Top 13 Reasons to Play NAIA Basketball

Top 13 Reasons to Play NAIA Basketball

The NAIA (National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics) sometimes gets overlooked as a first option because most players have their hearts set on playing NCAA Division 1. But this is a mistake. You should look beyond just the NCAA – why? This article is about to outline every reason you should consider playing NAIA basketball. If you are only focused on looking to play NCAA D1 level, you are inevitably going to miss out on a variety of different opportunities, offers and experiences. Don’t close yourself off to these types of options, it is always advisable to be as open minded as possible when you are entering the recruitment process.


Here you can access the most up-to-date college basketball openings from college coaches looking for players to fill roster spots

Here’s a quick look at the NAIA

The NAIA is a growing association. As recent as August 2020, the NAIA approved five new schools to join their NAIA association (including Oakland City University who used to be NCAA D2). Many schools across the USA are now contacting the NAIA instead of the NCAA for their college basketball programs. Also, NAIA schools are furthering their recruitment and extending into a larger selection of players than they have done previously. In turn, this has created a higher level of competition with more and more talented players choosing NAIA. The NAIA level definitely offers a competitive alternative to the NCAA so, on that note, lets keep this in mind as we go through the Top 13 Reason you should consider playing NAIA …

REMEMBER: Selecting the right school for you comes down to your own prioritiesmake sure you know what your basketball and academic priorities are!


  1. LONGEVITY & EXPERIENCE: The NAIA is actually the oldest college athletics governing body which was founded in 1937. At one time they were ahead of the NCAA. This should give you confidence in the NAIA because it means they know what they are doing and, can provide you with a very good college basketball experience and education.

2. EACH SCHOOL HAS ITS OWN SAY: The NAIA allows all its schools to handle their own rules and budgets. This is an advantage for you because the schools can work with what they’ve got and do not have to worry about conforming to a set of rules (unlike the NCAA who is very rule driven). This flexibility also extends to your recruitment process because the NAIA is not as strict as the NCAA. There are still rules, but they allow for a more personalized recruitment process with you and the coach.

3. MORE ATTENTION FOCUSED ON THEIR STUDENT-ATHLETES: The NAIA is made up of smaller, private colleges. This is a fantastic environment for you to really get the most out of your basketball coaches and teachers as they will have more time to dedicate to you and your development.

4. A GOOD SELECTION OF SCHOOLS TO CHOOSE FROM: There are roughly 232 NAIA schools that sponsor men’s basketball which have the ability to offer you a great deal and opportunity to play and study in an environment that suits you. The number of schools joining the NAIA have steadily increased in recent years.

5. THEY HAVE A SPECIFIC PROGRAM FOR YOU TO REACH YOUR POTENTIAL: The NAIA Champions of Character® program provides you and the school with specific training of how developing your character matters to your present moment and your future. The NAIA believes it can really change perspectives and is the fuel you need to produce better performances on the court, in the classroom and in your personal relationships.

6. THEY HAVE SOME OF THE BEST SCHOLARSHIPS: NAIA college coaches can offer you a full ride which will allow you to receive a great education, get a spot on the starting roster and allow you balance between basketball and academics in a very competitive environment for basketball. Sometimes they are better than NCAA and a super way to get your education paid for as you play college basketball!

7. RECRUITMENT STARTS EARLIER THAN THE NCAA: This is such an advantage for you, since NAIA start recruiting earlier than NCAA this is something you should take full advantage of and get in there as early as you can. This way you can contact more schools, get establishing relationships with coaches, go on more visits and get yourself more options.

8. NO SIGNING PERIOD OR RULES: NAIA coaches are more flexible. There is no NAIA signing date or deadline. This flexibility alows to to get more than one NAIA offer and allows you to take time to decide which NAIA college you actually want to attend. The NAIA does not regulate the contact between you and a college coach. The NAIA also doesn’t have any recruiting rules, calendars, dead periods, contact restrictions, etc. allowing coaches and players to more freely communicate, and to become more comfortable with the program, the school and athletics staff during the recruiting process.

9. NO RESTRICTIONS – BUILD BETTER RAPPORT: NAIA Coaches have more opportunity to get to know you better and build a good relationship with you. As a freshman you can communicate with coaches immediately. The NAIA does not restrict when and how college coaches can contact recruits. This gives coaches and athletes the opportunity to communicate regularly over the course of your high school career.

10. YOU CAN VISIT AS MANY SCHOOLS AS YOU LIKE: There is no limit on NAIA campuses that you can visit. It is not restricted like the NCAA. You can talk with a lot of different coaches which will help you figure out which school is best fit for you. The NAIA allows you to visit as many campuses as you feel is necessary, to determine what programs are the right fit for you and your goals.

11. YOU GET MORE TIME: You will get more playing time which means you will have more fun and get to compete, you won’t have to sit the bench or redshirt! You will have more free time to generally do other things other than basketball such as focus on your studies, future plans and networking/social activities on campus. You also have less time wasted travelling to games so you wont be forced to do any homework on the bus!

NOTE: NAIA coaches tend to recruit athletes later in their high school career, often during the athlete’s senior year. Why is this? One recruiting strategy of NAIA coaches is to recruit unsigned talent, so they are known to wait until after National Signing Day, when the majority of athletes committing to an NCAA program sign their NLI, to reach out and recruit unsigned high school seniors. 

12. OFFERS YOU A BALANCED COLLEGE EXPERIENCE: If you are looking for an opportunity to balance and succeed at both academics and athletics, then NAIA is a great option. Something often overlooked is the NAIA’s dedication to the Champions of Character initiative, the basketball program offers it’s student athletes a chance to grow in the core values of the NAIA which are: integrity, respect, responsibility, and servant leadership mentality.

13. LESS STRESS AND YOU STILL PLAY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Although the NAIA schools still have intense competitive environments, they often have a much more relaxed schedule in comparission to a Division 1 school. This provides you the student-athlete, a less stressful environment to play and work in. Players in an NAIA program find it easier to succeed academically as well as finding more time to pursue extracurricular activities outside basketball. The NAIA have their own end of the season tournament. The annual NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship is played in Kansas City, Missouri. The single-elimination championship runs through March and is one of college basketball’s toughest tournaments. The national champion has to win four games in a six-day span!

TIP: Take your time, learn, and think. Do not rule out NAIA until you have watched an NAIA game and visited a NAIA school!

Can You Go to the NBA from NAIA Basketball?

A well known player who goes by the name of Scotty Pippen did just that. He made it to the NBA from NAIA and his story is not the one you would first assume. Scotty Pippen (Scotty Maurice Pippen Sr. born September 25, 1965) played for a small NAIA school in his hometown of Arkansas, the University of Central Arkansas. Pippen enjoyed a successful college career but it wasn’t the usual start you would have expected. He didn’t get recruited and he didn’t get an offer of a scholarship. When he first started at Central Arkansas he was a member of the basketball team in the role of equipment manager, not even a player! However, during his freshman year Scotty Pippen ended up making the team as a walk-on and was later able to secure himself a basketball scholarship when one freed up unexpectedly.

When Pippen got to college, he did not immediately make an impact either. But over the years, his transformation on the court was an amazing development. He went on to be named a Consensus NAIA All-American his senior year. During his college career he averaged 23.6 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. After a successful college career, the Chicago Bulls took an interest in Pippen. They decided to trade up for the No. 5 pick to get Pippen from the Seattle Supersonics in the 1987 NBA draft.

He played 17 seasons in the NBA, and won 6 NBA championships with the Bulls. Now, Scotty Pippen is one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time. This goes to show that if you have the talent, if you play NAIA you can still make it to the NBA level as your talent will shine through and, it will attract the NBA scouts.


Here you can access the most up-to-date college basketball openings from college coaches looking for players to fill roster spots