Getting minutes vs sitting on the bench

What situation would you rather be in? Play on a team in a higher league with little to no minutes per game or play on a team in a lower league with a lot of minutes?

Throughout my years playing basketball I was faced with this decision several times and it was a very hard decision to make. There’s a few factors that you have to think about when making this decision. So let’s break them down.


I hate to put this as the main factor for a decision to play basketball for a team. But it does play a big part especially if you are moving to another city, state or even country to play for a basketball team. After all, you have to survive. Uprooting your life isn’t easy and it comes with a whole load of expenses.

You need to ask yourself. If you have to move for a team that is going to have you sit on the bench what will the financial benefits be in the present and future?

  • Is the team paying you?
  • Are they going to find a job for you?
  • By playing on this team, will this set you up to earn money when you do decide to leave the team?

In business terms we call this a Return On Investment (ROI). What is the ROI of you riding the pine for a team in a higher league?

If you decided to play for a team in a lower league where you’ll get a lot of minutes. What would be the outcome there?

  • Will getting the extra minutes help your career in the long run? For example, better stats, more game experience, etc.
  • Is the gap in pay between a team you will get minutes for versus a team you won’t get minutes for a small one?
  • Will the exposure to other clubs playing on a team where you won’t get minutes better than the team you will get minutes for?

Money should never be a deciding factor with basketball but I also understand that people need to survive. When making a decision about money and basketball you need to also be thinking about the future and future capacity to earn money.  

The league

I’m a very competitive person and I love the challenge of going up against great basketball players. Particularly hardened professional basketball players. To me when I start thinking about playing on teams, court time vs no court time, this is the number 1 factor I look at.

I love competition and a good challenge, this why I hung around the Melbourne Tigers for such a long time. The challenge of going up against NBL players on a daily basis really appealed to me. My skills also accelerated at a rate that would never have playing against competition from ABA or Big V players. In my article thanking those whom impacted my basketball career, I spoke about players and coaches that helped me become the basketball player that I am. The thing to note was the players that I thanked in this article were college or NBL basketball players that I used to work out with. The only reason I met them was due to the fact that I was training with the Tigers NBL team. A team for whom I never saw minutes.

To help you decide whether or not to play on a team in a higher league and get little to no minutes here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Will you be a permanent member of the team despite getting little to no game time?
  • What is your work ethic like? Are you willing to put in the hard work to improve?
  • By playing in the higher league will this open other doors to other teams/ leagues?
  • Does the team/ league have a development competition that you can play in and get minutes?

The league you play in makes a big impact on how good you become. But this will only be the case if you have work ethic! Please note that. There’s no point you going and playing on a team that you won’t get minutes for unless you are prepared to put in some major work.

The team

When I am struggling with the decision playing for a team with no minutes v minutes the second factor I look at behind the league is what the team is like?

  • Is your potential team welcoming?
  • Does your teammates respect your skills?
  • Do your teammates share the ball? Hit you if you are open.

Including your teammates are the coaches and staff.

  • Is your coach welcoming?
  • Is your coach willing to put effort into your development?
  • Does the team have a support crew? Physios, trainers, doctors and so on.

When you consider the team you need to look at the bigger view and not focus just on the on court team. Having a good support crew like trainers, physios, doctors, psychologists and nutritionists helps propel your game to the next level. My advice, if your team has access to all of this it’s a safe bet that you are in the elite of elite competitions. This is something the most lower league teams have access to.

Something to note, if you are looking to go with the team that has great support staff but you won’t see minutes. Make sure that the coaching staff give a shit about you! I have had friends get into programs with great support facilities but the coaching staff had nothing to do with their development. Their basketball career went backwards and cut short.

Can you do both?

Is it possible to play on a team in a elite league and get no minutes and play on a lower league team and get a lot of minutes? Yes you can! When I look for a team to play for I look for teams that have the main team and a development team. Most professional teams in Europe have the number 1 team and a number 2 team. The number 1 team will play in the highest competition where the number 2 team will play in a league a couple of tiers down. For example, when I played for Guildford we had a team in the BBL and had a development team in division 2. This meant all the BBL bench players got to play for the division 2 side and get minutes.

The same format was adopted by the Westernport Steelers. We played in the Country Basketball League but our club president entered a team in a domestic basketball competition. It was mandatory for the team including the starting 5 to play at least 6 games in the domestic season. This game a lot of players that were not getting minutes in a CBL game to hone their skills.

My advice

If you are looking to play at the highest level of basketball but still love to play the game my advice is to look for teams that have a 1st and 2nd side. You will get the best of both worlds! You get to train against the best competition and play at a very high level and then be able to play in a lower league and get minutes.

Be realistic! Challenge yourself depending on your skill level. Find that happy balance between competition and being able to contribute. If you overextend into a team that is 3 or 4 leagues beyond you then you might find yourself deflated. Work yourself up to it instead of expecting to make the NBA right now.

Finally, just be happy playing the game. This is the best sport ever so enjoy everything about it. If you find yourself not having fun then the team you are in isn’t for you. Some people like me are ok with not getting a lot of court time and some people want to play full games. It just depends on your personality.

What will you do? Play on a team at the highest level with little to no minutes or play on a team in a lower league with a lot of minutes?

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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