Try-outs, Player Evaluations & Squad Selection


"It’s all about the players, not the coach."

On the professional level, player evaluation is a high stake endeavor with millions of dollars involved. Physical abilities and skills are of the utmost magnitude. However, on most levels of the game, priorities and emphasis should be on solely on player skill development, not winning games. You will not need to look at the scoreboard to see who is ahead, it you take the time to teach your players how to shoot, pass, rebound and play defense.

Preseason preparation and organization entails planting the seeds for a highly successful season. This involves careful thought and planning, starting out with a highly organized try-out and squad selection. Try-out plan should include: determining a team’s personnel needs, player evaluation method, and a final selection process. In conducting a highly organized try-out, it does not only allows for a fair and objective player evaluations; but, more importantly, it will provide coaches with a valuable understanding of the team’s overall skill level which is a great benefit and head start in planning per-season practices.

Player evaluation is not easy. Expect a wide range of skill and experience levels. Know the difference between participants and players. Participants are those players that show up to practice and games only. Participation is usually the result of parents’ or peer’s decision. Players are those individuals who love the game and put in extra practice time. By providing a program of fun and individual skill development, coaches can turn participants into players. In emphasizing the importance of skill development, players will also become better “students” of the game and gain a greater understanding that competitions and games are won or lost for the most part during practice and preparation.

Six Steps to Conduct Successful Try-outs and Squad Selection

#1. Establishing Team Needs

Before conducting any try-outs, you first must establish the team needs. Important team factors such as determining skill needs, position needs, team chemistry, substitution strength, along with the proper number of players to keep must be considered.

#2. Establish Player Evaluation Criteria

Once the team needs are determined and established, establish player evaluation criteria to best fit those needs. Coaches will need to assess the abilities of each player’s quickness, speed, jumping, coordination, alertness, shooting, passing, ball handling, rebounding, and defense. Along with evaluating a player’s skills, extreme importance is given to evaluating a player’s characteristics of attitude, discipline, cooperation, enthusiasm, self-control, and being coachable. Determining factors include:

  1. Determine the best players/athletes.
  2. Determine the best competitors.
  3. Determine the proper position for each player.
  4. Determine the correct combination for the strongest possible starting unit.
  5. Determine the first line replacements and possible realignment of positions to keep team strength.

For school teams the evaluation criteria should also include:

  1. Passion and enjoyment for basketball.
  2. Positive attitude and compliance with rules.
  3. Energy and effort.
  4. Demonstration of basketball skills.

John Wooden’s, Legendary Hall of Fame Basketball Coach, criteria for a perfect player: Team player, plays both offense and defense, can rebound, offensively pretty good from the outside and good from the inside, good study and work habits and is never going to be an embarrassment in any way “on or off” the court.

Note: Great players never get tired or bored with drill repetition.

#3. Create Player Evaluation Forms

Based on evaluation criteria, an Evaluation Form should be created and used for each player. Try to limit the criteria to 10 or fewer. However, this will vary according to the number of candidates trying out, and also the level. The higher the level, the more detailed player evaluations will be required.

Important subjective characteristics:

  1. Determination & Competitiveness
  2. Work ethic & Coachability
  3. Experience & Years of eligibility
  4. Positive Attitude & Appearance
  5. Reliability & Dependability
  6. Poise & self control
  7. Loyalty & Integrity

Important Physical Characteristics:

  1. Quickness and speed
  2. Size and jumping ability
  3. Shooting
  4. Inside Presence
  5. Passing Level {Link}
  6. Dribbling/Ball Handling
  7. Offensive Rebounding Ability
  8. Defensive Skills
  9. Def Rebounding Ability
  10. Conditioning

View/Print View/Print Sample Player Evaluation Form

Note: If you are currently using “Cybersports for basketball” software for you game statistics, it includes a nice player evaluation reports automatically generated by game performance(s) along with a subjective evaluation. These player evaluation reports cannot only be used preseason, but post-season as well.

View/Print Cybersports Player Evaluation Sample


#4 Organizing the Try-out

Most tryouts amount to just scrimmaging and are basically a waste of time. Trying to evaluate players during an uncontrolled scrimmage is very difficult, if not impossible. The skills that are required to play organized basketball are entirely different that those required to play in unorganized scrimmages or pick up games.

Coaches’ Prerequisites:

  1. All coaches’ First Aid and CPR certifications are current.

  2. An organized plan for automatic response to medical emergencies is in place.

  3. Trainer and/or medical kit is available.

Player Prerequisites:

  1. Current physical exam and health insurance

  2. Filled out health record and emergency contact information

  3. Signed assumption of risk form (Required my most schools and associations)


  1. Physical Measurements: Height, Weight, Reach, Arm Span, Age/Year in school

  2. Pre-Testing: Vertical Jump, Standing long jump, 40 yard dash, Sitting medicine ball toss, Agility Drills, etc.

Suggested Try Out Drills:

When conducting evaluation drills, it is best to group players into drills by position and abilities. Use simple breakdown drills that will demonstrate specific or closely related skills. Use several baskets at the same time. This will take pressure off the players and allow you to examine multiple candidates at the same time. When players are attempting an unfamiliar drill in front of peers and coaches, there is a good chance that, even, the most skilled and composed player will succumb under the pressure. You certainly do not want to miss out on a potentially great addition to your team because of a poorly organized tryout.

Wolf Drill: This one-on-one full court drill that will demonstrate players pursuit speed and ability to make lay-ups at top speed.


Free Throws: Have players shoot 50 free throws ten at a time. Record total made. This total can also be used in setting up a free throw ladder.

Five Spots Shooting Drill: This is an excellent drill to check players’ form and confidence. Players shoot at close range from five spots in front of basket. Players shoot at each spot until they make 5 shots in a row where they move to the next spot. Anytime they miss they go back to beginning. Object is to make 25 in a row. Record best efforts.


Range Finder Shooting Drill: This drill will establish a shooter’s range on five spokes radiating out from the basket. Shooting along one spoke at a time, the shooter takes a step back (away from the basket) anytime they make three shots in a row. If they miss three in a row a step closer to the basket.


Pass/Pass Passing Drill: Pair up facing each other at distance of 12 feet (width of lanes line). Making chest passes to each go down the court and make a lay-up. Start with six passes to start. After going down and back reduce the number of passes to 5, then 4, then 3. This will demonstrate players’ chest pass form along with the ability to lead receivers and handle the ball at high speeds.


Baseball Pass: Test players’ ability to make long, accurate passes. Have them make long passes subtracting the distance to the right or left to determine their adjusted accuracy distance.

Speed Dribbling: Set up a dribbling course using chairs. Players dribble to half court right handed and back to baseline left handed. Then weave through chairs to half court and back. Finish dribbling to half court left handed and back to baseline right handed. If possible, set up two courses and have players race against each other.

Speed Contest: Players sprint from baseline to opposite free throw Line. Pair up players and use a tournament or ladder format with winners moves up and losers moves down until you get a champion and all the places. In addition to determining each player’s acceleration and speed, the direct competition also eliminates timing and timing errors.


One-on-One:  Tournament or ladder format “Make it take it.” Three dribbles/no backing end. Group players into “Bigs” and “Smalls.” Use tournament format with winners moving up and losers down.

Three-on-Three (half or full court): Allows for better observations and evaluation of candidates’ skills both offensively & defensively. Try to set up teams with a pivot, point guard and an outside shooter.

Five-on-Five Full Court Scrimmaging: If at all possible keep statistics. This will not only improve the caliber of scrimmage, it provides for statistician training. Set up round robin play, so that candidates are matched up against multiple opponents. Rate and rank all players into groups according to round robin observations and evaluations. Reorganized players into to groups according to rankings and play addition scrimmages.   Error in rating and ranking? Give players in lower ranked groups an incentive and opportunity to move up and play with a higher rank group if they play well.

#5. Evaluating Players

Give all candidates an equal opportunity to show skills and make squad. Use every available method for help in making an accurate selection such as observation, testing, statistics, player interviews and self-ratings. Look for positive attributes. Find reasons to keep rather than cut. What players can do, not what they cannot do. Be alert to spot good competitors. Also, consider team spirit and morale, and get rid of the non-workers. Great teams are a result of the best players being the hardest workers.

Newell Player Rating

Coaches Evaluation Process

  1. Each Coach fills out an evaluation form for each player. This is important for player feedback and development.

  2. Conduct a coaches meeting to develop consensus evaluation. Find reasons to keep rather than cut. When in doubt keep and let the player make the decision.

  3. Hold private player meetings – review evaluation & decision. Get player’s input/self evaluation.

CAUTION: Be sure to keep a written copy of each player’s composite evaluation. This is especially true if you are coaching a school team where lawsuits are becoming common place. It is also important tool to use when meeting with players and/or parent(s) who may challenge your decision.

#6. Final Squad Selection/Cutting Players

Do not ever post a list. Inform each player personally. Coaches owe this courtesy to all the candidates. Communication is the utmost importance since getting cut from a team can be a traumatic experience that can last a life time. Candidates’ should never be treated as mere pawns, even on the professional levels. After all, they are human beings with feelings and were willing to contribute everything they could to the team.

Provide those players cut with a copy of the composite evaluation including a list of skills that they need to improve for future play. Also, ask them if they are interest in assuming other important team roles such as a team manager, statistician, video person, etc. Be sure to finish the player meeting on a positive note.


When in doubt - KEEP!

Jordan Cut



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