High School Hierarchy: 16-20
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
19. Crenshaw High School, Los Angeles, CA
NBA Players Produced: Marques Johnson, John Williams, Tremaine Fowlkes, Stanley Brundy, Kevin Ollie, Darwin Cook, Robert Smith, Stephen Thompson
Combined Experience: 53 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 1
All-Star Appearances: 5
Hall of Famers: 0
Total Points: 70
Crenshaw High School boasts notable non-basketball alums like ‘The Original Gangsta’ (who’s a little less gangsta nowadays on Law and Order) Ice-T and MLB All-Star Darryl Strawberry. But USA Today recounted how the community fell in love with Crenshaw hoops:
February 1972, Crenshaw is 18-0 in All-American (Marques) Johnson’s junior season, but starting small forward Kenny Daniels is declared ineligible and team is barred from the Playoffs. Crenshaw plays its last two home games before overflow crowds to send off a senior-dominated team. The Cougars beat Westchester and Venice by 60 points each, and Johnson says the neighborhood fell in love with the program.
You’ve probably heard of: Along with an excellent portrayal of Raymond, a street baller who got hustled by Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump, Marques Johnson was a great high school, college and pro basketball player. Johnson starred at UCLA on John Wooden’s last of 10 straight national championship teams and was the third pick in the 1977 NBA Draft, playing for Don Nelson’s Milwaukee Bucks (did they call it Nellie-Ball back then?). Johnson and his son, Kris, are the only father-son duo in NCAA history to win a national title at the same school.
Don’t forget about: Springy wing Stephen Thompson stood out for his athleticism, but once he got to Syracuse, it was easy for the Crenshaw product to get overlooked. His teammates included Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, Rony Seikaly and Sherman Douglas. Still though, Thompson had a standout career, averaging 14 points or more per game each of his last three seasons at Syracuse and he was named to the school’s All-Century Team. Thompson briefly played in the NBA, lasting 19 games as a rookie free agent, and he’s now a college coach, entering his sixth season coaching Division II Cal State-Los Angeles.
Stephen Thompson on Crenshaw High School: “It all started with the coach, Willie West. When he took over the program, he just started to build a tradition of success. He just took kids out of the inner city and taught them how to be men and work hard, and that just gave the whole community a sense of belonging. You wanted to be a part of it. And with that sense, came the successful winning. It all started with his vision of having a top-rate team in the city of Los Angeles.
“When I was at Crenshaw from 10th-12th grade, I never lost a high school basketball game in the state of California. We had two losses, but it was at a tournament in South Carolina my senior year. But we never lost a game in the state of California, and me and my teammates can go on to say that the rest of our lives and it’s just an unbelievable feeling.
“My junior year, we were able to finish No. 1 in the country and at that time, the No. 1 team in the country represented the country in a tournament where most countries were represented, and we won that world championship as well. If you go in our gym, there’s a white banner that has the world championship on it for our ‘84-85 team.
“The biggest thing is we had a work ethic instilled in us that was not matched. The work ethic, the toughness that we learned at Crenshaw carried over. Going from Crenshaw to Syracuse, I was prepared mentally. I still had to work and work hard, but the ethic and the determination to succeed at those levels was already in me because of what I learned at Crenshaw through coach West.