Up until 2006 high school basketball players were allowed to enter the NBA draft as soon as they finished their senior year of high school. In 2006, then NBA commissioner David Stern decided to establish new guidelines for NBA eligibility. Beginning in 2006 high school players had to wait one calendar year after graduation before being eligible for the NBA draft. The rule was designed to help protect these young athletes from entering the league too early and also to help keep the NBA level of play as high as possible. The rule was met with mixed opinions, and it certainly has impacted the college basketball landscape.
The rule did help many players with their development, as it forced them to attend University, where they learned the fundamentals of elite level basketball. With that said, however, there have also been many players who were ready for the NBA immediately after finishing high school. Sometimes you wonder if that year of college was really necessary. Did they learn anything new? Did their bodies and/or minds really mature that much with the year in college? Today we will give you the 10 players who shouldn’t have skipped college and 10 who could have.
20. Shouldn’t Have: Ousmane Cisse
Ousmane Cisse attended Montgomery Catholic High School in Montgomery, Alabama. While in high school Cisse was a superstar, helping lead his team to a 2A State Championship. In his first game as a Catholic Knight, he broke the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s record for blocked shots… in the first half.
After his senior season of high school ball, he decided to put his name in the NBA Draft. Being a supremely undersized center, at only 6’9″ his stock was never incredibly high as a draft pick. Ultimately he was selected in the middle of the second round by the Denver Nuggets, who signed him, then released him after he suffered an injury before ever playing an NBA game. Cisse found his way onto the Harlem Globetrotters for a short period of time before playing in the USBL and overseas professionally.
19. Could Have: Kevin Love
It was clear that Kevin Love was on his way to the NBA at an early age. In his sophomore season at Lake Oswego High in Oregon, Love averaged 25.3 points and 15.3 rebounds on his way to a State Championship final. The following two seasons would be nearly identical, with slight increases in his stats, as well as a win in the State Title game.
After three straight trips to the State Championship, and being the Gatorade National Male Athlete of the Year Kevin decided to head to UCLA for his college career. As a freshman with the Bruins, Love led the team to the Final Four as a freshman, and was named the Naismith Player of the Year as a freshman. Love entered the NBA after just one year in Westwood, and was drafted fifth overall in 2007.
18. Shouldn’t Have: James Lang
Part of the amazing 2003 high school graduating class, James Lang declared for the NBA straight out of high school along with LeBron James, Travis Outlaw, Ndudi Ebi and Kendrick Perkins. Lang, unfortunately had the worst luck of the four.
The New Orleans Hornets drafted Lang 48th overall in 2003, but he was unable to make the team due to back injuries. In 2005 James attended a pre-season camp with the Utah Jazz, but again he was unable to make the team’s 15-man roster. In 2006 the Washington Wizards gave Lang his first and only taste of NBA action. He appeared in 11 games for the Wizards where he averaged one point and one rebound per game. In 2009 his dream of ever playing pro ball again was snatched from him when he was partially paralyzed from a stroke.
17. Could Have: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Often forgotten Shareef Abdur-Rahim was one of the greatest high school players in the history of high school hoops. Shareef began his basketball career at Joseph Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia. He was a stand out from the day he set foot on the hardwood. During the 1990s Georgia was a hotbed for basketball talent, and Abdur-Rahim was the head of the class. He was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Georgia in both 1995 and 1996.
Rahim has always been a philosophical kind of guy, so rather than go straight to the NBA he opted to spend a year at Cal Berkeley. As a freshman he averaged 21.1 points, and 8.4 rebounds per game, while holding down a 3.5 GPA. With that phenomenal season, Shareef became the first freshman in Pac-10 history to be named the Conference Player of the Year. His NBA career lasted 11 seasons before he decided to call it quits to pursue other, more challenging life endeavors.
16. Shouldn’t Have: Ricky Sanchez
Ricky Sanchez was the fourth Puerto Rican player ever to be drafted. If you have never heard of Ricky that is not surprising. Sanchez has never played a single minute in an NBA game. After being taken with the 35th pick in the 2005 draft, Sanchez was immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets. That was the trend for Sanchez as his rights have been traded a total of four times. There is even a Philadelphia 76ers themed podcast titled “The Rights to Ricky Sanchez.”
Even though he has never played a game in the NBA, Ricky has carved out a nice little niche for himself in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional league. This is the professional league in his home country of Puerto Rico. Sanchez has won a championship there as well as winning the Most Improved Player of the Year Award in 2011.
15. Could Have: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie’s high school career began in Montclair, New Jersey, at Montclair Kimberley Academy. As a sophomore at Montclair he led the team to the State Championship, averaging 25.4 points in the process. After two years at the small New Jersey school Irving felt he needed a bigger challenge so he transferred to St. Patrick’s High School where the competition was much higher. The move worked out well for Irving as he would become the number two ranked recruit coming out of high school.
As a top high school player, Irving had his pick of elite Division I colleges. He chose to attend Duke University, and play for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. Due to a toe injury Kyrie was only able to play in eleven games with the Blue Devils, but that was enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers to select him first overall in the 2011 draft.
14. Shouldn’t Have: Korleone Young
As a high school player, Young was recruited by almost every powerhouse university in the country. With his stock high and money in his eyes, Young decided to skip college and go straight for the NBA. His stock slid dramatically in the days and weeks heading into the draft, and in 1998 the Pistons selected him with the 40th pick. Young’s time with the Pistons was very short lived. He appeared in three games at the end of the 1998-99 season. After the season, Detroit cut Young, citing his injury problems as the main reason for his departure from the team.
Young attempted to earn his way onto the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000, but he was unable to crack the regular season roster. Korleone is one of the key players that people point to when defending David Stern’s decision to implement the one year removed from high school rule. Ultimately Young played a bit overseas, but his career never took off, and in 2009 he was arrested for failing to appear for a child support hearing.
13. Could Have: DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins high school career began at LeFlore Magnet High School in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. He was an elite talent from an early age, and by the time he was a junior his name was well known among the NBA scouting world. After his senior season Cousins was invited to all the high school All-Star games, as well as being ranked the number two player in his graduating class.
During his single collegiate season he was a main contributor to one of the greatest college rosters ever put together. The 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats had seven future NBA players including most notably Cousins, and John Wall. After being upset in the Elite Eight that year DeMarcus entered the NBA draft where he was selected fifth overall by the Sacramento Kings.
12. Shouldn’t Have: Ndudi Ebi
Another one of those stellar high school kids from the 2003 high school graduating class. Ndudi Ebi was rated the third best player in high school during his senior season, but sadly he turned out to be the biggest bust of the class.
The Timberwolves selected Ebi with their first round pick in 2003. Ebi spent three seasons with the Wolves appearing in only 19 games. During his third season Minnesota attempted to send him to the D-League, but league rules did not allow them to send him down. Ultimately the Wolves released Ebi to make room for a more promising young player.
After being released by Minnesota, Ebi was signed by the Dallas Mavericks but after only five preseason games, Ebi was released by Dallas, never to be seen in the NBA again. Ebi has spent the last 10 years playing all over the world in professional basketball leagues.
11. Could Have: John Wall
Wall’s high school career was a bit rocky early on. He was forced to transfer after his sophomore year due to a family move. Wall repeated his sophomore season once he and his family were settled in their new location. Once at his new school Wall was cut from the basketball team for attitude related issues, so he decided to transfer once again. It wasn’t until he found head coach Levi Beckwith that his issues began to erode. Beckwith helped Wall with his attitude towards lesser talented teammates and his on court personality.
Once the attitude problems were figured out, Wall let his play speak for itself. He was invited to seemingly every high school All-Star game as a junior and senior, and was dubbed the number one recruit coming out of high school. Wall continued his dominance when he joined Kentucky University as a freshman. During his only year with the Wildcats, Wall was named the SEC Player of the Year, and ultimately he drafted number one overall in 2010.
10. Shouldn’t Have: Jonathan Bender
In 1999 the Toronto Raptors drafted Jonathan Bender out of Picayune Memorial High School in Picayune, Mississippi. He was projected to be exactly what Kevin Durant actually turned out to be. Bender was a 7 feet, 200 pound skinny kid with freakish athleticism.
After selecting him fifth overall, the Raptors promptly traded him to the Indiana Pacers, for veteran forward Antonio Davis. The Pacers were hoping Bender would turn into a superstar, but it was still too early to know for sure at the time of the trade. As a teenager, Bender saw minimal court time, but in his third season he had the best year of his career, averaging over seven points and three rebounds. Following that season he signed a $28 million contract extension with the Pacers.
Unfortunately for Bender and the Pacers, Bender would fight injuries for the rest of his career. After retiring in 2010 Bender invented the JB Intensive Trainer, a resistance training device, that strengthened his knees.
9. Could Have: Derrick Rose
In 2003 Derrick Rose was a freshman in high school, but he was already on the radar of most every Division I coach. Rose’s high school coach had a strict rule about freshman playing on the varsity team, and the rule was upheld every for the blue chip Rose. Once a sophomore, Rose was immediately placed on the varsity roster, and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 2.4 steals as a sophomore. Rose would go on to receive every honor there is for a high school player, including getting his number retired, and being named to the All-Decade Team.
After high school Derrick took his talents to the University of Memphis to play under college coaching legend John Calipari. Rose would lead Memphis to the NCAA title game, ultimately coming up just short in one of the greatest NCAA Championship games in history. After just one season, Rose decided to enter the NBA draft and was selected first overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2008.
8. Shouldn’t Have: Leon Smith
Leon Smith was selected out of Chicago’s famous Martin Luther King High School. He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, 29th overall in the 1999 draft. On draft day he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the draft rights to Gordan Giriček and a second-round pick in the following year’s draft.
Smith never ended up playing a game with the Mavericks. It was a few months after being traded that he was committed to a psychiatric ward for some severe mental health issues. It was later reported that he had been committed because of an episode in which he threw a rock through a car window, and reportedly told police he was “an Indian fighting Columbus.” Ultimately Smith played 14 games with the Atlanta Hawks in 2002, and he played in one game with the Seattle SuperSonics in 2003.
7. Could Have: Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh was regarded as a great high school basketball player as he headed into his senior season, he even had some scholarship offers from some pretty high level Universities. However, it was his senior year that set him apart from the rest.
During his senior year Bosh led Lincoln High School, from Dallas, Texas, to the number one ranking in the country. Bosh led his team to a 40-0 record that season on his way to being named Mr. Basketball in Texas as well as being ranked the number one recruit coming out of high school in 2002. Despite offers from every elite basketball university, Bosh decided to attend Georgia Tech. It was a bit of a tough decision for Chris, but he ultimately decided to enter the NBA after just one season with the Yellow Jackets. In 2003 he was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors.
6. Shouldn’t Have: Kwame Brown
The first player to ever be selected number one overall straight out of high school, Kwame Brown was drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2001, a choice made by none other than Michael Jordan. Brown was ranked the best high school player in the country during his senior year, beating out future NBA players Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler.
Michael Jordan was not the only GM to see great potential in Brown. Teams across the league were lining up to make a move up the draft board in order to get the high school All-American. Brown was able to last 12 seasons in the NBA, thanks in large part to his enormous size and willingness to take less money in order to stay in the league. When he finally retired, Brown did so with career averages of just under seven points per game and five rebounds.
5. Could Have: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis had one of the quickest rises to prominence ever witnessed at the high school level. During his first two years of high school, Davis was a point guard, barely measuring in above 6′. Davis finished his sophomore season at 6’4, and by the beginning of his junior year he was already up to 6’8. It was the summer after his junior season when his name began to spread across the nation. In just one year Davis had gone from an unknown guard, to the number two ranked player in his class.
Once he entered his senior season he was 6’10 and the unanimous number player in the nation. After receiving nearly every honor a high school player can receive, Davis joined John Calipari and the University of Kentucky. Davis would go on to star with the Wildcats, winning the 2012 NCAA championship and Final Four Most Outstanding Player along the way. Davis promptly entered the NBA draft after winning the NCAA title and was selected first overall by the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans).
4. Shouldn’t Have: Sebastian Telfair
As a high school sophomore Telfair was on the cover of SLAM Magazine along with LeBron James. The headline across the cover of that magazine read, “The Takeover.” Well we all know how LeBron turned out; if you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock for 14 years.
Telfair was the pride of Brooklyn, New York during his days as a high school superstar. Many believed he was the greatest player to come out of New York City when he decided to enter the NBA Draft in 2004. The Portland Trail Blazers took the bait and drafted the undersized, flashy point man with the 13th overall pick in 2004. Sebastian lasted two seasons in Portland before he was shipped away to Boston. Ultimately Telfair played 10 seasons in the NBA, much of that time spent on the bench. He currently plays in the Italian professional league Serie A, with hopes of someday getting another shot at the NBA.
3. Could Have: Kevin Durant
Durant played for three different high schools during his prep career, including two powerhouse schools; Oak Hill Academy his junior year and Montrose Christian School for his senior year. Durant was recognized as a top talent in his class, but it was during his senior season in which he ascended to the top two.
Between his junior and senior years of high school Durant grew five inches. This extra height enabled him to become one of the most lethal scorers amateur basketball has ever known. Durant would be recognized as the second best high school player of his class, behind only Greg Oden, who was also drafted ahead of Durant. Once his dominance over the high school level was finished, KD enrolled at the University of Texas where he led the nation in scoring. After just one season with the Longhorns, Durant was ready for the NBA. In 2007 the Seattle SuperSonics selected Durant with the second overall selection.
2. Shouldn’t Have: Robert Swift
Robert Swift is one of the best examples of why kids should spend a year or two in college before entering a world of glitz, glamor, temptation and riches.
As a 7’1 high school senior, Swift literally stood head and shoulders above his competition. After being a top 10 ranked high school prospect, Swift verbally agreed to attend USC after high school. However, after some further thought, Swift chose to take his talents to the NBA. In 2004 the Seattle SuperSonics drafted Swift with the 12th overall pick in the draft. Robert lasted four years in the NBA with a grand total of 97 games played. After bouncing around the D-League and the NBA, Swift found himself in legal trouble. In 2015, Swift was arrested for his involvement in an armed home invasion attempt. Swift claimed he was high on drugs at the time of the incident.
1. Could Have: Carmelo Anthony
Melo could have easily entered the NBA draft after his senior year of high school, and would have likely been a top three pick. However, he decided to spend a year in college, many believe it was so that he could be drafted the same year as his friend LeBron James.
During his one season in college, Anthony was clearly the best collegiate basketball player that year, as he showed by winning the NCAA Championship and the Final Four MVP. Anthony did what he set out to do during his single year with Syracuse, and he entered the NBA draft in 2003. In a stunning turn of events, Anthony fell to the number three pick when the Detroit Pistons chose to select Darko Milicic with the second pick, after LeBron was taken first. The Nuggets landed Anthony, and he helped lead them to several deep playoff runs before he was ultimately traded to his hometown New York Knicks.