A Look at High School Players in the NBA Draft

High School Players and the NBA Draft

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Here's a complete list of prep players who decided to bypass college and make themselves eligible for the NBA Draft with a complete rundown of how these player's careers have shaped up. The player bios will be updated periodically as the prep to pro player becomes more prominent or slips furthur into oblivion. Also take note of where they probably would have enrolled in college and what kind of impact that would have had on the basketball world. Will Amir Johnson forever be the last high school player selected in the NBA Draft? Or will the climate change in another ten years?

1974:
Moses Malone (Petersburg, Va.)

-- 22nd overall pick (3rd round); by Utah (ABA).
The Scoop: This 6-10 phenom was the first modern-era player to jump to the pro ranks when he signed with the Utah stars after being selected in the third round of the 1974 ABA draft. He signed a grant-in-aid with the University of Maryland after being courted by nearly every college that fielded a college varsity team. Maryland coach "Lefty" Driesell once said he was going to make Maryland the "UCLA of the East" and he would have actually had a chance to do that if Malone would have went there. Instead Malone went on to be selected NBA MVP three times and is a member of the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time team.

1975:
Darryl Dawkins (Evans, Orlando Fla.)

-- 5th overall pick (1st round); by Philadelphia.
The Scoop: "Chocolate Thunder" was one of the most colorful players ever to play in the NBA. He helped the 76ers win a World Championship in 1983 and came in as an 18-year rookie throwing down monstrous dunks and naming each one of them. He was also colorful off the court, where he embraced a lifestyle of crashing parties, doing drugs and chasing women. Despite his revelations, Dawkins was also truthful and often spoke eloquently about the abuses in the league as if he were a scholar.

Bill Willoughby (Morrow, Englewood, N.J.)
-- 19th overall pick (2nd round); by Atlanta.
The Scoop: As a senior at Dwight Morrow High School, "Poodle" Willoughby was heavily recruited by colleges across the country, but he opted for the NBA. Willoughby never looks back and states that growing up in poverty made the decision easy at the time. He is rare in that he believes that a player with this unique opportunity should make the jump if he has the chance. Another factor that makes him rare is that he now owns a college degree.

1989:
Shawn Kemp (Concord, Elkhart, Ind.)

-- 17th overall pick (1st round); by Seattle.
The Scoop: This man-child was physically ready for the NBA, but like many young players was immature for the lifestyle provided to pro athletes. Kemp signed a letter of intent with Kentucky and was actually enrolled on campus, but a stealing incident involving another Wildcat player and question surrounding the recruitment of he and L.A. prep star Chris Mills eventually forced Kemp to leave Lexington. He enrolled at a junior college, never played, and made himself eligible for the next NBA Draft. On the court, he was a steal for the Sonics at pick No. 17, but weight problems after the NBA lockout in 1999 derailed a potential Hall of Fame career.

1995:
Kevin Garnett (Farragut, Chicago, Ill.)

-- 5th overall pick (1st round); by Minnesota.
The Scoop: Garnett was the consensus national player of the year and almost everybody believed he was going to attend Michigan. His test scores were low, but he later found out he qualified on his last attempt, but the ball was already rolling as he wowed NBA scouts with his athleticism and enormous wingspan. Garnett is in the middle of an all-pro NBA career and in retrospect should have been the No. 1 pick over Joe Smith. (Rasheed Wallace also should have gone higher than Smith). "The Big Ticket" may one day be the No. 1 forward on the StudentSportsBasketball.com All-Time All-American list if he can win an NBA title. As for college, was Garnett going to Michigan? He told Student Sports Magazine in the fall of 1995 that, "Everybody had me going to Michigan for a long time. I led people on that I was going to UM. If I would have gone to college it was going to be Maryland. I was going to shock'em all."

1996:
Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion, Ardmore, Pa.)

-- 13th overall pick (1st round); by Charlotte (then traded to L.A. Lakers).
The Scoop: Kobe was academically qualified out of high school and would have been a college superstar at either Duke or LaSalle, the college where his father was an assistant coach at the time. After winning three NBA titles with Shaquille O'Neal, the current Lakers star is now No. 1 in L.A. like he always wanted to be. After Phil Jackson left hi first stint with the Lakers, he actively courted Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski this off-season and it seems like that would have been a natural fit if he would have attended college. In the same Garnett article in SS Magazine, Laker great Jerry West, then the club's General Manager said, "It's not worth it" about high school players following Garnett straight to the league. Less than a year later, the Lakers shrewdly traded away Vlade Divac in a trade with Charlotte for the rights to the 17-year old Bryant, who should've been picked higher.

Jermaine O'Neal (Eau Claire, Columbia, S.C.)
-- 17th overall pick (1st round); by Portland.
The Scoop: After serving a suspension for a near-riot that took place between the Indiana Pacers, his current team, and the Pistons last season, O'Neal is now back to his high-scoring ways. O'Neal was not academically qualified coming out of high school. He and guard B.J McKie would have made a fine inside-outside combo at South Carolina, the college O'Neal was reportedly sent to attend. Instead, he went to a Blazer team that was extremely deep at his position and finally blossomed when he moved on to Indiana. It's hard to say if he should have been drafted higher, but going to a good team was better for him (like Bryant) than trying to save a doormat franchise.

Taj McDavid (Palmetto, Williamston SC)
-- not selected.
The Scoop: McDavid was not an All-American or well-known name on the prep circuit. He had fine statistics, but some speculate he would have not even been a good Div. I player. "Red" McDavid's dream of the NBA never materialized, but he eventually petitioned for NCAA eligibility at Div. II Anderson College. Unfortunately, he's often the one player people refer to in regards to the dangers of prep players declaring for the draft.

1997:
Tracy McGrady (Mt. Zion Academy, Durham, N.C.)

-- 9th overall pick (1st round); by Toronto Raptors.
The Scoop: "T-Mac" had turned out to be one of the best players in the NBA, but didn't get his opportunity right away with the Raptors. He eventually flourished and along with Grant Hill was supposed to lead the Orlando Magic to an NBA title. That never materialized and it remains to be seen if he will lead the Rockets, his current team, to prominence. As a prep, McGrady was an unknown commodity in Auburndale, Florida as a junior, but elevated his game more than any other player in recent history on the camp circuit in the summer of 1996. He was chosen the 1997 Student Sports National Player of the Year.

1998:
Al Harrington (St. Patrick's, Elizabeth, N.J.)

-- 25th overall pick (1st round); by Indiana.
The Scoop: Harrington has slowly developed in the NBA and was runner-up for NBA sixth man of the year during the '03-'04 season with the Pacers. He is now averaging over 16 points per game, but is with the Atlanta Hawks now. He was highly regarded as a prep player and was a national player of the year candidate. At the No. 25 pick in the draft, his career can be called a success.

Rashard Lewis (Elsik, Alief, Texas)
-- 32nd overall pick (2nd round); by Seattle.
The Scoop: In 1998, hot debate raged over who should be national player of the year. Some chose Harrington, others current NFL wide receiver Ronald Curry, but were glad we chose Lewis. As a second round pick and with out guaranteed money, the Sonics are sure glad they chose him, too.

Korleone Young (Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, Va.)
-- 40th overall pick (2nd round); by Detroit.
The Scoop: Young was often projected to go in the middle of the first round of the '98 NBA Draft, but he fell to the second round and played a total of three NBA games for the Detroit Pistons the next year. He is a classic example of a player who got bad advice and believed his NBA value was higher than it actually was.

Ellis Richardson (Poly, Sun Valley, Calif.)
-- not selected.
The Scoop: This Los Angeles-area All-City selection was exactly that, and All-City player. He wasn't All-State by CalHiSports.com and he surely wasn't an All-American. He later migrated to Florida and ran into trouble with the law. He once told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm better than Michael Olowokandi," who was the first pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.

1999:
Jonathan Bender (Picayune, Miss.)

-- 5th overall pick (1st round); by Toronto.
The Scoop: Bender was one of the players who benefited greatly from the post-season All-Star circuit. He broke Michael Jordan's McDonald's All-American game scoring record and was drafted quite high by Toronto, but then his rights were traded to the Pacers for Antonio Davis. He is a contributor but he hasn't developed into the caliber of player Davis once was.

Leon Smith (M.L. King, Chicago, Ill.)
-- 29th overall pick (1st round); by San Antonio.
The Scoop: Smith's drafting and proceeding trade to the Mavericks was a disaster. Many pointed out that he simply didn't act like a pro athlete and was very immature. He wasn't the best prep player on his team (G Imari Sawyer was) and had many behavioral problems and was released by the Mavericks before the end of his first season in the NBA. He is talented, and has had cups of coffee with other clubs, but is a cautionary tale for NBA scouts and general managers.

2000:
Darius Miles (East St. Louis, Ill.)

-- 3rd overall pick (1st round); by L.A. Clippers.
The Scoop: Miles was taken under his wing by Michael Jordan and escaped the extreme poverty of East St. Louis by forgoing a college career at St. John's. He would have been a fine collegiate player, but comparisons to Kevin Garnett (his idol) have been unfair for him to live up to. He still has a chance to be a solid pro, but his thin frame has turned into a weakness on the pro level. Now with the Portland Trailblazers, Miles is finally showing promise, a starter averaging 38 minuets, 20 points, and shooting 48 percent from the field to go along with 6.5 rebounds and two steals a game.

DeShawn Stevenson (Washington, Easton, Calif.)
-- 23rd overall pick (1st round); by Utah.
The Scoop: Stevenson was a dominant player on the Fresno basketball scene as early as the 7th grade. His strong, physical frame and leaping ability excited NBA scouts and then Kansas coach Roy Williams as well. He would have been dynamite in college with good coaching, but his development in the NBA has been slowed by a lack of playing time and finding a true position.

2001:
Kwame Brown (Glynn Academy, Brunswick, Ga.)

-- 1st overall pick (1st round); by Washington.
The Scoop: The first prep player to be chosen as the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Kwame has had an up and down NBA career already. He committed to attend Florida University and probably would have been a household name if he decided to attend college. He didn't, however, as he will always carry that No. 1 stigma for as long as he is a pro. Now a "veteran" forward with the Lakers.

Tyson Chandler (Dominguez, Compton, Calif.)
-- 2nd overall pick (1st round); by L.A. Clippers (traded to Chicago).
The Scoop: "The Franchise" was a two-time CalHiSports.com State Player of the Year who led Dominguez to the Student Sports FAB 50 national title in 2000. One of the best running big men ever, many have speculated Chandler would have been the next great UCLA big man. Realistically, college wasn't in his plans, but he must be careful because the dreaded "bust" label is starting to be heard after a slow start to his career with the Bulls.

Eddy Curry (Thornwood, South Holland, Ill.)
-- 4th overall pick (1st round); by Chicago.
The Scoop: Like Chandler, Curry would be better off playing with a better team. However, this Chicago native and one-time DePaul recruit had the added pressure of playing in his hometown. After Michael Jordan retired, it seemed the Bulls were headed for lean years regardless. Now playing at the Garden for well-traveled coach Larry Brown, we see Curry improving on his mediocre numbers and a near a double-double average in the future is not out of the question.

DeSagana Diop (Oak Hill, Mouth of Wilson, Calif.)
-- 8th overall pick (1st round); by Cleveland.
The Scoop: The first high school player to declare for the NBA Draft from this famed basketball factory, Diop has not developed into much more than a role player, which fans don't take kindly for a lottery pick in the draft.

Ousmane Cisse (St. Jude Catholic, Montgomery, Ala.)
-- 47th overall pick (2nd round); by Denver.
The Scoop: Cisse slipped into the second round as the draft unfolded and has already bounced around several leagues, including a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. He is talented, but like most young players very raw. He's a great example of a player who would have benefited from college coaching.

Tony Key (Centennial, Compton, Calif.)
-- not selected.
The Scoop: Key was not a qualifier out of high school, and eventually migrated to a junior college in Los Angeles. He was a reach to be drafted in the NBA, and he wasn't very high on many big-time college's wish lists, either.

2002:
Amare Stoudemire (Cypress Creek, Orlando, Fla.)

-- 9th overall pick (1st round); by Phoenix.
The Scoop: Amare sometimes wonders what would've been had he migrated to Memphis University along with Qyntel Woods and DaJuan Wagner. Coach John Calipari has signed many talented classes, including during last year's early signing period. The problem has been actually getting the players on campus. Currently not playing this season due to knee surgery during the preseason, the Suns are going to need a miracle to replace Amare's All-Star numbers while he is gone.


DeAngelo Collins (Inglewood, Ca.)
-- not selected.
The Scoop: A talented young big man originally from Stockton, Ca., Collins' off-the-court problems soured NBA scouts after a much-traveled prep career and he went undrafted.

Lenny Cooke (North Regional Valley, Old Tappan, N. J.)
-- not selected.
The Scoop: A mini-celebrity on the streets on Brooklyn, Cooke was a classic example of a kid who got bad advice and whose NBA value was never as high as pre-draft Internet and newspaper predictions. He didn't play his senior year of high school because he was too old, but at one time was mentioned in the same light as King James. How quickly things can change in the world of prep to pro basketball.

2003:
LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Oh.)

-- 1st Overall pick (1st round); by Cleveland
The Scoop: If none of the players had made the jump before him, he would have been the one people would have talked about in the same light as Malone or Garnett. He already is a world-wide celebrity, one of the league's better players and was the best prep player of this generation

Travis Outlaw (Starkville, Ms.)
-- 23rd Overall pick (first round); by Portland
The Scoop: He has not played much in two years in the league, so it's hard to gauge his status as a success or failure. He would have many a number of college coaches very happy, but doesn't excite with his game in the NBA.

Ndudi Ebi (Westbury Christian, Houston, Tx.)
-- 26th Overall pick (first round); by Minnesota
The Scoop: He is another who hasn't played much in the NBA, but a college career at Arizona University under the tutelage of Lute Olson obviously would not have hurt this young player.

Kendrick Perkins (Ozen, Beaumont, Tx.)
-- 27th Overall pick (first round); by Memphis
The Scoop: He is averaging less than four minutes per game in two NBA seasons, which doesn't help the development of any young big man. The Celtics, his current team, hopes he can make an impact on the pro level.

James Lang (Central Park Christian, Birmingham, Al.)
--48th Overall pick (second round); by New Orleans
The Scoop: One of those many fifth-year players with overestimated pro value, Lang was a project who lost over 70 pounds as a senior to attract the attention of NBA scouts. His selection position indicates NBA executives are wising up to drafting prep players in the early or middle portion of the first round.

Charlie Villanueva (Blair Academy, Blairstown, N.J.)
--not selected
The Scoop: Villanueva originally declared for the draft, but wisely did not hire an agent and eventually enrolled at UConn. He helped the Huskies win the 2004 NCAA Title, but by no means was he a star. He, unlike many others, seems to have made a wise decision. After leaving UConn after his sophomore season, Villanueva now is on the roster of the Toronto Raptors and playing well off the bench. He just recently had back-to-back double-double performance and is making a nice combination with future All-Star Chris Bosh.

2004:
Dwight Howard (SW Atlanta Christian Academy, Atlanta, Ga.)

-- 1st Overall pick (first round); by Orlando
The Scoop: Howard had a 15-point, 20-rebound performance early in his NBA career for the Magic and seems well on his way to having a spectacular career. With five career twenty rebound games already, Howard is a freak on the glass and Kevin Garnett recently said that Howard reminds him of himself when he coming out of high school.

Shaun Livingston (Peoria Central, Peoria, Il.)
-- 4th Overall pick (first round); by Los Angeles Clippers
The Scoop: Livingston has potential, but came into the league not physically ready for the rigors of the NBA. A dislocated knee cap injury cost him some valuable playing time that will slow his development this year as well.

Robert Swift (Bakersfield, Ca.)
--12th Overall pick (first round); by Seattle
The Scoop: Like Bender, Swift greatly benefited from the post-season All-Star circuit, but hasn't played much yet. He wasn't considered a prime pro prospect before then, but a player of his size and potential is hard to pass up.

Sebastian Telfair (Lincoln, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
-- 13th Overall pick (first round); by Portland
The Scoop: "Bassey" was the Student Sports National Player of the Year over Howard, but many college basketball fans would have loved to have seen him play at least one season under Rick Pitino at Louisville. This New York playground legend will need to continue developing a jump shot and build strength to be a great pro.

Al Jefferson (Prentiss, Ms.)
--15th Overall pick (first round); by Boston
The Scoop: Was an absolute force on the Mississippi prep scene and is showing signs of becoming a solid pro with the Celtics. He would have made Arkansas Razorbacks fans jump for joy if he would have enrolled in Fayetteville. Slowly, Jefferson is making an impact on the offensive end of the floor for the Celtics, but needs to improve his defensive performances to see increase playing time.

Josh Smith (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
-- 17th Overall pick (first round); by Atlanta
The Scoop: Smith led the Warriors to the 2004 FAB 50 national title and like may others on this list, doesn't play enough to classify as more than a current NBA player. The Georgia native, however, would have been a college standout. The reigning NBA slam dunk champion is gaining fans by the day and his former coaches at Oak Hill call him the best athlete to ever play at the famed program.

J.R. Smith (St. Benedict's Prep, Newark, N.J.)
-- 18th Overall pick (first round); by New Orleans
The Scoop: He's seeing the floor some for the Bobcats and that's a good sign. On the other end he could have been a "diaper dandy" at North Carolina and only went the pro route after a series of stellar post-season performances.

Dorell Wright (South Kent Prep, South Kent, Ct.)
--19th Overall pick (first round); by Miami
The Scoop: This Los Angeles native hasn't seen the floor yet in the NBA, but he has a great seat to watch the Dwayne Wade show every night. He hopefully can one day make a contribution to this up-and-coming franchise.

Jackie Butler (McComb, Ms.)
--not selected
The Scoop: Yet another 6-10 player who was not listed on any rankings by RivalsHoops.com last year. Hopefully his basketball career will continue even if it's not in the NBA.

2005:
Martell Webster (Seattle Prep, Wa.)

--6th Overall pick (first round); by Portland
The Scoop: Not getting much playing time in the Trailblazers' rotation so far this season, Martell will most likely ride the pine for his first season and find out what the NBA is all about. There's no doubt he can play and has the frame and shooting ability to be a standout.

Gerald Green (Gulf Shores Academy, Houston, Tx.)
--18th Overall pick (first round); by Boston
The Scoop: Although he was the eighteenth pick, Green might have been the most talented prep player and the best ahlete overall in this year's draft. Serving a role behind Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis, Green has not played a minute in his NBA career....yet.

C.J. Miles (Skyline, Dallas, Tx.)
--34th Overall pick (second round); by Utah
The Scoop: From the same high school as Larry Johnson, Miles is just starting to see some playing time in recent games. The Jazz are going to slowly play their teenager into NBA shape, but giving him around 17 minutes per game would definitely help him develop alot quicker.

Ricky Sanchez (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fl.)
--35th Overall pick (second round); by Portland
The Scoop: This Puerto Rican native is currently not in the NBA.

Monta Ellis (Lanier, Jackson, Ms.)
--40th Overall pick (second round); by Golden State
The Scoop: Known for his ability to score at will, Ellis was selected a little lower than some expected. Slipping in the draft the Warriors got a wing that could potentially be a solid back up for Jason Richardson in the near future. He has only played in one game in his brief NBA career and only was in four minuets and did not record a point but did pick up two assists.

Louis Williams (South Gwinnett, Snellville, Ga.)
--45th Overall pick (second round); by Philadelphia
The Scoop: With the concerns that Williams would not have enough size or natural point guard skills to make it in the NBA, it's only natural the Philadelphia 76'ers took a chance on him. Williams has played in three games but has seen very limited action in those games.

Andray Blatche (South Kent Prep, Ct.)
--49th Overall pick (second round); by Washington
The Scoop: Andray was shot in the stomach during the preseason and just recently got back to in the playing rotation for the Washington Wizards. With his size and wingspan, Andray might make a great impact on the franchise in the near future and may be a second round steal.

Amir Johnson (Westchester, Los Angeles, Ca.)
--56th Overall pick (second round); by Detroit
The Scoop: The 2005 CalHiSports.com Mr. basketball State Player of the Year, it will be hard for johnson to get playing time in the Pistons' dominant front court. Johnson has good feet with a soft touch and has to make an impact in practice to see some floor time. He has yet to see any playing time during a regular season game.

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