High School Hierarchy: 21-25
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
22. Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield, ME
NBA Players Produced: Brad Miller, Erick Barkley, Etdrick Bohannon, Caron Butler, Sean Colson, DerMarr Johnson, Mamadou N’Diaye, Dave Johnson, Cuttino Mobley
Combined Experience: 54 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 0
All-Star Appearances: 4
Hall of Famers: 0
Total Points: 63
Ten years ago, Maine Central Institute became a posterchild for the often uncomfortable relationship between prep schools and the NCAA when the suspension of three players, Erick Barkley, DerMarr Johnson and Andre Williams, was reportedly due to questions about how the three got tuition paid for while they were students at MCI. Outside the Lines profiled the school, featuring the voices of many who felt that MCI and schools like it needed to be more scrupulous about who they let pay tuition for student athletes.
Caron Butler, then a UConn player, defended the school: “It helped me a great deal because, you know, I’m a qualifier now. Before, I didn’t ever think I would get the chance to qualify. And it really helped.”
Like a couple other prep schools on the list, MCI’s teams have featured large numbers of non-local transfers who have built the program into a power. There’s plenty of room for moral debates on the issue, but that’s not really what this series is about. Bottom line: MCI has a large number of alums who made it to the NBA.
You’ve probably heard of: Cuttino Mobley made his career as a good complimentary scorer before a heart condition forced him to retire, and Butler is in the midst of a nice career of his own. But Brad Miller has two All-Star appearances and was a member of the US National Team twice during the FIBA World Championships, and as an undrafted free agent, he turned himself into a very productive NBA player when many teams overlooked him.
After spending his senior season of high school at MCI, Miller returned to his home state of Indiana to play at Purdue. He had a great four-year career, including averaging nearly 18 points and 8 rebounds per game as a senior and then wasn’t selected in the 1998 NBA Draft despite being a solid big man in a league always in need of solid big men.
Miller signed as a free agent with Charlotte and quickly proved it was a mistake for teams to pass on him. Miller made the All-Star team once as a member of the Pacers and once after signing with Sacramento. In his prime, he was a great passing big man in the high post who fit the Kings’ offense perfectly. Although Miller’s game has declined with age, he’s still a very serviceable big man in Houston.
Don’t forget about: DerMarr Johnson was destined to be the best player to come out of MCI. He had a great high school career, with rumors even swirling that he considered becoming the first high school junior to make the jump straight to the NBA, although he ended up finishing school and going to college. Johnson was the National High School Player of the Year in 1999, he was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in his lone season at Cincinnati and he was the sixth overall pick by Atlanta in the 2000 NBA Draft.
A bouncy 6-9 wing who could shoot, Johnson was part of a young Hawks team that had Playoff aspirations when he was in a terrible off-season car accident that nearly left him paralyzed. He recounted what the experience was like for ESPN.com:
“Even with everything that happened, I was real lucky. An inch this way, an inch that way and I could have been paralyzed for life. And you never know what would have happened if they’d done the surgery. I was real close to the possibility of getting messed up. Then came the halo. I’d never seen a halo brace before. I can remember my mom being in a car accident when I was young and having a white brace around her neck for a little while. But this was much different. I think I was lying flat on my back. Maybe they lifted me up. They were holding this metal brace, and I remember thinking, “How they gonna do this?
“You know how a dentist drills into your teeth? Well, all of a sudden they’re drilling right into my forehead. I’m not asleep. I’m not knocked out. I’m wide awake. And I’m saying, ‘Hey, I can feel this! This hurts. A lot! I mean, this is crazy!’ They’re drilling a hole on the left, another on the right. I’m thinkin’, “This is probably going to save me, but who made this up? There’s gotta be a better way to do this than drilling into a man’s skull!”
Johnson never regained his post-injury potential and bounced around the NBA and the D-League for a few years. He’s currently playing overseas.
Caron Butler on Maine Central Institute: “What they embody there is second to none,” said Butler, who is averaging 14 points per game with Dallas this season. “The famous slogan that (former MCI coach) Max Good has is ‘Backboards and blackboards.’ Guys go in to get their SAT scores and to play against the highest competition in the country, New England Prep.
“The atmosphere was always exciting. The city, Pittsfield, is a very small community. The population is probably, I don’t know, on a good day 1,500, but they really accepted us with open arms and made the experience for all of us who went there go very well.
“My favorite memories are just waking up and being able to experience the Maine life, you know. It’s a different type of culture out there. There’s a lot of love, and like I said, the basketball atmosphere is just unreal. That culture helped me out a lot in my preparation for college.
“The competition helped out a lot. It’s very competitive. For years and years, Maine Central Institute, we always played the best of the best. We had an opportunity to really get better and go at each other. It was the most competitive prep school league in the country.
“We had our teammates and classmates, and it was a very diverse group of students, but we all flocked to each other and got to know each other well and quickly. It was fun.
“Maine Central guys in the present and future can just know that they come from a great tradition. Believe in the system and the MCI way because the way works. We have so many successful guys that have prospered from being in that situation and you can too if you just go there and do your work, obviously school first and basketball second, but you can make it.
“And Max Good was one of the craziest coaches ever [laughs]. But I’m sure that’s well known and well publicized already.”