The 2009-10 NBA season tips off tonight and to commemorate here are 10 Starting Point snapshots of Sports Illustrated’s preseason All-NBA first and second teams.
Interesting that four of the five off the first team never played collegiately, each were lottery NBA picks after their senior years in high school.
LeBron James (St. Vincent-St. Mary’s HS, Akron, Ohio): Perhaps the most followed high school career in prep history, James joined childhood pals Sian Cotton, Willie McGee and Dru Joyce to form the self-proclaimed “Fab Four” at SVSM. Think “Entourage” at the prep sports level. As a 6-foot-3 freshman, James averaged just under 20 points per game leading SVSM to a 27-0 season and the program’s first state title since 1984. James grew to 6-7 by his sophomore year and after more than 700 receiving yards on the football field, he led the Fighting Irish to their second straight state title, this time averaging 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. His junior year in football, James had 52 catches for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns and the though the basketball team failed to win a third straight state title, he averaged 28 points, six assists and eight rebounds per game. He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. He finished off his prep career with another state title, a 24-1 record and averaged 31.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.4 steals per game. He was MVP of the three post-season All-Star games including the McDonald’s game. He finished his prep career with 2,657 points, 892 rebounds and 523 assists.
Kevin Garnett (Farragut HS, Chicago): One of four first-teamers to go directly from high school to the NBA, Garnett actually played three seasons at Mauldin High School near his hometown of Greenville, S.C., but transferred after a scrape with the law. He led Farragut to a 28-2 record, was the USA Today National Player of the Year after averaging 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks per game. He also shot 66 percent from the field. His prep career numbers were 2,553 points, 1,809 rebounds and 737 blocks. He was the McDonald’s game MVP with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Garnett was the first player in 20 years to be drafted straight out of high school and was the fifth pick over by the Timberwolves in the 1995.
Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy HS): In 129 career games, he averaged 16.6 points, 13.4 rebounds and 6.3 blocks. He upped that considerably his senior year when he averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 8 blocks and 3.5 assists per game, leading SACA to a state title. He as picked the Naismith, Gatorade and Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year and was co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game in 2004. He also skipped college and was the No. 1 pick of the Magic in the same year.
Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion HS, Philadelphia): He ended his prep career as the Southeastern Pennsylvania all-time leading scorer with 2,883 points, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons. He led Lower Merion to its first state title in 53 years and a 31-3 record when he averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.8 blocks per game. He was the Naismith and Gatorade National Player of the Year. Bryant, the son of former NBA standout Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, bypassed a scholarship offer to Duke and was the 13th overall pick of the 1996 draft by the Hornets, who traded him the Lakers for Vlade Divac. That was the same year the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal, planting the seeds for its future title run.
Dwyane Wade (Richards HS, Oak Lawn, Ill.): Wade didn’t play much his sophomore year – his stepbrother Demetris McDaniel was the star – but he grew four inches heading into his junior year. That helped him average 20.7 points and 7.6 rebounds that year before his big senior year when he averaged 27.0 points and 11 rebounds and set a school record for steals (106), leading his team to a 24-5 record and into the state finals. He was recruited by only three schools: Illinois State, DePaul and Marquette. He chose the latter and after three years and two seasons there, he was the No. 5 pick overall by the Heat in the 2003 draft.
Tim Duncan (St. Dunstan’s Episcopal HS, St. Croix, Virgin Islands): A standout swimmer in the 50, 100 and 400 freestyle events, Duncan actually dreamed of making the 1992 Olympic team in the water. But Hurricane Hugo destroyed the St. Croix’s only Olympic-sized swimming pools and 1989. Reportedly he was cast away to ocean swimming, but lost his passion due to a fear of sharks. A more severe blow came a day before his 14th birthday when he lost his mother to breast cancer. Eventually, he found a love of basketball and led St. Dunstan by averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds and five blockers per game his senior year.
Dirk Nowitzki: Like most Europeans, the perennial All-NBA forward wasn’t spotted at school but in club teams, in his case DJK Wurzburg. He has fantastic athletic genes – his mother Hela was a profession basketball player and father Jorg-Werner was an internationally-known handball player. His older sister Silke was a local track and field standout and basketball player. For Wurzburg, he struggled early but in 1996-97, he averaged 19.4 points per game leading his team to second-place finish. As a 19-year-old who had grown to 6-11 and averaged 28.2 points per game and was voted German Basketballer of the Year by the German Basket magazine. Later that year he was the ninth overall pick of the NBA draft by the Bucks.
Shaquille O’Neal (Cole HS, San Antonio, Texas): During his two-year stint at Cole, his team’s went 68-1 and it won a state crown his senior year in 1989. His 791 records that season is still a state record. Shaq also attended Fulda American High, a DODDs school.
Chris Paul (West Forsythe HS, Clemmons, N.C.): As a senior in 2003, Paul was named North Carolina’s Mr. Basketball by the Charlotte Observer after averaging 30.8 points, 9.5 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 6.0 steals per game. He led the team to a 27-3 record and Class 4A East Regional finals. He scored 61 points in a game in memory of his grandfather Nathaniel Jones, 61, who was beaten to death during a robbery. He missed a free throw on purpose and took himself out of the game even though the state record of 66 was within reach.
Deron Williams (The Colony HS, Colony, Texas): A two-time state wrestling champion in middle school, Williams got serious about basketball in high school and averaged 17 points, 9.4 assists and two steals per game as a junior. He led his team to a 32-2 record and into the state 5A semifinals. As a senior, Colony (29-2) also made it to the semifinals and Williams averaged 17.6 points, 8.5 assists and 6.1 rebounds.
Have a Starting Point story about a current professional athlete who attended your high school? E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.