In 2007, ESPN released their first annual rankings of the top 100 high school players in the nation. Now, 10 years later, we can look back and see which players ESPN overlooked and which they players they overhyped.
Out of the top 100 high school players in the country from 2007, 6 became future all-stars; Kevin Love(#1), Derrick Rose(#5), Blake Griffin(#18), James Harden(#21), Deandre Jordan(#25), and Jeff Teague(#67). It is interesting that five of the six future all-stars were in the top 25, so ESPN’s projection was somewhat accurate.
Now that we have looked at some of the successes from the class of 2007, let’s look at some players who didn’t pan out:
Austin Freeman was ranked number 7 in the nation in the class of 2007. He was a 6ft 3 guard out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. He committed to Georgetown and played there for four years. However, during his junior year at Georgetown, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After his senior year, he was named to the All-Big East First Team. However, despite averaging 16.5 points per game in his junior year, he went undrafted in the 2011 draft. What happened? Let’s first look at some of his strengths. He is an excellent shooter with a wide frame and strong build. And defensively, he can use his strength to compensate for his lack of lateral quickness. However, he never quite overcame his diabetes and suffered a huge weight gain during his senior year. This made it impossible for him to overcome his lack of athleticism and length. He has played in Israel, Italy, and the G-League after college.
In 2003 when Taylor King was just 14 years old, committed to UCLA before even starting high school. Four years later, King was ranked number 16 in the nation in the class of 2007 and reopened his recruitment and committed to Duke. He was a 6ft 7 forward out of powerhouse Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. As a senior in the 2006-2007 season, he was named California’s “Mr. Basketball”(over a guy named Kevin Love) and a McDonalds All-American. At Duke for the 2007-2008 season, he played one subpar year before transferring to Villanova. After sitting out the 2008-2009 season, he made his Villanova debut in the 2009-2010 season. However, he was forced to leave the Villanova basketball team after violating team rules. He then transferred to Division II school, Concordia University, to finish out his last year of eligibility. Unsurprisingly, he went undrafted in the 2011 draft. What happened to the former 14-year-old phenom? It may just be that. The attention he received at such an early age put so much stress on him for the rest of his basketball career to live up to those tremendous expectations people established for him, that he turned to drugs and flamed out. However, in 2014, he did play well for the Cheshire Phoenix in the British Basketball League, averaging 20.2 points per game.
Nolan Smith was ranked number 6 in the nation in the class of 2007. He was a 6ft 4 guard out of powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He committed to Duke and played there for a very successful four years. In his senior year, he averaged 20.6 points per game and was drafted 21st overall in the 2011 NBA draft. However, things got worse from here. In his rookie year with the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged just 3.8 points per game on 37% shooting from the field. The following year, he regressed, averaging just 2.8 points per game on 36% shooting. He was then demoted to the D-League and never saw NBA minutes again. What happened? Many believed he had skills, but lacked confidence and never meshed. He was forced to play point guard in the pros, but did not have the court vision and struggled to run the offense, so he was a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body. His struggles were magnified by the fact he was drafted ahead of Kenneth Faried. Trail Blazer’s fans were angry that he joined a long line of busts taken by the Blazers.