Don’t run from the competition. They run to it
Don’t cry about being coached hard
You don’t have to be motivated. They are self-motivated
Unbelievable work ethic
Focused & detailed oriented
They have a purpose and goals. They set a plan to meet goals
There is a lot of commitment, discipline, and consistency athletes must have to reach those high levels. Nobody goes pro by accident. Athletes don’t luck up and go pro. They are prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally for the opportunity.
Let’s look at an estimated probability of competing in professional athletics:
Football: 73,712 participants 16,380 Draft eligible (254) draft picks (254) NCAA drafted 1.6% go pro
M. Basketball: 18,816 participants 4,181 Draft eligible (60) draft picks (52) NCAA drafted 1.2% go pro
W. Basketball: 16,509 participants 3,669 Draft eligible (36) draft picks (31) NCAA drafted 0.8% go pro
Baseball: 36,000 participants 8,002 Draft eligible (1,217) draft picks (791) NCAA drafted 9.9% go proIce Hockey: 4,323 participants 961 Draft eligible (217) draft picks (71) NCAA drafted 7.4% go pro
Estimated Probability of Competing in College Athletics: High School Participants, NCAA Participants, Overall % of HS to NCAA, % HS to NCAA D1, % HS to NCAA D2
487,097 35,460 7.3% 2.2% 2.2%
551,373 18,816 3.4% 1.0% 1.0%
270,095 14,270 5.3% 1.8% 1.4%
1,036,842 73,557 7.1% 2.8% 1.8%
144,024 8,609 6.0% 2.0% 1.6%
35,060 4,229 12.1% 4.8% 0.6%
113,313 14,310 12.6% 3.0% 2.4%
456,362 25,072 5.5% 1.3% 1.5%
138,935 9,697 7.0% 2.7% 1.1%
158,151 7,838 5.0% 1.6% 1.0%
600,097 28,698 4.8% 1.9% 1.2%
60,976 2,163 3.5% 0.7% 0.6%
22,501 1,047 4.7% 2.7% 0.8%
245,564 7,239 2.9% 1.0% 0.8%
412,407 16,614 4.0% 1.2% 1.6%
223,518 15,632 7.0% 2.7% 1.7%
59,856 6,103 10.2% 3.0% 1.4%
78,781 5,375 6.8% 2.8% 2.0%
9,609 2,400 25.0% 8.9% 1.2%
Let's take a closer look at some of these numbers:
he most competition is for those who play basketball. Approximately three percent of male and female high school basketball players go on to play college basketball, and only about one percent of those players turn pro. Consider the number in terms of how many high school basketball players go pro.
According to the estimations, only 0.02 to 0.03 percent of high school players play in the NBA or WNBA. Think about that number. That means out of every 10,000 high school players, only two or three will ever get the chance to play professional basketball! No one wants to squash your dreams. If you think you've got what it takes, pursue it.
It is essential, however, to be realistic. Have a backup plan. Even if you are good at something or even great at something, it seems there's always someone out there who is faster and quicker. If you are one of those skilled enough or blessed enough to make the cut, keep in mind that sports injuries do happen. Academics are important!
Why a Degree Matters
A college degree is attainable by every player on every team. A college degree enhances a student athlete's ability to ensure a profession outside of pro sports. A troubling statistic is at power 5 D1 schools, only 55% of football teams and 56% of basketball teams graduate black male student-athletes.
The question becomes, are the athletes there to graduate or play sports? Based on the numbers mentioned earlier in this article explains why getting a degree is as important, or more important than playing sports. Injuries and other unforeseen circumstances can spoil your journey to becoming a pro.
Over 21 years of coaching, I have always stressed the importance of graduating. Several of my players over the years have played professional sports at various levels. They all are notable players who dream of playing in the NBA.
I am a perfect example of how education assisted my professional career. It was always instilled in me that graduating is essential to preparing me for my future after my playing days. I was told that education was the key to designing and training me to be qualified to enter the professional arena outside of sports.
My education allowed me to walk through many doors after my basketball career was over, including, but not limited to, coaching at the college level. This question was proposed to me by my parents, mentors, and coaches. What are you going to do once the ball goes flat? There are many ways the ball can go flat.
As mentioned earlier, injuries can end an athletic career. You could get cut, or simply be replaced by younger players who run faster and jump higher. Once that happens, you must be ready to transition from sports. I am glad I listened to my elders because I have enjoyed my career after sports by being qualified to do the work.
In closing, this article is not designed to discourage student-athletes or parents from chasing their dream of playing professional sports. It’s designed to encourage but prepare you for your future after playing days are over. It was my degree, more than a solid athletic career, that awarded me opportunities to be involved in other areas of sports. When father's time knocks on your door, be ready, prepared, and qualified to be a pro in something outside of playing sports.