NCAA I Men's Basketball - Height & Player Demographics Scholarship
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The characteristic most commonly attributed to basketball players is height, and lets face it, basketball players tend to be on the taller side. But how tall? We crunched the numbers on all players listed on NCAA I men's team rosters for the 2016-17 season and here's what we came up with: The average height was just under 6'5 and the most common listed height was 6'7.

And for statistical nerds like us, we were elated to find the data resulted in a near perfect bell curve:

In total we compiled data on 5,341 players from 351 men's teams competing at the NCAA I division level. The shortest player listed on team rosters was Junior Robinson,  a 5'5 All Conference guard at Mount St. Mary's,  and the tallest player was Tacko Fall, a 7'6 center at the University of Central Florida:

NCAA I Players 2016-17 NCAA I Players 2016-17 NCAA I Players 2016-17
Height # % 2016-17 Height # % 2016-17 Height # %
5'5 1 0.0% 6'1 337 6.3% 6'9 367 6.9%
5'6 1 0.0% 6'2 472 8.8% 6'10 242 4.5%
5'7 6 0.1% 6'3 493 9.2% 6'11 115 2.2%
5'8 27 0.5% 6'4 532 10.0% 7'0 62 1.2%
5'9 34 0.6% 6'5 508 9.5% 7'1 23 0.4%
5'10 127 2.4% 6'6 482 9.0% 7'2 10 0.2%
5'11 136 2.5% 6'7 544 10.2% 7'3-7'4 2 0.0%
6'0 276 5.2% 6'8 543 10.2% 7'6 1 0.0%

International players make up about 11% of NCAA I men's basketball rosters, but account for a disproportionately higher percentage of players 6'8 and above,  and nearly half of all players 7' or above. On the reverse side, NCAA I athletes from overseas account for a disproportionately smaller percentage of players 6'6 and shorter:

While the most common listed height for all NCAA I players was 6'7, the most common listed height for US born players was 6'4 and the most common listed height for international players was significantly higher at 6'8.
 
It's important to note these are listed heights, and there is a fair amount of "stature inflation" going around these days. While a doctor may measure your height barefoot, basketball heights these days appear to often include shoes. A well publicized example of this is NBA all star forward Kevin Love, who since his UCLA days has been consistently listed at 6'10. However at the NBA pre-draft camp, Mr. Love was measured (without shoes) at the relatively stubby altitude of 6'73/4 per this ESPN article.

NBA Center Dwight Howard (below left) is listed at 6'11,  but how does he stack up to all-time great Bill Russell who was listed at a paltry 6'9 during his Boston Celtic playing days ... which ended 40 years before this photo was taken? You decide:

 

So why do already tall guys need to be listed as being even taller? One reason likely begins in high school: taller players are going to stand out to college scouts and recruiters more so than shorter players. Of course when a scout or recruiter actually sees a player in person  they will see their real height,  but it's also not likely they're going to whip out a tape measure on the spot to determine exactly how tall (or not) the prospect really is. Listed roster heights can impact the initial perception of a player during the recruiting process, and there is a fair amount of standing on tippy toes going on in that regard.

 

Tale of the Tape: 2018 NBA Combine

Players who participate in the NBA draft combine go through a series of measurements including height with and without shoes. Here are the results of those measurements for the 2018 first rounds picks who participated in the combine:

Player Height w/o Shoes Height w/ Shoes Listed Height
Grayson Allen  6' 3'' 6' 4.5'' 6'5"
Mohamed Bamba  6' 11.25'' 7' 0.75'' 6'11"
Miles Bridges  6' 5.25'' 6' 6.75'' 6'7"
Troy Brown  6' 5.75'' 6' 6.75'' 6'7"
Wendell Carter  6' 8.75'' 6' 10'' 6'10"
Donte DiVincenzo  6' 3.5'' 6' 4.5'' 6'5"
Jacob Evans 6' 4.25'' 6' 5.5'' 6'6"
Aaron Holiday 5' 11.75'' 6' 0.75'' 6'1"
Kevin Huerter  6' 6.25'' 6' 7.25'' 6'6"
Jaren Jackson  6' 9.75'' 6' 11.25'' 6'11"
Kevin Knox 6' 7.75'' 6' 9'' 6'9"
Josh Okogie 6' 3'' 6' 4.5'' 6'5"
Michael Porter  Jr. 6' 9.5'' 6' 10.75'' 6'11"
Jerome Robinson  6' 4'' 6' 5'' 6'5"
Collin Sexton  6' 0.5'' 6' 1.5'' 6'2"
Landry Shamet  6' 4'' 6' 5.25'' 6'5"
Anfernee Simons  6' 2.25'' 6' 3.25'' 6'3"
Zhaire Smith  6' 2.75'' 6' 4'' 6'5"
Omari Spellman  6' 8'' 6' 9.25'' 6'9"
Moritz Wagner  6' 10.5'' 6' 11.5'' 7'0"
Lonnie Walker  6' 3.75'' 6' 4.5'' 6'4"
Trae Young  6' 0.5'' 6' 1.75'' 6'2"
 

 

Odds of Playing NCAA I Basketball by State:

551,373 boys played on US High School basketball teams during the 2017-18 season, while only 4,577 US players were listed on NCAA I  rosters in the prior year. So the overall odds of a US High School player making an NCAA roster is less than 1%  (0.83% to be exact) or roughly 120:1

The odds vary significantly depending on where you compete in High School. The odds of playing D1 are much higher if you are from basketball hotbeds such as Washington DC (33:1) and Maryland (35:1) , not so good if you're from some other states where the odds of playing D1 may be over 500:1 Here is the summary of our 2018 analysis:
Odds of Playing NCAA I   Total HS   Total D1  %  of HS players   
Men's Basketball 2018  Players Players on NCAA I teams Odds
District of Columbia 1,045 32 3.06% 33:1
Maryland  5,650 162 2.87% 35:1
North Carolina 11,063 231 2.09% 48:1
Virginia 9,387 164 1.75% 57:1
Georgia 13,021 225 1.73% 58:1
Louisiana 7,890 121 1.53% 65:1
Tennessee 9,034 124 1.37% 73:1
Indiana 11,111 143 1.29% 78:1
New York 20,078 246 1.23% 82:1
Florida 22,262 250 1.12% 89:1
Illinois 24,244 272 1.12% 89:1
South Carolina 6,720 71 1.06% 95:1
Nevada 3,057 32 1.05% 96:1
Arkansas 5,446 54 0.99% 101:1
Utah 3,883 37 0.95% 105:1
Kentucky 7,061 66 0.93% 107:1
New Jersey 15,365 143 0.93% 107:1
Ohio 23,111 193 0.84% 120:1
California 47,584 384 0.81% 124:1
Delaware 1,775 14 0.79% 127:1
West Virginia 3,140 24 0.76% 131:1
Mississippi 8,720 66 0.76% 132:1
Connecticut 5,374 40 0.74% 134:1
Pennsylvania 21,660 150 0.69% 144:1
Arizona 8,551 55 0.64% 155:1
Alabama 13,698 87 0.64% 157:1
Odds of Playing NCAA I   Total HS   Total D1  % of HS players  
Men's Basketball 2018  Players Players on NCAA I teams Odds
Colorado 9,204 58 0.63% 159:1
Texas 65,977 408 0.62% 162:1
Washington 12,023 74 0.62% 162:1
Michigan 21,367 122 0.57% 175:1
Missouri 14,313 79 0.55% 181:1
Kansas 8,829 46 0.52% 192:1
Vermont 823 4 0.49% 206:1
Oregon 7,620 37 0.49% 206:1
New Hampshire 2,542 12 0.47% 212:1
New Mexico 4,111 19 0.46% 216:1
Wisconsin 14,343 66 0.46% 217:1
Montana 3,410 15 0.44% 227:1
Idaho 3,824 16 0.42% 239:1
Minnesota 13,847 56 0.40% 247:1
Oklahoma 10,093 40 0.40% 252:1
Massachusetts 12,763 49 0.38% 260:1
Rhode Island 1,847 6 0.32% 308:1
Iowa 11,441 36 0.31% 318:1
Nebraska 7,208 22 0.31% 328:1
Hawaii 1,727 4 0.23% 432:1
Alaska 2,258 4 0.18% 565:1
Maine 3,536 6 0.17% 589:1
South Dakota 3,567 6 0.17% 595:1
Wyoming 1,793 3 0.17% 598:1
North Dakota 2,977 3 0.10% 992:1
         
So do hotbeds really matter? In the end maybe not significantly, a talented and motivated high school player is likely going to land on a college team somewhere assuming his or her grades and test scores meet school standards. But a question that often arises for a high school player is how good am I really? If you are competing in a "hotbed" area you have a better chance of playing with and against top tier talent more often than if you are competing in a non-hotbed area. Playing on the same court with elite players is the best way for a player to gauge whether he or she really has the ability to compete at the highest level. And playing with and/or against top level talent  requires players to step up all aspects of their game in order to compete.

Since scouts and recruiters typically spend more time watching games in hotbed areas than in non-hotbed areas, a player in a hotbed area will likely have greater exposure to college representatives. It's not uncommon that a college scout goes to watch a highly touted prospect play and leaves the game impressed by a different player who happened to be playing in the same game.

 

NCAA Men's Basketball Demographics

The NCAA maintains and publishes reports on racial make-up of participants within its divisions. The following graphs and tables were compiled  from the NCAA reporting for the 2015-16 season for the three Men's basketball divisions. "Other" includes other races, players listing two or more races, some international players and unclassified players:
     

 
# of Players        NCAA I NCAA II NCAA III Percentages NCAA I NCAA II NCAA III
                 
White 1,358 1,856 4,362 White 24.8% 34.1% 56.2%
Black 3,153 2,754 2,515 Black 57.6% 50.5% 32.4%
Other 961 840 885 Other 17.6% 15.4% 11.4%
Totals 5,472 5,450 7,762 Totals 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

There is some correlation between the racial make-up of players and the odds of playing NCAA I by state above. However there are a myriad of other factors involved, including the fact that some sports are just more popular in some states than others. For example Massachusetts produces a disproportionately higher percentage of lacrosse players than it does in basketball. Minnesota is near the bottom of our basketball hotbed listing but is hands down the US hotbed for producing NCAA I hockey players.

 

 
 
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Statistics edited by Patrick O'Rourke, CPA   Washington, DC