High School Hierarchy: 26-30
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
This is the first installment of a six-part series featuring the best high school basketball programs in America. Check back every Thursday for more of SLAMonline’s High School Hierarchy.
by Patrick Hayes / @patrick_hayes
It’s a safe bet that high school basketball players across the country play the game with one dream in the back of their minds: making it to the NBA.
Realistically, we know how unlikely the odds are. A very tiny percentage of players make it to the League each year, and yet there are a handful of high schools across the country that have made significant contributions to the NBA and ABA in their histories.
Admittedly, it’s a crazy undertaking to come up with a scientific way to rank the top pro-producing schools of all time. But if it weren’t for silly undertakings, we’d rarely ever have anything interesting to discuss.
Below is my attempt to list the schools that have unbelievable histories and alumni who have gone on to accomplish amazing things at the professional level. By no means is this supposed to be the absolute authority on the subject. My intention is to get a discussion going. Few things are as fun as big-time high school basketball, and there are plenty of counter arguments that people can make based on this list.
Here is the criteria used to evaluate schools:
Prep schools: One of the most hotly contested issues in amateur basketball is the role of the prep school. There are schools that have carved out reputations as essentially basketball factories, that have the ability to attract transfers from all over the country who crave the exposure and potential Division I scholarships playing at these schools can lead to. There have been major controversies centered on prep schools related to who is paying tuition for some of the athletes and whether it affects their status as an amateur in the eyes of the NCAA or whether the academic standards at some of the schools are as stringent as they should be.
But I wasn’t putting the list together to make moral arguments. Prep schools have sent significant numbers of players to the NBA, so, for my purposes, I considered them as I would any other high school.
Transfers: Transfers are becoming a norm in high school sports. Kids transfer for a litany of reasons, some of which are controversial. Most state athletic associations have some type of rule prohibiting a student from transferring for athletic reasons. Still, though, loopholes are found quite often and many people have passionate arguments about why transfers are a bad thing for high school basketball.
I considered the players on this list alums of the school they graduated from, mainly for reasons of convenience. It’s hard to keep track of where guys played before graduating. So while Brandon Jennings started out at Dominguez, he’s counted as an Oak Hill alum since that’s where he finished up. Lamar Odom played at Christ the King, but graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas in Connecticut.
The transfer issue will leave plenty of room for debate, but without knowing which school an individual player identifies with most (which would be near impossible to find out for every guy who has transferred), it simply made the most sense to list each player with the school they graduated from.
The ranking system: I didn’t want to simply rank schools based on the total number of seasons their alums played in the NBA. As we know, not every season is created equal. Some players are much more impactful than others, so here was the simple scoring system I used to make the list:
• Schools must have produced a minimum of four ABA/NBA players to be considered. Four seemed to be a reasonable number. A lot of schools have produced two or three. Four thins things out a bit.
• Schools get 1 point for each season an alum played. What counts as a season? That person must have played in at least one regular-season game for a ABA/NBA team.
• Schools get 2 points for each ABA/NBA championship an alum won. Championships are a big deal, so having a ring is worth more than simply just playing a season, but I didn’t want to reward guys too heavily if they didn’t necessarily contribute much other than some awesome towel waving on the bench of a title winner, which is why a title is only worth two.
• Schools get 3 points for each All-Star Game appearance by an alum.
• Schools get 4 points for each alum who made the Basketball Hall of Fame.
I simply totaled everything up and made the list based on a total score for each school. Hopefully, the criteria is transparent enough. I tried to stick to a method when making these choices and didn’t just rank teams arbitrarily. I fully realize the method isn’t foolproof. Frankly, I didn’t want it to be. I wanted to have a clear, organized system for ranking these programs, but I also wanted to leave plenty of room for people to make cases/debate these rankings.
After all, what’s the point of a list if it doesn’t get people riled up?