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Men's Basketball

When we survey NCAA student-athletes about their expectations of moving on to professional athletics careers, the results indicate surprising confidence in that possibility. The reality is that very few go pro.

Estimated probability of competing in men's college basketball

High School Participants NCAA Participants Overall % HS to NCAA % HS to NCAA Division I % HS to NCAA Division II % HS to NCAA Division III
541,479 18,697 3.5% 1.0% 1.0% 1.4%

Sources: High school figures from the 2014-15 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. College numbers from the NCAA NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report

Estimated probability of competing in men's professional basketball

NCAA Participants Approximate # Draft Eligible # Draft Slots # NCAA Drafted % NCAA to Major Pro* % NCAA to Total Pro^
18,697 4,155 60 46 1.1% 12.2%
  • NBA draft data from 2015.  There were 60 draft slots in that year, but only 46 went to NCAA players (others chosen were international players not attending U.S. colleges).  Percentage NCAA to Major Pro calculated using the 46 NCAA selections. Since 2006, 12 international players have been drafted on average each year.
  • On 2015-16 opening day NBA rosters, former NCAA players filled 81% of roster spots (all but two from Division I schools).  (Source: Jim Sukup, College Basketball News).
  • Data on other professional opportunities in men’s basketball were collected by NCAA staff with the assistance of Marek Wojtera from eurobasket.com.  Tracking 2014 international opportunities for the 2013 draft cohort and 2015 D-League opportunities for the 2014 draft cohort, it was determined that an additional 459 former NCAA student-athletes played internationally or in the NBA D-League (343 from Division I, 89 from Division II and 27 from Division III) after leaving college.  These numbers were combined with the NBA draftees to calculate an approximate NCAA to Total Professional opportunities figure (calculated as [46 + 459] / 4,155 = 12.2%).   
  • We estimate that 3.8% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2015 NBA draft (46 / 1,207).  However, in total, 32% of draft-eligible Division I players competed professionally (NBA, D-League, or internationally) in their first year after leaving college (calculated as [46 + 343] / 1,207). Approximately 16% of draft-eligible players from the five Division I conferences with autonomous governance (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) were drafted by the NBA in 2015 (36 / 228), while 57% played professionally somewhere in their first year post-college (calculated as [36 + 94] / 228).

Percent NCAA to Major Pro figures are based on the number of available draft slots in the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL and MLS drafts only.  See methods notes for important details on the definition of NHL draftee in men’s ice hockey.  Column percentages were calculated as (#NCAA Drafted) / (Approximate # Draft Eligible).

Percent NCAA to Total Pro takes the number of pro opportunities from the “% NCAA to Major Pro” calculation and adds in some additional professional opportunities that we were able to quantify.  So, for football, this calculation includes NFL, Canadian Football League and Arena League slots available to first-year professionals.  For men’s basketball we accounted for NBA, NBA D-League and international opportunities.  For women’s basketball, we assessed WNBA and international roster slots.  See methods notes for details on these calculations.  Data on full-time international professional opportunities available in baseball, men’s ice hockey and men’s soccer were not analyzed here.  

Last Updated: April 25, 2016