Not So Fast
After last month's NBA draft, schoolboys may think twice about leaping
If the NBA wanted high schoolers who are thinking of declaring themselves eligible for next year's draft to reconsider, it couldn't have created a better just-say-no message than the one conveyed by last month's nationally televised humiliation of 18-year-old Rashard Lewis of Alief, Texas, who squirmed miserably in the draft's greenroom in Vancouver as 31 names were called before his. (He was finally selected by the Seattle SuperSonics.) Fellow high schooler Al Harrington didn't prove to be such a hot property, either (he was taken 25th, by the Indiana Pacers), and a third blue-chipper, Korleone Young, was chosen lowest of all (40th, by the Detroit Pistons), but at least these two hadn't agreed to let viewers watch them sweat it out on national TV. When Lewis finally escaped the otherwise empty room after his selection, he was in tears.
For some younger teens who might be pondering making the big leap next year, die shared fate of Lewis, Harrington and Young was sobering. "I thought those three guys were going to get picked pretty high," says DerMarr Johnson, a 6'9", 200-pound ball handling forward from Kensington, Md. "I was kind of shocked when they didn't. I'm leaning toward college now."
Two other talented high schoolers who were considering entering the '99 draft, 6'10", 240-pound Marvin Stone of Huntsville, Ala., and 6' 11", 195-pound Jonathan Bender of Picayune, Miss., felt a similar chill and say their sights are now set squarely on college. It also happens that Johnson, Stone and Bender all had lackluster performances in the opening week of the summer evaluation period, when college coaches and pro scouts shuttle to all-star camps and AAU tournaments to check out prospects. In fact, by the time the Nike and Adidas camps closed last week, other players had all but edged those three out of the spotlight. Among those who intrigued coaches at the Adidas camp in Teaneck, N.J.:
? Carlos Boozer, a 6'9" forward from Juneau, Alaska, who reminds some observers of Charles Oakley—but with a better touch.
? Andrew Gooden, a 6'9" forward from Richmond, Calif., who has a good medium-range jumper and who "came out of nowhere," according to recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons.
?Tony Robertson, a 6'3" guard from Providence who may have had the best first step in camp.
Will the buzz surrounding these players encourage any of them to think they're ready for the NBA next year? USC coach Henry Bibby, for one, doesn't think that what happened to Lewis, Harrington and Young will change anything. "It won't be a deterrent," says Bibby. "Kids watch these guys falling in the draft and say, 'That won't be me.' They are in for die shock of their lives."
Out in the Cold
No Riches for Richardson
The plight of Ellis Richardson, another high schooler who made himself available in this year's NBA draft but who wasn't taken at all, is especially sad. A 6' 4" center from Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, Calif., Richardson thought he was ready to turn pro even though he had never attended a basketball camp, wasn't rated by recruiting mavens among the top 100 schoolboy players in his state and had been advised by his high school coach that he wasn't even ready for college ball. Richardson made his baffling decision on the advice of a friend, Taj (Red) McDavid, who earned the dubious distinction in 1996 of being the first high school player to enter the NBA draft and not get selected.