The Next LeBron?
The current record in a single year is six (in 2001), but this year there could be as many as eight (or more) legitimate candidates who attempt to jump from high school to the NBA. So, SchoolSports breaks them down and gives you the skinny on all eight. This is not a prediction, but rather a preview of players whom NBA front-office personnel will have their eyes on this spring.This list is excerpted from the the March edition of SchoolSports magazine. To read more about the top high school ballers in the nation and all the hottest high school sports information, subscribe to SchoolSports today.
1. Dwight Howard - SW Atlanta Christian (Ga.)
Howard, a 6-foot-11, 243-pound center, is not a sure thing like LeBron was a year ago. Chances are, Howard won't come in and average 20 points per game as a rookie and earn a $100 million shoe contract. But with size and skills that draw comparisons to Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, he's being projected as the No. 1 pick if he enters the draft. That could be too much to pass up.
2. Josh Smith - Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Smith, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound small forward who signed with Indiana in the fall, is an athletic freak of nature, and that always makes NBA GMs drool at draft time. Smith is the only prep player besides Howard (an AAU teammate) being projected as a top-10 pick, and the rumor mill really heated up when he decided to transfer to basketball factory Oak Hill for his senior season, fueling speculation that the switch was made to showcase him to NBA scouts.
3. Sebastian Telfair - Lincoln High (N.Y.)
Telfair, a 6-foot, 180-pound point guard, has had a roller-coaster high school career. He was nationally renowned as a freshman, saw his stock drop last year and is now creating buzz again with a stellar senior season. Telfair said last summer that anyone projected as a top-20 pick would have to consider making the leap, but right now scouts seem split on him. If he does enter the draft, he'd be the first prep player shorter than 6-foot-4 to do so. Louisville fans are pretty nervous right now.
4. Shaun Livingston - Peoria Central High (Ill.)
Livingston, a 6-foot-7, 170-pound point guard, draws rave reviews from scouts because of his combination of height and court vision. NBA teams are always looking for big point guards who can create matchup problems, and the fact that Livingston also possesses superior passing skills has led to comparisons with Magic Johnson. Although Livingston would be well-served to spend a year at Duke to add some weight, a possible lottery selection could be too much to pass up.
5. Al Jefferson - Prentiss High (Miss.)
Jefferson, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound center, was once thought to be the surest bet in the Class of 2004 to enter the NBA Draft. But his stock has dropped a bit in the past year, and there seems to be growing sentiment that he might honor his commitment to Arkansas after all. Jefferson has NBA size and athleticism and excellent post moves, but scouts worry about how he'd make the transition from center in high school to power forward in the pros.
6. Robert Swift - Bakersfield High (Calif.)
Swift, a 7-foot-1, 265-pound center who signed with USC, has the one thing NBA scouts are always looking for: size. Sure, Howard and Jefferson are big, but neither are legitimate 7-foot centers like Swift. Add in his fantastic low-post moves, great footwork and excellent hands and it's no surprise he's being projected as a first-round pick with lottery potential. His stock has risen more in the past year than any other high schooler.
7. LaMarcus Aldridge - Seagoville High (Texas)
Aldridge, a 6-foot-11, 228-pound power forward, has an amazing array of skills for a big man. He can post up, shoot from the perimeter, rebound, block shots and even handle the rock. Although he definitely needs to bulk up to be ready for the NBA, his potential is off the charts. The fact that he committed to Texas but didn't sign in the fall led many to believe he's considering a jump to the pros.
8. Randolph Morris - Landmark Christian (Ga.)
Morris, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center, hasn't been talked about as much in NBA circles as the other guys on this list. And like most high schoolers, he'd be better off going to college for a couple years (he was undecided where at press time). But with his size and two huge performances in head-to-head matchups against Dwight Howard this season, Morris has certainly piqued the interest of NBA folks.