Eight Preps Picked in NBA Draft
It started as a trickle, with Dwight Howard going No. 1 to the Orlando Magic and Shaun Livingston going No. 4 to the Los Angeles Clippers during Thursday night's NBA Draft.
But by the time Dorell Wright was picked No. 19 by the Miami Heat — becoming the record-setting eighth high school player selected in the first round — the draft had turned into a preps-to-pros flood.
The eight prep players taken in the first round this year shattered the previous record of four, which was set in 2001 (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop) and tied last year (LeBron James, Travis Outlaw, Ndudi Ebi and Kendrick Perkins). Even more amazing is that all eight were drafted among the first 19 picks.
The "Elite Eight" high schoolers also doubled the four college seniors who were drafted in the first round on Thursday, proving that youth was definitely served in this year's draft.
It all started with the top pick, where the Magic decided to go for big-time potential over a proven college player by picking Howard over UConn's Emeka Okafor. Howard, a 6-foot-11 power forward out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy (Ga.) who's been compared to Kevin Garnett, is the third high schooler taken No. 1 in the past four years, following Kwame Brown (2001) and LeBron James (2003).
Three picks later, the Los Angeles Clippers hope they found their point guard of the future at No. 4 with Livingston, a 6-foot-7 point guard from Peoria Central High (Ill.). Although he's still extremely thin at 185 pounds, his combination of height and court vision could make him a perennial All-Star in time.
After Livingston, there was a small drought of high schoolers until Bakersfield High (Calif.) 7-foot-1 center Robert Swift was drafted No. 12 by the Seattle Sonics. However, Swift started a run of six prep players selected within the span of eight picks, with only Utah at No. 14 and No. 16 not opting to go the high school route.
Next up was Lincoln High (N.Y.) point guard Sebastian Telfair, who went No. 13 to the Portland Trail Blazers. At 6-foot, Telfair is the shortest player to ever be drafted straight out of high school.
Two picks later, the Boston Celtics grabbed Prentiss High (Miss.) 6-foot-9 power forward Al Jefferson with the No. 15 pick. This was the second year in a row the Celtics drafted a high schooler after taking Kendrick Perkins last year through a draft-day trade.
Oak Hill Academy (Va.) 6-foot-8 small forward Josh Smith then went No. 17 to the Atlanta Hawks. Smith, an athletic freak who needs to refine his raw game to reach his potential, is actually a native of the Atlanta area who played his final prep season at powerhouse Oak Hill. At one point he was considered a lock for the lottery, but his stock fell leading up to the draft.
Another high school Smith went with the very next pick, with the New Orleans Hornets drafting St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) 6-foot-6 shooting guard J.R. Smith at No. 18. He's another high-flying athlete, but he can also shoot it from NBA 3-point range to go with his athleticism.
The record-setting run on high schoolers finally ended when Miami used the No. 19 pick on Wright, a 6-foot-7 swingman out of South Kent Prep (Conn.). He's probably the most unproven of the eight preps picked in the first round, but his combination of athleticism and skill could make him a steal if he develops.
The one cautionary tale in an otherwise banner year for high schoolers was Coastal Christian Academy (Va.) 6-foot-10 power forward Jackie Butler, who was the only prep player to stay in the draft and go unselected.