Difference between college and professional basketball leagues

Not too many people realise the difference between college basketball and professional basketball. In most cases these leagues are very different.But no one ever ask me how they are different.

Young basketball players these days believe if they go play college basketball there’s a natural transition into professional basketball. Nothing can be further than that. I have had friends play in the starting line up in Division 1 teams and not ever get a pro contract.

It is important if your dream is to play professional basketball someday that you know the difference between college and professional basketball.


The age of the players when you compare college to professional basketball is very different. College basketball players are between the ages of 17-23 usually but with the pros the range of ages is large, from around 16 to 45 depending on the league.

Players at the college level in most cases have not yet grown into their bodies. If you watch NCAA games a lot of the players are very talented but really skinny. Whereas the pro basketball players have filled out and very strong.

With maturity comes the understanding of your body and when you are in your early 20’s to your mid 30’s you are at your peak fitness and strength. Basketball players peak around 27-28 and again around 32-33 if they are injury free.

Please understand what I have just discussed is from the male viewpoint. Female basketball players range from 16 to 35 mark because some have kids. This dramatically decreases the playing time of a female basketball player. Rightfully so, having a child is the hardest thing a human body goes through.


The athleticism between college and the professional basketball ranks varies. If you are comparing the athleticism of the NBA to the college game we all know that the NBA is more athletic.

Comparing NCAA D1 to some professional basketball leagues in Europe, that’s another story. Some of the smaller national leagues like the Irish or Latvian leagues will not be as athletic or to a high standard as NCAA D1. However, the bigger leagues like the Spanish, Turkish and Greek leagues are a different story. Some of the top teams in these leagues are NBA standard.

With the pros the speed of the game is different. From my days playing in England, I noticed that the players were not more skilled or faster than college players, but had the ability to vary their speeds. For example, players don’t go on flat out sprints every time down the floor. They will bring the ball up with composure then sprint past their player and in some cases pull the ball back. It’s commonly referred to by commentators as a player having different gears.

Basketball IQ

Basketball IQ is one of the biggest differentiators of a college and professional basketball player. You just can’t beat experience. In a few of my articles I have discussed the fact that I work out with the younger generation of basketball players. I have also worked out in recent time with some soon to be professional basketball players. Even at my age I am able to beat most of them. Why? It all comes down to experience and knowing how to deal with certain situations.

The basketball IQ’s of pro basketball players that have been playing for 10+ years is quite amazing. The way they read the game and the way they move to free themselves for easy points is a thing of beauty. With experienced basketball players comes dirty tricks so be warned. It’s frustrating when they use these ticks and the refs don’t see it.

Basketball IQ comes with experience and that takes years but there’s a quick hack where you can gain this valuable experience quickly. Get yourself a basketball mentor. Someone has done what you hope to one day do. A mentor can help you learn these ticks and you can implement it into your game immediately.

Training Sessions

When I tell people that professional basketball training sessions are not as intense as college, people never believe me. But it’s true! To date, I am yet to have a basketball training session harder than what I had at Solano.

The reason why professional basketball training sessions are not as intense as college is due to the playing schedule. Professional teams have to travel hundreds of kilometres to play games and in some cases you’ll have to play 3 games a week. When I played for Guildford we’s have a couple season games and a cup game all in a week.

The NBA schedule is far more jam packed so it is impossible to maintain intense training sessions. Otherwise athletes bodies will break down.

Here’s what my average weekly schedule was when I played.

  • 2 to 3 games a week
  • Recovery sessions
  • 3 to 4 training sessions during the week. 2 of which were at high intensity (nothing compared to college) the other 1 or 2 trainings were light sessions shooting and running plays.
  • Multiple physio sessions
  • Travel

Difference between college and professional basketball

Comparing college to the pro basketball game is too general. It’s too general as professional basketball leagues around the world vary dramatically in standard. There are some European leagues with teams that can compete and at times beat NBA teams then there are national leagues no better than a very good A grade domestic competition in Australia.

From a general overview, these are the factors that stood out most for me when I played in England. It’s something I wish I knew as a younger basketball player to prepare myself. I hope this in someway prepare you for your dreams of going pro.

It could be you that people watch on TV playing basketball

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I am an average basketball player that has been fortunate enough to play professionally around the world. Click here to find out how I can help you achieve your dream of playing basketball overseas.

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