Some of the League’s best ballers hail from L.A.
Well, your days of pondering are about to finally come to an end.
Way back when, before making a splash in the NBA, both cats used to call Los Angeles home. In fact, there’s plenty of individuals in the League nowadays whose roots began playing high school ball out in sunny Southern California, seemingly too many to count.
That said, it’s time to take a look at who’s who and who got started where.
There’s a saying out in this neck of the woods that goes something like this: Inglewood, always up to no good. During his high school days, Pierce was a star at Inglewood. It was more of the same once he arrived in college at Kansas. Accordingly, he’s continued down the same path ever since. Need proof? How about nine NBA All-Star appearances, an NBA Finals MVP honor and championship ring. Need we say more? Didn’t think so. Pierce figures to go down as one of the all-time greats from the greater Los Angeles area.
He attended Crossroads High out in Santa Monica, which is approximately 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, if the traffic is light, of course. At the time, Division I coaches and scouts would flock to Southern California to see Davis in action. When push came to shove, he decided that the best move for him, in terms of the next level, was to go to UCLA. After brief stops in Charlotte, New Orleans and Golden State, Davis is back where he belongs, with the Clippers at Staples Center. Sometimes it seems as if he never left his hometown.
For all intents and purposes, Agent Zero put the San Fernando Valley on the map. No one knew much about Grant High before Arenas made his mark at the Van Nuys school. Unfortunately, no one has heard much about the Lancers since he left. His next stop was Arizona, where he played for Lute Olson and the Wildcats. Arenas appeared destined for greatness before injuries and a run-in with the law sidetracked things. However, all signs point to him having a much-needed second chance alongside Superman, Dwight Howard.
Remember the hip-hop group N.W.A and the hit: Straight Outta Compton? Prince does, that’s for sure, especially after attending nearby Dominguez High. Some might say that was the anthem for the Prince and the Dons back in those days. All kidding aside, he wasn’t as boisterous as Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, few people were. Prince preferred to let his play on the court serve as his words. Kentucky, of course, was listening and he played for the Wildcats before the Pistons took him with the 22nd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. The rest is history.
Little know fact: Chandler was a teammate of Tayshaun Prince at Dominguez. Imagine having to face those two at the high school level, no thanks. Together, they were one of the most potent one-two punches prep basketball had to offer during the mid-1990′s. Whereas Prince continued his education, Chandler opted for bigger and better things. Luckily for him, he taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, one spot behind one of the biggest busts ever known to man, Kwame Brown. Chandler, on the other hand, has carved out a rather nice niche for himself.
This guy comes from one of the premier programs in the Southland’s history, Westchester High. Ariza was, without a doubt, one of the best from around these parts as a senior in 2003. Most of the recruiting services ranked him among the nation’s top-20 prospects in a decorated class that included peers such as LeBron James and Chris Paul, to name a few. While Ariza hasn’t quite reached the superstar status of those aforementioned names, he has made a decent living. It’s worth noting he often returns to his old stomping grounds during the offseason.
Everyone knows his story. And for those who don’t, it’s about time you crawl out from underneath that rock and join the rest of the free world. In short, Jennings was another one of those Dominguez High products before eventually taking his overall game to Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy. He ended up choosing to forgo college life and his commitment to play Pac-10 Conference basketball at Arizona for a chance to play professionally overseas. Guess things worked out well. Just yesterday, it seems, he was the talk of the town in Los Angeles.
He practiced his craft on the outskirts of Los Angeles, at Woodland Hills Taft High under the direction of coach Derrick Taylor. Shortly thereafter, UCLA and coach Ben Howland took over. Not surprisingly, Farmar & Co. made an appearance in the 2006 NCAA National Championship game, where they lost to Florida, 73-57, and its cast of characters that included future NBA dudes like Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer. No matter, Farmar was drafted by the Lakers, and eventually, got his title. In fact, he got two titles, back-toback in 2009 and 2010. The consensus seems to be that Los Angeles natives were sorry to see him leave when he decided to head East.
We’ve talked about Compton Dominguez plenty thus far. But there is another solid hoops school out in that direction, Centennial High, where Afflalo hails from. And rest assured, college coaches were very familiar with the program when he was around. The powers that be were enamored with him during the formative years and there was plenty to like, no question about it. Afflalo was one of the country’s top seniors in 2004, right up there with Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay. UCLA won out on the recruiting war back then despite numerous other offers. These days, all signs point to Afflalo continuing his emergence as an above average contributor next to Carmelo Anthony.
We said that Gilbert Arenas put the San Fernando Valley on the map, and given the lasting impression he made, there’s no reason not to stand behind the statement. Now, if anyone was capable of carrying the torch, that someone would have had to be Holiday, who starred at Campbell Hall High in North Hollywood. He backed up the lofty comparisons in 2008 when he was selected to the McDonald’s All-American team. Like so many other Los Angeles bred ballers before him, he attended UCLA before making the jump to the NBA. With Allen Iverson no longer in the City of Brotherly Love backcourt, Holiday could be the heir apparent.
Well, that’d just about cover things. We would, however, be remiss without mentioning another former Los Angeles standout DeMar DeRozan, who was an absolute beast at Compton High before his days at USC and the Toronto Raptors.
Amir Johnson deserves a shoutout as well. He tore things up at Westchester High during his years with the Comets, decided not to honor his commitment to Louisville and was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft. Just recently, he was reunited with his California cohort, DeRozan, in Toronto.
Somewhere along the way, we are sure to have missed a name or two, perhaps as many as three or four. The good thing is, there is plenty of time to make amends with a follow-up list with some of the blasts from Los Angeles’ not so distant past.
Sean Ceglinsky is a contributor for SLAMonline.com. Follow him on Twitter.