High School Hierarchy: 11-15
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
11. Inglewood High School, Inglewood, CA
NBA Players Produced: Paul Pierce, Reggie Theus, Harold Miner, Jay Humphries, Jason Hart, Noel Felix
Combined Experience: 51 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 1
All-Star Appearances: 10
Hall of Famers: 0
Total Points: 83
Who could argue the significance of the high school that gave us both Reggie Theus’ Emmy-deserving portrayal of Coach Bill Fuller on Hang Time and ‘Baby Jordan?’ Theus, of course, preceded his children’s television acting days with a stellar college and NBA career as a scoring wing and then got into coaching post-Hang Time, as the former head coach of the Sacramento Kings and currently as an assistant with Minnesota. And ‘Baby Jordan’ is the nickname given to Harold Miner, Inglewood’s flashy, bald dunking machine who had the misfortune of being compared to the Greatest of All Time before he ever set foot on an NBA court.
You’ve probably heard of: Every aspiring basketball player who has been cut from his team hears the “Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team” story at some point. Well, Paul Pierce also has his own version. He was cut from varsity as a freshman and he was so mad that he transferred. He was convinced, however, to return, and he’s become Inglewood’s most successful basketball alum. In a story in ESPN Rise about Pierce’s jersey getting retired, his high school coach discusses not being sold on Pierce immediately:
Still, Roy wasn’t sold on the 5-9, pudgy Pierce.
“I had my doubts because he was still a little chubby,” Roy said.
Being sold short has kind of been a theme in Pierce’s career. He fell all the way to the 10th pick in the NBA Draft out of Kansas and, until Boston finally upgraded the talent around him three years ago, Pierce’s name was rarely brought up when the top players in the NBA were discussed. He’s now added his name among the greatest all-time Celtics (no easy task), he’s won a championship and he’s a sure Hall of Famer when he retires.
Don’t forget about: Ralph Jackson only played one game in the NBA, but he’s also remembered as one of the best point guards the state of California ever produced. ESPN’s Ronnie Flores wrote this about Jackson: “The best high school player of the group, Jackson was the ringleader of the ’80 team, averaging 18 ppg. He’s considered one of the best high school point guards ever from SoCal.”
And Frank Burlison from the Long Beach Press Telegram wrote this: “History tells us that Jackson, who played at UCLA, was the best BIW point guard to graduate in the ’80s. And there wasn’t a more dependable passer to come along until Jason Kidd showed up on the scene.”
Jackson had a solid career at UCLA, and being compared to one of the best point guards of all time in Kidd as a high school player certainly speaks to his ability to run a team.
Random fact: There are a lot of cautionary tales about hyped star high school and college players who don’t live up to their billing in the NBA. Although Harold Miner didn’t live up to the star status most pegged him for after his exciting careers at Inglewood and USC, he’s no cautionary tale:
Harold Miner has to just laugh about some of the rumors about him floating around on the Internet. Like the ones about Miner being in the witness protection program. Or working at a Jack in the Box in Los Angeles. Or being a member of the LAPD and becoming an ordained minister. “Oh my goodness, it’s crazy,” said Miner, now 39.
The truth is much less sensationalistic. Miner now resides in Las Vegas with his wife, 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. He currently isn’t working, and still lives off the over $20 million he made during a brief NBA career which — unlike many pro athletes — he managed and invested very diligently.
Miner entered the NBA with expectations that were impossible to live up to. Several have dealt with comparisons to Jordan during their careers, but only Miner was flat-out nicknamed after him. With the hype Miner received in his brief four-year career, it makes sense that he’s tried to keep his post-basketball life as quiet as his NBA life was flashy.