What Is a Juco When It Comes to College Sports

Jucos Now and In NBA History

Marshall Henderson
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"Juco" and College Sports

If you have stumbled upon this page, it is likely because you are wondering what the heck a juco refers to in college sports. Or maybe you already know what a juco is, you just want to learn more. Whatever the case, you have come to the right place. Keep reading for everything you'll ever need to know about a juco.


Short for "junior college," juco typically refers to players who play at a two-year school initially, earn an associate's degree, and then transfer into a four-year college with two seasons' eligibility remaining.

 The term can also refer to the school itself.

Because these players have completed degree programs, they are not obligated to sit out a year like other transfer students.

Division I

Division I coaches often look to juco players to fill in roster spots left open by transfers or players leaving school early, or to "stagger" the graduation dates of their rosters so they don't run the risk of having too many players leave at once.

In the past, junior college was the best option for players who had trouble meeting academic standards for eligibility at Division I schools, or who needed to refine their games before playing at college basketball's highest level. The rise of prep schools, which allow top prospects to get their academics and games in order without compromising any NCAA eligibility, has made junior college a much less attractive option.

Successful Jucos in College Basketball History

Although sometimes jucos have the odds stacked against them, there have been several successful jucos in the history of college basketball.

Here are a few of those successes:

The name Marshall Henderson may ring a bell. This juco lit up the scoreboard once he made his way to Ole Miss. As a juco at South Plains College, he led his team to the junior-college national championship and was given the National Junior College Player of the Year honors.

Jimmy Butler is another juco success story. You may know him as one of the stars with the Chicago Bulls, but before he played in the NBA he spent time in junior college. He attended Tyler Junior College in Texas for one season before transferring to Marquette where he showed flashes of greatness.

Before Avery Johnson began his coaching career, he played for New Mexico Junior College. He went on to have a 16-year career in the NBA as a journeyman player.

Common Misconception

There's a common misconception out there that athletes decide to join junior colleges because they are stupid and got bad grades in high school. This is certainly not always the case. Sometimes an athlete will decide to enroll at a junior college simply because they are not being recruited by any Division I colleges and they can't afford to pay tuition as a walk-on.

As a juco, these athletes can prove their worth by playing the sport of their choice. If they excel at it, Division I coaches will almost always offer the athlete a scholarship to transfer out of junior college.