If Thursday's NBA Draft goes to form, 2012 could go down as the Year of the Sleeper.
Five players who largely managed to escape the eye and adoration of recruiting analysts could go among the top 14 picks, according to the latest mock by NBADraft.net.
Alec Burks, who played high school basketball at Grandview (Mo.)
, Jimmer Fredette of Glens Falls (N.Y.)
, Kawhi Leonard of King (Riverside, Calif.)
, Klay Thompson of Santa Margarita (Calif.)
and Derrick Williams of La Mirada (Calif.)
were all relatively uncelebrated entering college.
It's a departure from 2010, when high school blue-chippers like John Wall, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Al-Farouq Aminu, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry and Ed Davis were among the NBA's most sought-after commodities.
"I do think it is an indictment of our ratings system that so many kids are slipping through the cracks," said Grandview head coach Randy Farris, who will be on hand Thursday at The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for his former pupil's draft moment.
Burks has experienced the most dramatic rise from obscurity. Despite averaging 23 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Grandview, the 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard wasn't highly recruited, picking Colorado over Missouri State and a lukewarm offer from Kansas State.
"His senior year we knew he would be a good college player," Farris said. "But I'm not so sure we had in mind this type of stardom."
Burks led the Bulldogs to a 29-2 record and the Class 5 state championship game in 2008-09, pumping in 31 points in the semifinals and 33 more in the final against Chaminade of St. Louis, a team that featured a sophomore by the name of Bradley Beal.
Just two years removed from Grandview, Burks is ready for the jump to the NBA, according to Farris.
"I think he will handle it well," Farris said. "Alec is a different kind of individual. He is quiet, but self-assured. He has great back-up from his family. His biggest problem is he stays up too late playing video games."
Farris noted that perhaps not everybody missed the boat on Burks' potential. The jersey he wore in middle school at nearby Grace Academy was retired before he even began high school.
"That's the only time I have ever heard of that," Farris said.
Moreso than Burks, Williams was on the radar of major recruiting services after signing with USC, then reversing course after the departure of Tim Floyd and winding up as a late addition at Arizona under then-new head coach Sean Miller. Listed at 6-7 and between 195 and 210 pounds as a senior at La Mirada, he was far from the 6-8, 245-pound specimen he is today.
"I think we knew he was going to be successful, but it's hard to say that you expect it at this level because it is so hard to accomplish," said La Mirada coach Steve Schuster, who will also be at the draft.
Williams posted 25 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game as a senior, including a 39-point, 19-rebound playoff performance against Yucaipa.
"Some of the things that people saw at Arizona were the same things we saw in high school," Schuster said. "He progressed so fast so quickly. I think that's a byproduct of his work ethic."
Leonard helped King rise to prominence with a 30-3 record as a senior that included a memorable playoff win over Mater Dei and 6-10 twin towers David and Travis Wear. But at 6-7, he earned the "tweener" label as a forward who did most of his damage in the paint.
Thompson's recruitment began to take off following the Ocean View Tournament of Champions in December of 2007, where he dazzled with performances of 38 and 37 points. Michigan and Notre Dame were among the schools to take notice, but the son of former Portland Trail Blazer Mychal Thompson opted for Washington State and then-head coach Tony Bennett.
Thompson led Santa Margarita to a Division III state title later that season.
Then there's Fredette — or Jimmer. The undisputed media sensation of college basketball's 2010-11 season, Fredette poured in more than 2,400 points during his high school career and boasted double-digit scholarship offers. But nobody could have predicted he would become the Naismith Player of the Year and a potential lottery pick.