By Isaiah Barnes and the Dualete Team
May 6, 2022
Teaches shooting, creating space, weight training, and little-known tips to go D1 (Live and Recorded)
It just didn’t make any sense.
17-year old Isaiah Barnes was finishing up his junior season at Oak Park’s River Forest in Chicago averaging an incredible 21 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals a game. He had hit 65 3-pointers and was a gritty, two-way wing who could play multiple positions in an era where versatility is highly admired.
And still, his only D1 offer was from his hometown school, Illinois. His AAU teammates had been receiving major offers for years from schools like Michigan State and Louisville, but for Isaiah, it felt like the break would never come.
If you ask his coaches, things started looking up for him when he got bigger, stronger, and focused more on developing his game. And all that’s true- he did grow a couple of inches, and he did put on about 15 pounds of muscle while keeping his trademark jump-out-the-gym bounce. And it did help his game tremendously– he increased his points-per-game average from 8.0 to 21.0, and doubled the rest of his averages across the stat sheet.
But that isn’t what really made the scouts start taking notice. He had to make them start taking notice.
A lot of kids get really frustrated when they see their teammates and other players who they know they’ve outperformed on the court getting scholarship offers. The unfortunate truth is that an average player with a lot of buzz will almost always get more offers than a slightly better player with little buzz. It’s just simple probability: the more scouts you have watching you, the higher chance you have that at least a couple think you’re worthy of a roster spot.
A lot of kids hear the advice – ”focus on your game and the attention will come”. Nowadays, I’d argue that advice is dangerous. The rise of Overtime and the hype that’s been built around youth basketball means that flashy dunkers and athletes at big-name schools just end up getting promoted more and more; the ones that don’t do themselves a favor and get their names out there are usually left in the dust.
Towards the end of his junior year, Isaiah finally sought out the help of a close friend who agreed to help make him a 7 minute highlight tape showing off his dunks, handles, and off-ball movement. He published that tape to YouTube, and emailed it to a few major schools around the country.
Kansas came calling not a day later. Maryland, Iowa, TCU, Texas A&M, and Michigan were just some of the schools that followed. That spring, Isaiah became one of the most highly-recruited players in the country and shot up into 247 Sport’s Top 100. The art of reaching out to coaches and getting your name out there is something that isn’t talked about much nowadays, but it’s vital to making sure you’re giving yourself your best shot at recruiting.
Now before you say, “Well what about being good at basketball? And your diet? And working out?” I’m not saying those aren’t important - obviously they are. But those are prereqs. That’s what you need to play the recruiting game, but to win at it, you need something different: you need to market yourself. Here’s Isaiah’s advice on how he would go about contacting coaches:
Get your friends and family to make a 3-5 minute highlight tape. Depending on how much you play per game, this might need to be over a span of many games, and if possible, over an entire season. Cutting this up and showing off the best parts of your game will be hard work, but it will be worth it. Pro Tip: separate the video into segments (first show off handles, then passes, then shooting, etc.).
You can put some up-beat music behind it but it doesn’t really matter. High quality footage is definitely better, but footage from a smartphone camera nowadays should be totally fine. Upload this tape to YouTube and title it something like “[Player Name] [School] [Year] [Position] Highlights” and in the description, write a small blurb with that same information and a little description about your game (i.e crafty ball handler, slashing wing, stretch big-man, etc.).
Come up with a list of 20-30 colleges you’d be interested in playing at (I’d recommend finding even more if you have the time). These don’t all have to be D1 programs; playing D2 or JUCO is just fine and for many people, it’s exactly what they’re looking for. Just remember, keep your options open: there are over 350 D1 basketball programs alone, so don’t limit your options when you don’t have to.
Go down your list and look up the email of the associate or one of the assistant coaches at that school. You can literally look up “[School Name] basketball coaches email”. Write a quick 2 paragraph email to either of those coaches, introduce yourself and write a little blurb similar to your YouTube video description, and just express your interest in playing for their school one day.
If you can, mention a specific thing about their school so they know you did your research. Even a small thing like that can really make you stand out. For example, if there’s a current player on their roster who you think your game is similar to, mention that! Or if they just had a big conference win, congratulate them on that and mention you were watching!
Include the URL to your YouTube tape, and send a friendly follow-up email if you don’t hear anything back in a week or two.
Recruiting is insanely tough, especially mentally. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, especially when you see others getting offers left and right and you wonder, “why isn’t that happening to me?”
Like most things in life, it’s usually easier when you’re surrounded by mentors who’ve done what you’re trying to do and with people who have the same goals as you. Isaiah himself is teaching a small group live masterclass here on Dualete in a few weeks.
He now plays basketball at Michigan and wants to help pass down the knowledge that would have made his life so much easier, so you don’t make the same mistakes he does, and you can take advantages of the shortcuts that he wishes he knew.
You can put down your email on our home page if you want to be updated when it drops: https://www.dualete.com. Spots will be limited to the first 15 registrants so definitely put down your email if you think you’ll be interested!
Take your game to the next level with little-known advice from the best D1 college athletes in basketball, hockey, and more.