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Men's Basketball: Probability of competing beyond high school

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
540,769 18,816 3.5% 1.0% 1.0% 1.4%

Sources: High school figures come from the 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.  College numbers are from the NCAA’s 2018-19 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report. These college numbers account for participation in college athletics at NCAA-member schools only.    

Estimated probability of competing in men's professional basketball

NCAA Participants Approximate # Draft Eligible # Draft Picks # NCAA Drafted % NCAA to Major Pro % NCAA to Total Pro
18,816 4,181 60 52 1.2% 21%
  • NBA draft data from 2019.  There were 60 draft slots in that year and 52 went to NCAA players (seven others chosen were international players not attending U.S. colleges and one spent a season at a prep school).  Percentage NCAA to Major Pro calculated using the 52 NCAA selections (calculated as [52 / 4,181 = 1.2%). Since 2009, 11 international players have been drafted on average each year.
  • We estimate that 4.2% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2019 NBA draft (52 / 1,224). Additionally, approximately 18% 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 2019 (41 / 228).
  • On 2019-20 opening day NBA rosters, former NCAA Division I players filled 85% of roster spots.  One NBA player attended a non-Division I college.  (Source: Jim Sukup, College Basketball News).
  • Data on other professional opportunities in men’s basketball were collected in 2019 by NCAA staff with the assistance of Marek Wojtera from eurobasket.com.  Tracking 2018-19 international opportunities for the 2018 draft cohort, it was determined that an additional 839 former NCAA student-athletes played internationally, in the G-League or in the NBA as undrafted players (606 from Division I, 194 from Division II and 39 from Division III) after leaving college; this includes international players who attended NCAA institutions.  These numbers were combined with the 2018 NBA draftees to calculate an approximate NCAA to Total Professional opportunities figure (calculated as [52 + 839] / 4,181 = 21%).
  • We estimate that 53% of the 2018 Division I draft cohort competed professionally (NBA, G-League or internationally) in their first year after leaving college (calculated as [52 + 606] / 1,230). Approximately 80% of the 2018 draft cohort from the five Division I conferences with autonomous governance (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) played professionally somewhere in their first year post-college (calculated as [38 + 144] / 228). 

Last Updated: April 20, 2020