Mapping NCAA Basketball Player’s Hometowns

It might still be football season to some, but to many it’s time to celebrate the return of college basketball. A few months back we studied the makeup of FBS college football rosters and where recruits hail from. After putting that piece together, we wondered what it would look like to map out every NCAA basketball player and their hometown.

We combed through the rosters of all 351 Division 1 basketball rosters from the 32 conferences – 5,176 players in all – and plotted each in a single interactive map.

Note:  For organization purposes, we assigned conferences to four groups based historical success and conference RPI last year. The groups include: Power 5, High Majors, Mid Majors, Low Majors. In order to turn views for grouped conferences on/off, click the icon in the top left corner and check/uncheck the conferences you want to view. To expand map for a larger view, click the icon in the top right corner. Click on any school logo to see player details.

Recruiting Heat Map by Conference

Heat maps for the NCAA and major conferences reveal that many schools recruit within their region. On the east coast, basketball hotbeds like New York, Philadelphia, and even Atlanta show up on most maps. Chicago and Los Angeles are also unsurprising, but the fact that Toronto shows up on each of the major conference maps shows how much talent is coming from that area. Click on an individual conference heat map to expand.

Distance from Player’s Hometown to School

Breaking down each individual roster, we calculated the average distance from hometown to school for each team’s recruits. Same as football, Hawaii topped the list of furthest distance traveled, unsurprising for a school that is 2,500 miles from the mainland.

It was very interesting to see where some traditional basketball powerhouses fell. Louisville, which boasts five in state players from Kentucky (three of which are from the city of Louisville) found it’s way near the top of the list because of the four international players on the roster. With much of the talent coming from the east coast and Southern California, many schools from the Pacific Northwest have some of the higher average distances.

On the other end of the spectrum, it was a bit surprising to see defending national champion, Villanova, has the second most localized roster in all of college basketball. Almost 80% of their roster is from less than 150 miles from campus.

What States Produce the Most Talent?

Similar to college football, basketball rosters are full of players from Texas, Florida, and California. New York and Illinois are a few states, however, that produce much more basketball talent when compared to football.

Players Per Capita

Obviously population of a state will affect how many players it sends to high level basketball programs and no one would reasonably expect Delaware to compete with the likes of California when it comes to raw numbers. When factoring in a state’s population and looking on a per capita basis, the map of where talent comes from reveals some interesting tidbits. It’s not surprising to see basketball obsessed states like Indiana and North Carolina towards the top of the list, but I wasn’t expecting to see Louisiana (second only behind Maryland), or Mississippi (fifth) to end up so high.

The map below indicates how many players each state sends to play basketball at the Division 1 level per 100,000 people. Red indicates a higher density of players and you can hover over a state to get it’s exact per capita number.

Top 75 Cities

For those surprised to see NYC missing from the top of the list, don’t fret. Each New York City borough is represented separately on this chart, and if one were to look at the city as a whole, it would surpass Chicago for the top spot with 111 combined players hailing from NYC.

International Breakdown

It is more evident than ever that basketball has staked it’s claim as an international sport. More than 100 international players opened the season on NBA rosters last season – more than 22% of the league. College basketball isn’t quite that high yet, with many foreign born still opting to play professionally overseas before making the jump directly to the NBA, but at 11% of all rostered players the number is at an all time high.

The two top countries sending players to the NCAA are Canada and Australia, the latter more than doubling the number of CBB exports from 10 years ago. Overall, the number of foreign born players on NCAA rosters this year has increased more than 40% compared to the 2006-2007 season, up from 423 to 597 players. Each of the 32 conferences in Division 1 have at least five foreign born players and the Atlantic 10 leads the way with 33.