High School Hierarchy: 6-10
SLAMonline ranks the top pro-producing high schools of all time.
This is the fifth installment of a six-part series featuring the best high school basketball programs in America. For more of SLAMonline’s High School Hierarchy, check out the archive.
by Patrick Hayes / @patrick_hayes
10. Boys High School, Brooklyn, NY
NBA Players Produced: Mel Davis, Si Green, Connie Hawkins, Lenny Wilkens
Combined Experience: 37 seasons
NBA/ABA Championships Won: 2
All-Star Appearances: 14
Hall of Famers: 2
Total Points: 91
Boys’ contributions to NBA lore? The second winningest coach in NBA history who also happens to be a Hall of Fame player, an all-time great who had to sue the NBA just to get into the League, and a player who had as much post-basketball NBA success as he did as a player with the Knicks in the 1970s.
You’ve probably heard of: It’s really a tossup. How do you choose between Lenny Wilkens, a Hall of Fame player and one of the great point guards of his era who went on to briefly become the NBA’s all-time leader in coaching wins (until Don Nelson surpassed him) and Connie Hawkins, the predecessor to today’s high-flying wing players?
One thing both players had in common, however, is that their high school basketball careers at Boys didn’t necessarily predict their future successes. Wilkens’ experience was recounted in Sports Illustrated:
“Constructing the paradigm of athletic reputations begins early, and Wilkens is still suffering from his original sin—that he had no high school publicity on which to build. He had made the Boys High team—last man on a 15-man squad—as a freshman but did not go out for the team the next couple of years and, in fact, started cutting classes and generally drifting until his widowed mother put her foot down and refused him permission to quit school and join the Marines. Wilkens took a certain renewed interest in academics at this point and set his sights on going to the City College of New York. Tommy Davis was the all-city star at Boys High and he knew Lenny from way back, in stick-ball mostly, when Davis and the Decatur Street Boys used to come up against Wilkens and the Bainbridge Street Boys. Davis prevailed upon Lenny to come out for the Boys High team again. Still, Wilkens was a mid-year graduate and played only half the schedule, missing out on all the city tournaments and publicity. But a few people had seen just enough to tell Joe Mullaney, then the coach of Providence College, and Lenny accepted a Providence scholarship in the fall of ’56.”
Hawkins, on the other hand, was on the team throughout high school, but didn’t make an impact early on: “Hawkins wasn’t an instant star at Boys High School, playing little as an emaciated 6-3, 140-pound sophomore.”
He had a huge senior season, however, and played at Iowa. But a mistaken connection between Hawkins and a man involved in a point-shaving scandal caused no NBA teams to draft him for three years of being Draft-eligible. Then, he was banned from the League outright and had to win an anti-trust lawsuit just to gain entrance into the NBA.
Once he did, he quickly became one of the most exciting players in the League and had a Hall of Fame career.
Don’t forget about: Mel Davis played three seasons with his home state Knicks in the 1970s, playing alongside some of the greatest players in the game, as he recounted to NBA.com in 2005:
“To grow up in New York, attend St. John’s University, and be drafted by the team you grew up rooting for all your life….it was a tremendous experience. Also very unique: I think this has only happened with three players in history, Mark Jackson and myself being two of them …
“Willis Reed was my roommate. Willis, The Pearl, Jerry Lucas, and Clyde are close friends of mine till this day. Bill Bradley and I had breakfast together just last week. It was a very special group of men, all unique in his own way. I don’t think there’s ever going to be another team like that. They understood the game from the neck up. They were all skilled as individuals, but played the game together as a unit and played for the team.”
Although Davis didn’t have a long-term NBA basketball career, he had a successful post-hoops career, working for Pepsi and eventually serving a stint as Executive Director of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Davis also had a long-running youth basketball camp in New York.
But those stories pale in comparison to how the Boston Celtics, who had the second pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, ended up getting Bill Russell at No. 2 and convincing the Rochester Royals to take Boys alum Si Green No. 1 overall. Dave Berri of Wages of Wins recounts how it went down:
The Celtics entered the 1956 Draft with the seventh pick. This pick was sent to the St. Louis Hawks – along with Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan, for the second pick. It was believed that the Rochester Royals – who had the first pick – might want to take Russell. Auerbach, though, had a secret weapon. The owner of the Celtics, Walter Brown, was also the president of the Ice Capades. Brown called up the owner of the Royals– Lee Harrison — with the following offer: Brown would send the Ice Capades to Rochester for one week if the Royals would pass on Russell. Harrison agreed and with the first overall choice in the 1956 Draft the Royals selected Si Green, a guard from Duquesne.
Green actually carved out a solid nine-year career in the NBA, although the Ice Capades only stayed a week in Rochester and Green didn’t last much longer, only playing 33 games with the franchise. And ironically, Green actually spent his final NBA season as Russell’s teammate in Boston.