What Are the Odds of Competing in Men’s Professional 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.

On average only 1% of high school participants go on to play DI-DIII college basketball


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
551,373 18,816 3.4% 1.0% 1.0% 1.4%


Sources: High school figures from the 2017-18 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations; data from club teams not included. College numbers from the NCAA 2017-18 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.


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% 21.3%
  • NBA draft data from 2018.  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. Since 2008, 11 international players have been drafted on average each year.


  • On 2018-19 opening day NBA rosters, former NCAA Division I players filled 83% of roster spots.  Two NBA players attended non-Division I colleges.  (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 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 NBA draftees to calculate an approximate NCAA to Total Professional opportunities figure (calculated as [52 + 839] / 4,181 = 21%).


  • We estimate that 4.2% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2018 NBA draft (52 / 1,230).  However, in total, 53% of draft-eligible Division I players competed professionally (NBA, G-League or internationally) in their first year after leaving college (calculated as [52 + 606] / 1,230). Approximately 17% 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 2018 (38 / 228), while 80% played professionally somewhere in their first year post-college (calculated as [38 + 144] / 228).


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