For junior recruits across the country, there is no doubt that taking the time and making the trip to Junior Days is worth it. These are held for football, basketball, baseball, and I am sure other sports as well. The basic definition of a recruiting Junior Day is where a college brings in a number of their sought after recruits in the current junior class.
Bringing these juniors allows the athletes to see the school, meet the coaches, get a tour of the facilities, and learn more about the program in general. Because it is still early in the recruiting process for these juniors, it is a good time to get to know some of the coaches and learn more about them and what their school has to offer.
Even with Signing Day 2014 getting closer, college programs are starting to send out invites for their Junior Days. If these invites are sent out during the winter, chances are good that the coaches will take the recruits to a basketball game as well. What this does for the recruits is it gives them a chance to see what the fan support of the school is all about.
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As far as numbers go, some Junior Days will have fifteen recruits or less while others may bring in over fifty high school athletes. From the perspective of a recruit, the smaller the group, the better. This shows that you are one of their elite prospects and that they will give you a serious look during the next twelve months.
Here is a good example of the difference in invites for Junior Days. Both of these schools are in the same state but they took a completely different approach to inviting kids for Junior Days. One school ended up inviting a handful of kids in-state and some other major Division I athletes from the surrounding states. After following these kids after that visit and eventually making college decisions, only a few in-state athletes ended up at the school that had invited them. However, everyone of them signed a Letter of Intent and ended up with a scholarship at the next level. Some were other Division I-A schools, I-AA schools, and one was even Division II. But this shows that at a place like this, getting an invite really does mean a great deal.
The other in-state school focused primarily on bringing in-state kids to their school. Even though the coach had been there a while and could have had a good feel for the top prospects in State, they invited over one hundred players to the event. The problem with this mass invite is that many of them were not big enough for the Division I level (6-foot-1, 200 pound defensive lineman for one). It was probably fun for the kid to get a chance to see the facilities but the percentage of him getting a scholarship there was very, very low. Many of the players at this event ended up playing Division III football and only a small number went on to play at that school. This coaching staff took the wide net approach to the Junior Day while the other was ahead of the ball game and knew what kids they were going to evaluate further.
While I think a Junior Day invite is a good thing, how good it is really depends on the school. You need to factor in how many other recruits are there and if they are highly rated. If you have questions about what level you can play at in college, that alone should help you figure it out.
Usually a school will hold a Junior Day at one of two times. The first is during the winter where they can bring the recruits on campus. They get a tour, get fed, and they could eventually go to a basketball game if the team is at home. If they are playing at home recruits will be given court side seats so you can see the game up close and get a chance to see the fans as well.
The other time Junior Days happen is when spring football practices are in session. Some schools allow recruits to sit in on their position meetings during the spring practices. If you are a quarterback recruit, you will get to see what the other quarterbacks go through everyday in a normal practice situation. As a high school recruit, it is a great chance to see what the college game is all about. There is no doubt that you will be impressed because these are likely the players at the school that you have been watching on TV during the last few years.
My overall thoughts on Junior Days is that you should go. Outside of a potential lengthy travel, there is no reason not to. They give you a chance to see the school, learn more about the program, and likely get a free meal. Some schools are more prone to offer scholarships but don’t be surprised if you hear the phrase, “keep working hard and we want to evaluate you at our summer camp.”