Athlete Interview: Quinn Denker on the Biggest Difference Between College and High School Basketball

One of the most frequently asked questions amongst basketball players who want to play in college is about the difference between playing in high school and playing at the collegiate level. This article features the perspective of college basketball player, Quinn Denker.

Quinn Denker currently plays at the West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and has plenty of experience playing against top tier talent at the high school and collegiate levels. His experience at these various levels provides ample insight to the differences between high school and college ball. Without further adieu: the biggest differences between collegiate and high school basketball.

What is the biggest difference in terms of skill/physicality?
The biggest difference between players in college and high school is size. Guys are older, stronger, more athletic, and more mature. Naturally, because of that, the game will be more physical. So, in order to score, create, rebound, and defend you have to be skilled in every area. That’s why we have “specialists” in the NBA and college. Shooting is the biggest part of college ball because in college, spacing is so important. Everyone is big and athletic, and they can all pack the paint, so it’s super important at the next level to be able to shoot the ball so that the floor can remain spaced and open the key up for drives. Another big part of the game is guard play. With bigger, stronger, and more athletic defenders, guards and wings have to be skilled enough to break down the defender and make plays as well as run the offense.

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What is the biggest difference in terms of game planning and preparation?
Film is everything. Walkthroughs, film sessions, scout teams. In college ball it’s cutthroat, and you need as many advantages as possible to win big games. So, it’s important to know the team you’re up against. On my team, we want to know what plays the other teams run and then we plan how to guard them. We want to know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every player so we can be effective on the defensive end and the offensive end.

What is the biggest difference in terms of weight lifting and physical recovery?
Weight lifting is extremely important. Just like how film is used for gaining advantages, weight lifting is the same. In a game surrounded with incredible athletes, the stronger and more in-shape you are can give you the edge over genetic freaks. Recovery is just as important. With a game so physically demanding as basketball, rest is a necessity. Without rest, athletes are more prone to injury.

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What is the biggest difference in practices?
Practices are way more intense in college. Coaches are more intense, more locked in, and do not waste a single minute. Every day, practice schedules are planned out to the minute and every second you want to be doing something beneficial that can improve your team’s performance or recovery. Transitions between drills need to be smooth, and water breaks need to be frequent yet quick so we can move along to the next thing. Practice reps are the most important because you practice how you play, and college coaches really believe in that.

What are the biggest differences in terms of time commitment?
The time commitment is everything. From the time the season starts until the end, you have to be completely locked in to basketball to succeed. Early morning workouts equal less sleep, which means you have to go to bed earlier, which eliminates any sort of social time. Study hall, weights, nutrition, recovery, practice, film, workouts… all things that need to be done during a day of college basketball and need to be prioritized, so the biggest difference is prioritizing time for the things you need to be successful in this sport.

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Are there any other differences you noticed between high school and college basketball?
I touched on this a couple times already, but with the college game being more intense than the highschool game, workouts, film studies, and practice need to be more intense which requires more energy. Because of this, recovery is extremely important as well as health and nutrition. In the college game, coaches are fighting for their jobs and players are fighting for wins and chances to earn money professionally, so any sort of advantage will help. The one huge difference I did not mention was the importance of nutrition. Nutrition goes hand in hand with recovery because what sort of food you put in your body can either slow or speed up recovery. Also, as a basketball player who is just burning tons of calories and water, hydration and protein are extremely important for muscle growth and recovery.”

Have a question you need answered or an athlete we should interview? Email us at

* Originally published on January 13, 2022, by Dylan Tehada

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