The 25 Most Hyped High School Basketball Recruits Of All Time

Kobe Bryant (photo. McDonald’s All-American Games)

We all remember the players from high school that were the hyped uncontrollably, right? You know, the ones that were given notoriety few players at any level can match. From nationally televised games to documentaries, some were given the red carpet treatment even before they attended their senior prom. There are the ones who lived up to it and, well, the ones that fall short.

We’ve had plenty more busts than LeBrons. For every Wilt or Kobe, there’s been at least one Telfair or Kwame. Here are 25 of the most hyped high school basketball prospects we’ve ever seen.

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The “Jewish Jordan” is what Sports Illustrated dubbed him as back when he was a global phenom. Averaging 35 points per game, Tamir Goodman was on his way to stardom… or at least that’s what we thought. After being offered a scholarship by Maryland, he had to turn it down due to scheduling and religious conflicts. He later attended Towson, where he didn’t really pan out and later left to play overseas. While Tamir was overseas, he was derailed by numerous injuries.

For 20 years, McMillen held the record for the most high school points scored in the state of Pennsylvania with 3,608 points. While at Mansfield High, he averaged over 35 points a game for his entire high school career, including 47 a game as a senior. That earned him a cover story in Sports Illustrated and a scholarship to Maryland where he would leave as the all-time scoring average leader. McMillen went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA until 1986 but never averaged double-figures.

How can anybody forget the imaginary horns that D-Miles uses to throw up back in the day? Straight out of East St. Louis High School, the 6-9 high school prodigy was an athletic specimen ready to make noise in the league. Drafted in the 2000 NBA Draft after putting on a show in numerous high school all-star games — he was so spectacular that Michael Jordan endorsed the Clippers taking him near the top of the draft — he made the All-Rookie team and slowly made a name for himself before injuries caught up with him. After numerous trades and injuries, Darius never delivered what we were hoping he would as a potential star. Bummer.

Renardo Sidney was once the No. 1 player in his class by far. He had the skills to really take his game to another level and flourish but his erratic behavior got the best of him. In high school, he coasted and didn’t improve the way a kid of his size and skill should’ve. Then once he got to college, Sidney was ruled ineligible for the 2009-2010 seasons due to the NCAA questioning his family’s income. Once Renardo was ruled eligible, he was suspended for a game for an outburst in practice. Then Renardo managed to get nationwide publicity, not for his stats but his brawl with fellow teammate Elgin Bailey in Maui. It seemed everywhere Sidney went trouble followed. There was no telling what could have been if he got his mind right.

New Jersey-bred Derrick Character was definitely a player that had all the potential in the world but couldn’t connect the dots. Character was considered a big deal ever since he stepped foot on the court as a freshman. In fact, he was getting pub in middle school. Unlike most phenonms that don’t live up to the hype, Derrick’s situation was different. It was his attitude and a lack of effort that played a big part in him never reaching full potential, and the seeds of that were planted in high school where by the end of his career he was getting dominated by many of the country’s best power players. Once he got to college, he always seemed to find himself in the doghouse with Rick Pitino, which resulted in him transferring to UTEP. After a career at UTEP, he then decided to head for the NBA but his old ways caught up with him. After that he had stints with the NBDL and overseas but never panned out.

More than a decade ago, many people were predicting that Lenny Cooke would be the biggest thing to come out of high school. Possessing a physique and skill level that few people can dream of, Lenny Cooke was on his way to stardom, becoming the most hyped and herald recruit in his class. Although that was true, Lenny Cooke’s ego destroyed his chances of ever fulfilling that prophecy. The inflated ego he inherited from numerous publications tabbing him as the next “Big Thing” was vital in his downfall. Living the life of an NBA All-Star eventually caught up with him, and his improvement plateaued. From there, problems with eligibility plagued his opportunities. Once mentioned with the likes of LeBron, you can only imagine what he could have been.

Where do I start? Lance Stephenson (aka “Born Ready”) was the guy who once again redefined New York High School basketball. Growing up in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, there was a sense of hype that Lance had to live up too. With the likes of Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, growing up in Coney Island came with a bit of pressure. Although the pressure was great, Lance didn’t crack. From his historic performance at Rucker Park to him breaking the state record in points and appearing in four state title games, Lance Stephenson lived up to all of it. Once he suited up as a Cincinnati Bearcat, he endured hardships but was later drafted 40th by the Indiana Pacers. Although his start was a bit shaky, Lance Stephenson is finally turning into a very good NBA player.

We all can agree that Kwame Brown was one of the biggest busts of all time. MJ chose him No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft after Brown rose to fame during his senior season of high school. However, predictably (looking back on it), Brown’s poor fundamental skills showed early in his career and stunted his potential. He never developed an inside presence that a draft pick of that calibar should have developed, causing him to never reach his potential. That, combined with a shaky attitude, turned him into a very average NBA role player, which is amazing for someone who was utterly dominating names like Tyson Chandler in predraft workouts.

Part of a long line of fabulous point guards to come out of New York City, Marbury was the No. 1 point guard in his class, and was expected to follow in the footsteps of Kenny Anderson at Georgia Tech. Before he became synonymous with emotionally breaking down on the Internet and gold statues in China, a high school freshman-aged Starbury was a supporting character in the incredible basketball book, The Last Shot. The movie He Got Game is also said to be based off his experiences at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. Marbury was praised by nearly every scouting outlet for his basketball I.Q. and his patience as a point guard, rare for someone so young. When you combined that with incredible athleticism, it made him a can’t-miss prospect. He immediately followed in Felipe Lopez’s footsteps as the king of New York schoolboy basketball.

The 7-3 (he continued to grow after high school) phenom was definitely a sight to see. His senior year, he averaged 30 points and 19 rebounds a game, leading his team to a state AA championship. Sampson was considered arguably the biggest recruit of his time, and eventually was appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated six times in about four years. When he was a player at the University of Virginia, he earned three Naismith awards and two Wooden awards. Sampson was athletically gifted and was picked first in the 1984 Draft by the Houston Rockets where the “Twin Towers” were born. Sampson had an incredible career, although his superstardom in the NBA faded rather quickly, and revolutionized the game.

As a senior, Lopez was the top player in his class and more importantly, an iconic figure for the Dominican community. Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated even before stepping on the court for the Johnnies, Lopez was looked at to be the savior at St. John’s. Even though he was picked as sort of the “Chosen One,” he and St. Johns never did anything magical and his career ended quietly. San Antonio saved him from real heartbreak as the Grizzlies took him just before the end of the first round in the 1998 Draft. Not only that, but he only lasted five seasons in the NBA, never once averaging double-figures.

Known for his 100 points in a high school game — as well as his dope DMX-styled ink — Dajuan, “The Messiah,” was destined to be something great once he made to the league. Everything was pointing to a successful and long career. But after being drafted by the Cavilers in 2002 and have a couple of solid seasons, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, causing his colon to be removed. Wagner was later offered a deal by the Golden State Warriors but was released after two months. He’s one of the ultimate “what if?” players of our generation, especially when you think back to how unstoppable he was in high school. Many of these YouTube highlight channels? Yeah, Wagner birthed all of ’em.

Back in the early ’90s, California was the place to visit. Everything from famous landmarks to Snoop Dogg records. Although those aspects were great, you couldn’t come to California and not hear the name Jason Kidd. The heralded stud was making noise and dishing out assists since he was a pup in high school. While at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, Jason Kidd managed to take his school to back-to-back state titles and break the state record in assists. Kidd decided to state home and attend Cal, where he led them to an Elite Eight. Later, he was drafted into the NBA and had a Hall of Fame career. Not too shabby to say the least.

Known as the “Man-Child,” Schea Cotton was a very intimidating player growing up in sunny California. Although he was a great player, he ran into a number of obstacles. First was his size. Growing up, he was always bigger than his opponents so he got used to overpowering his way to the top. In result, Schea’s game never really changed and his skill stayed stagnant, causing his peers to reach his level. The next big hindrance in his life were his problems in school. The NCAA ruled his SAT scores invalid, causing him to not suit up for UCLA, even though later he was able to transfer to Alabama. When at he was at Alabama, his injuries also added to the never-ending cycle. After all of this, it was just too much for him to overcome.

11. O.J. MAYO
Considered to be one of the biggest names since LeBron James, O.J. Mayo was certainly deserving of that title. Possessing a skill level that was far more superior than his peers, Mayo gracefully Euro-stepped his way to the top of his class. Mayo was in the national spotlight even as a seventh grader averaging 23.1 points on his high school varsity team. He than began to draw attention from media such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine and some even contemplated whether he could play in the NBA as a 16 or 17-year-old. Having committed to USC, he averaged 20 points a night and received All-Pac 10 honors before he bolted for the league. Now, some players never make it to the league while some because stars. O.J. is right in the middle. He was given such a big title growing up that his numbers now seem almost mundane compared to what was once expected of him.

Kevin Garnett was known to be the modern era’s first superstar phenom to jump straight from high school to the pros. One of the only high school players to win Player of the Year in two different states (South Carolina and Chicago), Garnett was nobody to take lightly. The “Big Ticket” dominated all opposition during his senior year at Farragut Academy, averaging 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks per game. After failing to qualify academically for school, he jetted to the NBA, where he made an impact with numerous All-NBA accolades and NBA All-Star teams. The Big Ticket was definitely one of the first modern superstar phenoms and frankly, one of the all-time greatest.

The Big O led his team to an amazing 62-1 record and two state championships as a player at Crispus Attucks High School. Robertson began to gain notoriety not just for the color of his skin in the 1950s but more because of his talent. Later, he enrolled into the University of Cincinnati and became Cincy’s No. 1 scorer in school history. Also, he became the first player to average a triple-double throughout an NBA season.

Among the long list of great stars to come out of the state of New York, Kenny Anderson was one of the greatest prep players. The three-time Parade All-American, Kenny Anderson showed flashes of greatness while his game was reminiscent of New York streetball. While he was a freshman attending Georgia Tech he led the Yellow Jackets to a Final Four and after his sophomore year got drafted to the NBA. In the NBA, he was a solid player for teams such as the Nets and Celtics.

Some called Sebastian Telfair the biggest thing to come out of Coney Island since Stephon Marbury. “Bassy” had the game, from the way he would dazzle the crowd with his dribbling skills to his ability to take over with buckets. Sebastian Telfair was everything he was chalked up to be from games on ESPN to having his own documentary. He was the real deal… at least up through high school. Even though all this was true, he was the perfect example of somebody making the wrong decision by opting out of college to head to the NBA. Sebastian wasn’t a superior athlete like most phenoms of the past, and he was super small. Therefore, once he made the league his game was exposed — from his streaking shooting to his turnover-prone playing habits, resulting in him never living up to the hype.

Hold up, wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished? I couldn’t continue with the list without adding Kobe. Before being compared to Jordan and becoming arguably the greatest Laker ever, Kobe was causing havoc for opponents in his high school days. After averaging 30 points per game while breaking Wilt’s state records in high school and taking Lower Merion High to the state championship, this Philly native ditched college for the NBA. In retrospect, he didn’t do too bad, wouldn’t you say?

Patrick Ewing is known to be one of the greatest players to come out of the state of Massachusetts. While attending Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Patrick Ewing won three consecutive state championships and was deemed one of the best players in his class. After high school, Ewing attended Georgetown University where under the tutelage of John Thompson, he was able to take three trips to the Final Four and get a championship. Later he was drafted by the New York Knicks, where he never won a NBA title, but had 15-plus Hall of fame years as a player.

The Man. The Myth. The legend. Wilt Chamberlain was the first player ever to be considered a phenom. Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, Wilt was not only giving his opponents buckets but after a 90-point game, he secured the spot as the best of his time. As a Kansas Jayhawk, he was able to produce 1,433 points while grabbing 877 rebounds in two seasons. He later entered the NBA, and well… the rest is history.

The two-time state champion and National Player of the Year, Greg Oden was a potential No. 1 pick candidate even before he suited up for the Buckeyes. At one point, he was considered the next Bill Russell, before injuries in Portland dogged him and got him compared to another Blazers bust, Sam Bowie. He was such a tantalizing prospect that despite a somewhat inconsistent freshman year, he was STILL picked ahead of Kevin Durant, who’d only gone down as one of the best freshman basketball players in college history. Oden was just that good.

2. LEW ALCINDOR (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
“The Courtship of Lew Alcindor.” That was the name of the feature piece in Time Magazine back in 1965 on Lew Alcindor. Back then, high school athletes were not gracing magazine covers, let alone Time Magazine. Alcindor helped lead his high school Power Memorial to 71 wins and three NYC Catholic Championships. Kareem was anything but a bust, especially considering between his tenure at UCLA and the NBA, he got nine championships and an all-time scoring record.

I mean, I can write a 10-page thesis on why LeBron is the most hyped player of all time. We all can for that matter. LeBron changed the whole aspect of the word “phenom” and reconstructed everybody’s ideals on what exactly is an elite high school player. Due to his talent level and potential ability, it was clear that LeBron was worthy of being covered by the national media. Earning a national broadcast for virtually every big game he played his senior year, it was obvious LeBron was ahead of his time. He was a celebrity even as a 17-year-old. The hype created by media outlets like ESPN showcased a talent that was ahead of his time. Due to the hype surrounding him, it raised one question: Would LeBron live up to it? Safe to say, that was a no-brainer.

Did we miss anyone?

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