Benefits of Junior Colleges
Junior colleges or JUCOs are no joke. A lot of elite student-athletes attend junior colleges to sharpen their skills before attending a four year school. JUCOs recruit thousands of elite athletes each year. They often serve as feeders for NCAA Division I and II schools. Junior colleges provide opportunities for athletes who are late bloomers or who need more development. At this level, players can develop their skills and have the opportunity to play in games. Often times athletes spend their first two years at a four year school on the bench. Junior college athletes transfer to their four year school with experience and their academic core courses under their belt.
Christian Casados’ JUCO journey
Christian Casados, a pitcher at Cal State LA, took the junior college route his sophomore year after spending his first year at a four-year NAIA school.
Casados committed to McPherson College before graduating high school. After spending a year out in Kansas, Casados decided to transfer to Phoenix College.
“I chose a junior college after four-year to open another door and it was a good opportunity to get my feet underneath my feet,” Casados said.
Casados described himself as a late bloomer who needed more time to develop his throwing strength. For Casados, going to a JUCO meant gaining strength while also seeing playing time on the mound.
“For me it was just about getting stronger and filling out my body and growing,” Casados said. “I was more of a late bloomer and I started getting my size and strength around my sophomore year so that year for me was about getting faster and stronger while getting to play.”
Casados struggled to get playing time his first year at an NAIA. And he’s not alone. Many athletes struggle to see the field their first couple of years and don’t end up playing all four years of their collegiate careers. Junior colleges provide student-athletes with the opportunities to develop and see the field for all four years of their colligate careers.
“When you go to a four-year or a big school it’s hard to get playing time as a freshman or a sophomore and it’s hard to find who you are in college athletic wise,” Casados said. “But I feel like when you go to a junior college you can work on yourself while getting the opportunities to play instead of going to a four year and having to wait for those opportunities.”
By transferring to a JUCO, Casados played at a Junior College Showcase. At the showcase, he received a Division II offer to go play at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
“Without going to a junior college I probably would have never been able to have that opportunity,” Casados said.
Casados went into his four year school with the experience of playing at a fast, high level. By having that experience, Casados arrived in Hawaii and was a starter. After his first season in Hawaii, COVID-19 hit and he gained eligibility. He left Hawaii with a degree in communications. He then transferred to Cal State LA to continue playing and pursue a masters degree.
Casados’ advice for athletes
For Casados, he decided what he wanted for his career and followed what he wanted. Casados encourages athletes to look at schools that fit them athletically and beyond.
“Finding somewhere that fits you and finding an area that fits for yourself,” Casados said. “So if you’re not a person who wants to be in an area with more people find a school with more social life and make sure you find those things because at the end of the day your school can affect how you play.”
Casados recognizes that every division whether it be Division I, II, III, NAIA or JUCO, offers different skills and opportunities. It’s important that you recognize where you are athletically and find what fits you best.
“I think that if you are kid who feels like they have more to give and more to grow into, a junior college can be a great route for you to work on yourself and your game,” Casados said.
So don’t rule JUCO opportunities out and find the opportunity that fits you best.