Marylanders have long looked far and wide for something that clearly and convincingly showed that their state is the best at something. They have a strong case to make as it pertains to their level of play in high school sports.
The NCAA’s research department has been playing around with some new software and decided to make some social media content. It mapped the percentage of athletes from each state recruited to play for a Division I college. The results went viral, especially around Maryland.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around this data and a lot of state pride,” said Lydia Bell, the NCAA’s associate director of research.
The Old Line State was the top state or near the top in nearly every sport, even sports that people don’t typically associate with Maryland.
Such as track and field: 4.6 percent of Maryland’s boys athletes (second-highest rate in the nation) and 6.7 percent of girls (best in the nation) get recruited by Division I schools.
Maryland is fourth in sending its wrestlers to college, eighth in baseball players and fifth in football players (a higher rate than Texas, Alabama and California).
And in basketball, it’s not even close. Five percent of boys hoopers from Maryland go D-I. Four a half percent of girls do, too. Both are tops in the country. And don’t forget, the NBA’s top draft pick this year, Markelle Fultz, and NBA Finals most valuable player, Kevin Durant, hail from Prince George’s County, Md.
There’s a pretty decent reason behind Maryland’s dominance, Bell said. (No, it is not the strength that comes from a healthy diet of crab.) It’s school size.
“These states have the largest high schools, so their varsity talent is rising up,” she said.
In other words, schools with more students have larger pools of talent to draw from. A player who barely makes the varsity team at “School A” will have a much harder time making the varsity at “School B,” which is double the size, because he or she has to compete against more players for that roster spot.
That means larger schools will generally have teams with better players, which means the best players on those teams train with better players. And states with larger schools — and hence better competition — will have higher levels of play, attracting more college recruiters. (Think of it this way: A top player from a smaller school is more likely to go unnoticed by recruiters than one of several top players from a larger school that regularly draws visits from Division I coaches.)
The NCAA ran the maps below against the latest available data — albeit from the year 2000 — on the average enrollment of public high schools.
Maryland is fourth in average enrollment at around 1,150 students. Georgia is third with 1,200. Florida is second with 1,450. Hawaii (a small state with fewer schools in general) is first with 1,470. Guess which states boast their athletic prowess?
“You look at the states with the biggest high schools, and it would make sense that there’s more talent and higher level of play,” she said.
We made the maps and pasted them here so you can take a look at which states are best at which sports. A quick way to read the maps: the darker blue a state gets, the higher percentage of players it is sending to the Division I ranks.