15 tips for incoming freshmen

Updated: September 1, 2011, 5:12 PM ET
By Doug Gottlieb

Sixteen years ago I arrived on campus at Notre Dame. I was in awe, yet I thought I knew everything. Five years later I walked out of Oklahoma State a different person.

I'm wise enough to know I cannot, and would not, change that experience. But I do wish I had done so many things differently and enjoyed the best years of my life more.

The college years have their ups and downs, and there are lessons to be learned. But far and away the most difficult time in my life was the first year.

In my case, I essentially experienced my first year of college twice. I transferred from Notre Dame to Golden West College, and then to Oklahoma State. So, if there is anything I am an expert at, it is that first year on campus.

I asked some of my former teammates, colleagues and other former hoopers what would be the 15 things incoming freshmen should absolutely do when they reach campus. Our list is below, but players, know this: Every former player envies your opportunity to write your own history and the freedom you have to do so. Learn from our successes and mistakes and follow these rules. They will guide you to Year 2, when you will be far more comfortable and the college life will start to slow down for you.

1. Unpack for the long haul
While seemingly every player who enters college does so with the belief that their basketball skills will lead them to fortune and fame after college, the most important advice anyone can give a player is to mentally and physically unpack and expect to stay for four or five years. Forget the daunting odds of making the NBA: There are just 30 players drafted who will receive a guaranteed NBA contract, and you will be competing with the thousands of players in college basketball, not to mention overseas, for those spots. An even better perspective is this: College should be the greatest time in your life, enjoy the ride. Do not waste time thinking of where you maybe should have gone or what lies ahead. Focus on the here and now -- the friends, the guest speakers, the classes, the parties and the life lessons. Plant roots. Leave the "next level" as a motivator in the gym and weight room. If the "League" happens, great, but when college is over, it is over. And while you may want to come back, it is never the same.