I’ve always seen this month, April, as possibly one of the most nerve-wracking times for high school seniors. The feelings of stress/anxiety may all take place because this becomes the time when most make their decisions for the next chapter after graduation. For the hoopers, this is especially true, as I’m starting to see many guys sign their college commitment papers as the days continue on during the month. I can relate, as I remember making my college decision near the end of my senior year back in April 2014. It’s often a busy period of time with a stretch that brings some enjoyment but more than likely satisfies once completed. This time of commitments constantly taking place also led to my thinking of another widely-discussed topic: how do private and public schools fare against each other in terms of players receiving opportunities to play basketball at the next level (across all levels)? Most have been debating this argument for years now. My goal isn’t to make things any spicier than they already are, but the entire situation nonetheless intrigues.
If using a quick glance, we can acknowledge several facts about private school basketball. Overall, private schools tend to have some of the highest-ranked programs and players in the country. If you look at players who hold dozens of scholarship offers, the majority of them attend private school. However, I would advise others to consider other factors as well. During my first year as a scout for high school basketball, I noticed more college prospects emerged out of public school programs than private school in the Richmond, VA area. Granted, two of Richmond’s top players this past season played private school basketball and are placed in the ESPN top-100 for high school hoops and hold some of the highest offers. Still, if looking at the numbers, the public school side finished victorious in producing the most players with offers that include all levels. In addition, eight of the area’s top-ten ranked teams, by the ‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’ newspaper, were public schools.
This leads to more pondering. Is the thought of private school being superior in leading to attaining college basketball opportunities proving as more of a fallacy? Focusing more specifically on my area of Richmond, VA, did this past high school season show public schools will continue to rise up? Answers, of course, will always vary depending on who’s asked. So, I decided to go around and conduct a small survey of my own; branching out the topic to both local players and coaches.
*Photos by Kwame Olds Photography
The Public School Perspective
Joe Bamisile ’20 – Monacan High School (North Chesterfield, VA)
One of the hottest topics in the 804 this past winter, Joe “The Show,” as I call him, returned to his hometown (after spending the past year at powerhouse Montverde Academy) and put on an absolute… well, show. Having attended private school in both Richmond and Florida for his underclassmen years, Bamisile surprised many when he made the jump to public school for his junior year. It all resulted in his favor, as the 6’4” guard exploded on the scene and led Richmond in scoring at nearly 29 points a game. College coaches came knocking at his door; Virginia Tech, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and Miami are just a few of the schools that offered him during the high school season. Earlier this week (4/17), he verbally committed to Northwestern University. In all, I felt Bamisile served as this year’s best representation that one can receive high-major looks playing for a public school program.
Joe: “Often, people use their current situation as an excuse as to why they aren’t where they want to be. I personally believe in maximizing every situation, including those times that seem like they can’t possibly work out, because that is always when there’s the most to gain. This year I went to Monacan and experienced more success there compared to any other school I’ve attended. That has something to do with the opportunity I was given, and also the work I put in day in and day out to be ready for that same opportunity. Going to a private school can be good for you if you’re trying to improve athletically or academically, but both of those things are present at public schools too. You just have to do more if you are expecting more.”
Jamon Battle ’19 – L.C. Bird High School (Chesterfield, VA)
A public school attendee for his entire high school career, Battle kept his focus to excel as one of the state’s best two-sport athletes. He gave opponents trouble on both the gridiron and the hardwood. Nonetheless, the latter has always been the one he sees taking him furthest down the road. With his elite athleticism and leading his Skyhawks as one of the area’s best teams, Battle saw his recruitment expand to a total of 18 offers. In early March, he cut his list to a ‘final five’ of James Madison, Murray State, Hampton, Hofstra, and Norfolk State. I heard that he plans to make a decision quite soon.
Jamon: “I think if you have the talent, a helpful coaching staff, and keep up with your grades, then you should have the same opportunity as anybody else in any situation; private or public. It’s about the work you put in and the people you know.
The Private School Perspective
Chris Rogers ’19 – Blue Ridge School (St. George, VA)
Rogers pretty much took the opposite direction compared to Bamisile, as he joined the renowned Blue Ridge basketball squad for his last two upperclassmen years of after having spent time in public school. Acting as a floor general for a team that finds themselves deep in the state tournament year after year, Rogers had a solid junior campaign but saved his best for last this past winter. Blue Ridge won the state tournament and their 6’0” lead guard took home the 2019 Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division II State Player of the Year award. The unsigned senior’s recruitment has seen a big increase over the last year, with plenty of Division II programs that have either offered or expressed interest.
Chris: “It’s definitely different, depending on each school. For me, coming into one of the best programs in the country, I had the opportunity to compete with Division I-level players in workouts and in practice every day. I improved a lot, which helped me in my recruitment. But, in playing for Blue Ridge and under Coach Lemcke, we play against high level talent throughout the year in our division and in events against other top teams. As well as the strength of our schedule, Blue Ridge’s reputation and our coaches’ relationship with college coaches is really a blessing that helps out a ton in the recruiting process. It’s sometimes harder for public school kids to get seen due to the talent they’re playing with/ against, but that can be overcome with how hard you are working to get better and how well you perform in AAU. I’ve always stayed true to the fact that if your work ethic is there, playing at the next level will work out. For me, the move to Blue Ridge helped me greatly in my development as well as my recruitment.”
Robbie Beran ’19 – Collegiate School (Richmond, VA)
The 6’9” Beran, who’s an ESPN top-100 prospect and signed on to play for Northwestern next season, shares a similar pathway to Rogers. He too decided to give a shot at the private school life for his remaining two years, which wound up in him taking an exceptional boost in his basketball circumstances. Beran went from little-known prospect to one of Virginia’s best after entering the Collegiate program. Prior to the start of his junior campaign, he held three Division I offers. About a year later, he had collected 41. Most in the area will agree that they haven’t seen one blow up in a manner like Beran for a long time now. Scary part is, he’s far from finished; realizing that more work can and will take place.
Robbie: “I honestly don’t think there’s a big difference in college recruitment; public vs. private. I believe that everything works out how it’s supposed to be; doing it the right way. Regardless of where you play, it is the job of college coaches to find talent/ pieces that best support their program. It’s not always about who can score the most points, but perfecting your own niche. In my own opinion, the expansion of my recruitment did not fall in where I played. I am grateful for Collegiate welcoming me in with open arms and just how much support I’ve received in my short time there. Collegiate provided a way for me to get an extra year of continued development in the classroom (exploring some different courses) and on the court. So, overall, I don’t think public vs. private school really matters for college recruitment; most of that came during the summer live periods.”
What Other Coaches Have to Say
Similar to the high school players, other coaches from around Virginia have polarizing views of the topic at hand, based off of my survey:
- “I don’t really think college coaches pay attention to what type of school a kid comes from, except that they prefer a kid from a program with a proven culture of winning and player development.”
- “Private school might have a slight edge because of the high academics that help players survive academically in college, as well as the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament that helps get the kid(s) seen.
- “If you are a player who transfers and plays for a private school that provides you with all the advantages in the recruitment process, that is great. If you have a coach who develops you as a player, but more importantly as a person, that is great. If you have a coach who has many college contacts, and he utilizes this for your advantage, that is great. BUT, my point is that all of things I just listed can AND do happen in public school programs.”
- “Recruitment of private school players is up right now because of a few key factors: competitive schedule, competitive players, exposure, and the freedom to possibly play against some of the best “known” private school programs. I have personally had a few college coaches mention the level of competition and competitiveness being higher in local private school play than public school; specifically the DMV. I understand this is not the case in the Richmond and Tidewater areas, as public school play is just as high of not better down there.”
- “There are benefits to both private and public schools. But to transfer out of your public school program does not automatically equate to successful recruitment to the next level. In fact, I believe the perfect scenario for a kid who grew up in a county/city and went to that county/city school all his life, is to help build and win banners that will last forever with other kids he grew up with. In addition, while that is happening, the kid will benefit from a winning program he grew up in, and also reap the benefits of a public school program in relation to being recruited for the next level.”
- “It doesn’t depend on the type of school, but whoever generally gets college-level talent in their high school program. College coaches are more likely to have developed a relationship with those coaches.”
- “This question has a simple, but complex answer. Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron, but it’s true. The simple answer is this: if you are good enough in high school to play at the next level, you will be recruited. Now…how, when, and where you are being recruited is the question. Some may believe a college prospect must transfer to a private school for a better recruitment situation. That may be true in some aspects, but I am biased. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”
By now, you’re probably wondering, “what’s the consensus, then? Private or Public?” To tell you the truth, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Personally, I feel recruitment’s based on several factors. Playing in the right environment and surrounding yourself around others who hold your best interest play two of the most important roles, in my opinion. It’s not solely about what type of school you play for. Yes, advantages definitely come with playing in certain big-time showcases that private schools tend to partake in. Still, I’ve seen college coaches in attendance for tournaments of both schools. I see this quote often and feel it makes the most sense: “if you’re good enough, they will find you.” I’ll leave it at that.
What’s your opinion?