The “one and done” rule has done wonders for the big time college basketball players. It has allowed them to experience the college life for at least a semester, if not, a year before heading off into the professional world that is the NBA. Players like Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, and many others alike have benefited from the one year of development they got in college to make a much easier transition to the pros. There are the “can’t miss” players that actually pan out when they make the jump from college to the pros. Then, there are the players that couldn’t quite make it at the professional level. But it is safe to say that incorporating the one and done has done wonders for the sport of college basketball and for players as overall people. But there are also the players that excelled in high school and didn’t necessarily experience the same success once they reached the NBA.
Sure, there were the few exceptions that made it to the NBA such as LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy McGrady. They came right out of high school and excelled in the pros, with all three of them going to be in the Hall of Fame. But those are few and far in between. There are many cases where the high school to pros route was not the best one taken by such young athletes. But what did they do after their careers in the pros were short lived? That’s what this list is for. Let’s take a look at 15 high school phenoms that failed in the NBA and what they have done since.
15. Eddy Curry
The first player on our list is a big, burly center that looked to take the league by storm once he entered the league in 2001. Eddy Curry was named Mr. Basketball in his home state of Illinois in 2001. He then went on to be selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft by the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls thought they were getting a center that could dominate, but boy were they wrong.
He only ended up averaging 13 points and five rebounds per game. That isn’t too terrible, but definitely below what the Bulls were expecting. He won a championship in 2012 with the Miami Heat. What is he up to now these days? Well, he is just trying to stay out of trouble. He has had a lot of run ins with the law. But he is trying to be a good father to his seven children along with his current wife Patrice. The two have visited various high schools with Curry trying to prevent kids from making the same mistakes he made.
14. Sebastian Telfair
The next player on our list was so good and highly coveted that he even had a documentary made for him. Through the Fire gives us the story of Abraham Lincoln high school star Sebastian Telfair. It gave us an inside look at his life and trying to go through the life of an everyday high school kid with an unbelieveable knack for playing basketball. He was going to play at Louisville, but certain conditions made Telfair change his mind and go pro. He only averaged seven points a game in 12 NBA seasons. So where is he now?
Unfortunately, he is getting himself into trouble. He has had several incidents with handguns, as recent as June of 2017. He was arrested for handgun possession as well as getting controlled substance charges against him. Telfair might not have gotten the concept of what “shooters shoot” means exactly.
13. DeSagana Diop
This next seven foot center out of Senegal was the pride of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. In his senior year, DeSagana Diop helped lead Oak Hill to a 33-0 record along with the number one ranking in the country for high school basketball. Many thought at seven feet tall that he could be a dominant center for years to come. The Cleveland Cavaliers saw the potential in Diop as they drafted him eighth overall in the 2001 draft. He finished his career with two points and four rebounds per game. Safe to say, his career was a failure. But he hasn’t given up on success in the NBA totally yet.
Diop got right into the role of coaching when his career in the NBA ended. He joined the Texas Legends in the NBA D League in 2014 to be a player development coach and then eventually an assistant coach. He is now a coaching associate with the Utah Jazz. Hopefully, his coaching career will be more impactful than his playing career. It has happened to former players turned coaches before and it can happen again.
12. Satnam Singh
This next story is one of great courage and transition into the United States. The Dallas Mavericks figured they would take a chance in the second round of the 2015 draft with the 52nd overall pick. They decided to go with big man Satnam Singh out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He helped IMG be ranked number two in the country in his senior year. But because he didn’t have the English skills and scores to qualify for an NCAA scholarship, he decided to turn pro. People thought he would come in and make an impact while still improving, that hasn’t been the case.
The good part about Singh is he is still very young. Where is he now? He is playing in his second stint in the Dallas Mavericks system in the D League with the Texas Legends and playing in the Dallas Mavericks summer league. Some thought Singh would have been a factor by now with the struggling Mavericks, but he hasn’t even made it to the NBA yet. A few more years and he could easily see himself out of basketball all together and finding a regular job elsewhere.
11. Jonathan Bender
The Toronto Raptors were looking for a big man that could help balance out their roster talent. In the 1999 draft, they had the fifth overall pick. He came straight out of Picayune Memorial High School in Picayune, Mississippi. His name was Jonathan Bender and he was looked at as the next big thing to put on a Raptors uniform. That all quickly changed when he was traded to the Indiana Pacers. It didn’t quite work out on either side as he averaged five points and two rebounds for his whole career. So where is this former big man now?
Well, now he is helping out different communities in anyway possible. He founded the Jonathan Bender Foundation in New Orleans two years after Hurricane Katrina to raise money for Hurricane relief funds. He also invented a resistance training device to strengthen the knee area and it ended up being a big success with sales. It’s good to see something worked out for Bender.
10. Darius Miles
In the 2000 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers were looking for a power forward with great athleticism as well as driving ability. They thought they had that player in Darius Miles. Miles was a star as East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis, Missouri. That was good enough to get the Clippers attention as they drafted Miles with the third overall pick. He never quite turned into the star the Clippers hoped for. He averaged ten points and five rebounds a game throughout his career. Where is he now? Well, he could be doing a lot better.
He had a brief acting career, appearing in movies such as The Perfect Score and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. He also recently filed for bankruptcy in 2016 after making over $60 million throughout his days as an NBA player. He even had to auction off some of his merchandise to make ends meet. It stinks that Miles couldn’t be more financially responsible with his money after the pros. But sometimes, people just make bad choices just like Miles did with his basketball/acting money.
9. Korleone Young
This next high school star turned NBA bust never made it through an entire season in the NBA. In fact, he didn’t make it through half a season in the NBA. He lasted just three games with the Detroit Pistons in the 1998-99 season. His name was Korleone Young. Young came from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. He came straight out of high school dreaming about making the big money when he reached the next level. Instead, he was a second round 40th overall pick by the Pistons. He didn’t last fully into the NBA, so where is he now?
He’s had his share of problems, particularly toward paying child support. But he also has tried to turn his life around. He went back to school to learn basic life skills. Through his foundation called One Umbrella, he wants to teach kids how to pursue a life other than basketball. I’m willing to bet Korleone had somebody that was willing to teach him like he is teaching the younger generation.
8. Kendrick Perkins
Some athletes just can’t give up the game they love no matter how old they may get or how much their body has broken down. That seems to be the case for longtime journeyman center Kendrick Perkins. Perkins was the long forgotten big man on the Celtics championship team in 2008. The only problem for him was that was the only big accomplishment he had during his NBA career. He only averaged five points and six rebounds a game during his 15 year career. Where is he now after all those years? He is still trying to play basketball.
He can’t seem to give the game up for good just yet. He is currently playing in the G League for the Canton Charge. Perhaps Perk thinks he could come back better than ever. He didn’t have as bad of a career as some of these other members of this list, but he is definitely a failure based on production alone.
7. Robert Swift
Some guys take a dark turn after their NBA career is over. Robert Swift unfortunately also fell into this trap of having a hard life after basketball. He was one of the most noticed and talented players to come out of Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, California. In the 2004 draft, he was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics in the first round with the 12th overall pick. He averaged only four points a game in the four seasons he was with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise. Some thought maybe his life after basketball would be more successful. But unfortunately, those people were wrong.
Swift fell into a tough addiction with drugs. He has multiple arrests on his record that includes driving under the influence, unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun, as well as several other charges. He has since then tried to clean up his life, but with so many arrests on his record, he has struggled getting new jobs. If basketball had worked out for Swift, he wouldn’t have those worries today.
6. Martell Webster
For this next player, retirement is something extremely new to him. In fact, he retired as recently as September of 2017. He spent his high school days dominating at Seattle Preparatory School in Seattle, Washington. The Portland Trail Blazers owned the sixth pick in the 2005 draft. They were looking for somebody that could be a difference maker and give Portland fans somebody to cheer for. The Trail Blazers then drafted Martell Webster. Between Portland, Minnesota, and Washington, he averaged eight points and three rebounds a game in ten seasons. Where is he now? He is working in the music industry.
Even during the end of his basketball playing days, he was enjoying making music. He co-founds ERYST, which is an independent record label for hip hop music. He has also released a few mix tapes and will continue to do so as he now enjoys the perks of retirement. Maybe his mix tape career will score more than he did his entire career.
5. Al Harrington
Like we mentioned before, some athletes just don’t know when it’s time to call it quits for good. This next high school star turned NBA bust wants to continue to play basketball by any means necessary. Al Harrington was a late first round pick in the 1998 NBA draft. He went 25th overall to the Indiana Pacers. There isn’t much to celebrate with his career. He did average 14 points a game throughout his career which isn’t bad. But considering he had one 20 point a game season, it was an absolute bust of a career. So now, he is trying to reform himself…in the Big 3 league.
The Big 3 league is a professional league that is trying to gain publicity in any way possible. There have even been guys like Allen Iverson that have re-laced the shoes and went out to play. Al Harrington finished undefeated in the Big 3 league alongside Kenyon Martin to help win the first Big 3 championship. That is about the only championship he will win as he is simply a huge bust and now trying to win multiple championships in a less talented league.
4. James Lang
The next high school phenom turned bust is a 6’9 power forward that was under-looked. In a heavy 2003 draft class, perhaps one of the best in NBA history, guys like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and others looked to turn the fortunes around for struggling franchises. In the second round with the 48th overall pick, the New Orleans Hornets decided to select James Lang.
Lang spent his playing days at Central Park Christian High School in Birmingham, Alabama. His size and length made him a potential supporting piece for any team. He only appeared in 11 career NBA games with the Washington Wizards in 2006-2007. He also spent time with other D league teams and overseas leagues. After life in the NBA, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He also had gotten a stroke the day after Thanksgiving in 2009 which left him slightly paralyzed. It is sad to see a guy like Lang become paralyzed in any way after having the potential to play in the NBA for a number of years. That’s just the way it is sometimes.
3. Leon Smith
The next high school star turned NBA bust was a kid from Chicago, Illinois. He attended Martin Luther King High School and looked to have a future playing in the pros. Considering he was coming from the same city as NBA greats such as Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and Juwan Howard also grew up in Chicago and went on to have successful NBA careers. Unfortunately for Leon Smith, that dream didn’t come into fruition.
Smith was taken in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs with the 29th pick. He never played one professional game for the Spurs. He did play 15 career NBA games while averaging two points and two rebounds a game. Where is he now? He is still trying to play basketball worldwide. He has played in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. When his career will end, nobody really knows. But imagine if he had the same type of success as LeBron, D-Wade, etc.
2. Lenny Cooke
This next high school phenom turned bust was said to even be potentially better than LeBron James. Lenny Cooke was an up and coming player from Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappen, New Jersey. He was one of the top players in the country after averaging over 30 points a game his senior year of high school. He could have gone to multiple big time Division one colleges, but grades kept him from playing in college. He went undrafted in the 2002 draft. He played in the Summer League with the Boston Celtics, but that was as close as he would get to playing in the NBA. He never appeared in one NBA game. So what is he doing now?
Lenny Cooke recently was spotted at Atlantic City High School coaching high school basketball. He probably uses it to teach kids there is more to life than playing basketball. It is a good lesson for kids to learn.Sometimes, if you’re among the lucky you’re the number one pick with the whole world at your fingertips. Sometimes you are undrafted and have to find a new career quick.
1. Kwame Brown
The last high school phenom turned bust is still trying to shake off just how unsuccessful his career is. In the 2001 draft, the Washington Wizards had the number one overall pick. Kwame Brown was a monster at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Georgia. During his 12 year NBA career, he was not as much of a monster as high coveted high school days. He played for many teams such as the Wizards, Lakers, Grizzles, Pistons, Hornets, Warriors, and ended with the 76ers. He was never an All-Star and averaged over 10 points a game in only one season. He averaged seven points and six rebounds a game throughout his career.
So where is he now? He is still trying to prove he was worthy of being the number one pick in the Big 3 league. He was the fifth overall pick this time around. But he still had something to prove. He played in the finals and ended up losing, but it is safe to say that Kwame Brown wants to win something to prove his worth. But his NBA days were far from glamorous, that is for sure.
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