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.

 

Which states are the hotbeds for producing NCAA I basketball players?

We mapped out the listed home states of all US players who appeared on NCAA I men's basketball rosters during the 2016-17 season. We came up with a "placement factor" based on each state's population. While you would  generally expect a state to produce roughly the same percentage of NCAA I  players as its population percentage (i.e. 1:1) , we found that the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states plus Illinois and Indiana produced NCAA I players at the highest  ratios (i.e. > 1.0), whereas most western and plains states produced NCAA I players at a rate less than their population percentage (i.e. < 1.0):
 

           
2016-17 NCAA I  % of NCAA % of US Placement
Ranking State  Players  Players  Population  Factor
1 Louisiana 128 2.7% 1.5% 1.85
2 Maryland / DC 196 4.1% 2.3% 1.80
3 North Carolina 244 5.1% 3.1% 1.64
4 Georgia 242 5.1% 3.2% 1.60
5 Indiana 149 3.1% 2.1% 1.52
6 Illinois 276 5.8% 4.0% 1.45
7 Mississippi 64 1.3% 0.9% 1.44
8 Virginia 173 3.6% 2.6% 1.39
9 Tennessee 127 2.7% 2.1% 1.30
10 Arkansas 56 1.2% 0.9% 1.27
11 Alabama 86 1.8% 1.5% 1.19
12 Kansas 50 1.0% 0.9% 1.16
13 Ohio 197 4.1% 3.6% 1.14
14 Delaware 16 0.3% 0.3% 1.14
15 South Carolina 81 1.7% 1.5% 1.12
16 New Jersey 148 3.1% 2.8% 1.12
17 Kentucky 70 1.5% 1.4% 1.07
18 Texas 419 8.8% 8.5% 1.03
19 West Virginia 25 0.5% 0.6% 0.92
20 Nevada 39 0.8% 0.9% 0.91
21 Florida 263 5.5% 6.3% 0.88
22 Utah 38 0.8% 0.9% 0.86
23 New York 251 5.3% 6.2% 0.86
24 Nebraska 24 0.5% 0.6% 0.85
25 Missouri 77 1.6% 1.9% 0.85
2016-17 NCAA I  % of NCAA % of US Placement
Ranking State  Players  Players  Population  Factor
26 Pennsylvania 162 3.4% 4.0% 0.85
27 Wisconsin 73 1.5% 1.8% 0.85
28 Michigan 119 2.5% 3.1% 0.81
29 Connecticut 43 0.9% 1.1% 0.81
30 Minnesota 64 1.3% 1.7% 0.79
31 Montana 12 0.3% 0.3% 0.78
32 Oklahoma 45 0.9% 1.2% 0.78
33 Colorado 60 1.3% 1.7% 0.74
34 Iowa 34 0.7% 1.0% 0.73
35 Washington 77 1.6% 2.2% 0.72
36 California 394 8.3% 12.2% 0.68
37 Idaho 16 0.3% 0.5% 0.65
38 Oregon 37 0.8% 1.3% 0.62
39 Arizona 62 1.3% 2.1% 0.61
40 Rhode Island 9 0.2% 0.3% 0.58
41 New Mexico 17 0.4% 0.6% 0.55
42 Massachusetts 55 1.2% 2.1% 0.55
43 New Hampshire 10 0.2% 0.4% 0.51
44 Wyoming 4 0.1% 0.2% 0.46
45 Maine 9 0.2% 0.4% 0.46
46 South Dakota 5 0.1% 0.3% 0.39
47 Alaska 4 0.1% 0.2% 0.37
48 North Dakota 4 0.1% 0.2% 0.36
49 Vermont 2 0.0% 0.2% 0.22
50 Hawaii 4 0.1% 0.4% 0.19

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 basketball hotbeds map above. Many of the states with higher percentages of NCAA I players also have a higher percentage of black residents compared to states with lower percentages of NCAA I players - i.e.  southeastern states compared to western and plains states. However there are a myriad of other factors involved, including the fact that some sports are more popular in some states than others.

For example California and Massachusetts produce a disproportionately higher percentage of baseball and lacrosse players respectively than they do in basketball. Minnesota is in the lower half of our basketball hotbed listing but is hands down the US hotbed for producing NCAA I hockey players,whereas Louisiana (#1 on our basketball hotbed list) is the listed home state to no players on 2016-17 NCAA I hockey rosters.

 

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