Don’t Peak In High School

By Marcus Shockley


Dave Telep said something a few days ago that echoes my own thoughts regarding some high school basketball stars. There is a lot of talk among high school players as to ‘who’s number 1’ and it culminates in rankings, lists and mix tapes which feature the next superstar. Telep said that the players who were the most concerned last year with their rankings and mixtape highlights are the very players struggling in college this year.

Hey, there isn’t anything wrong with highlight tapes or mixtapes. But it needs to be said, many times, that high school ranking doesn’t mean a thing in the long run.

Nothing.

Jonathan Bender
Flikr/TruthAboutIt

When I spoke with Ryan Blake a few days ago, the NBA Director of Scouting, he said that if you watch high school players’ highlight tapes, everyone looks like an NBA All-Star. Then you see the player on the college court and they start looking very, very human.

The worst thing that can happen to anyone, not just basketball players, is to peak in high school. If you are playing in all-star games, getting listed in basketball magazines and have 3,000 Twitter followers as a high school senior, it’s all too easy to think you’ve made it. Got people hanging on your every word and college fans repeatedly clamoring to know where you are going to college?

That doesn’t mean anything. Yet.

Sure, you’ve got potential. But too many players think that a top high school ranking is going to guarantee them a lottery pick and a 15 year NBA career. All a top ranking guarantees you is that college fans are going to expect you to be amazing. They are going to expect to see what they saw in highlight films. They aren’t going to be happy if you can’t dribble to the left or can’t do the footwork in the paint. Suddenly, you’ll be just another college project, not a future NBA All-Star.

People can be very fickle. No, check that, they are fickle. They will love you as a high school player until you commit to their rival school. Then the fans of your school will love you until you step on the out of bounds line at a crucial moment in a game and they’ll call you a bust. Are you ready for that? You’ll have to have the focus and toughness to remember that even though the fans come and go, you are the same player and same person you always were. You need to be your own biggest fan and harshest critic.

To be fair, today’s top basketball high school players have more knowledge and experience against college and pro players than in the past. But playing high school and AAU doesn’t make you a pro, or even college ready. There’s a big difference in playing against high schoolers and playing against guys your own size, who are more than likely stronger and more experienced. It takes a lot of work and mental toughness to succeed, which too many players take for granted.

I’ve said it before, high school player rankings serve more for entertainment than real meaning. People love mock drafts and rankings, but in the end, none of it will matter if you get to college and never play defense or can’t hit a hook shot. Most players need a few years of work in college before they even make an impact, and the vast majority of players in the top 100 high schoolers never even sniff the NBA.

Don’t peak in high school. There are a lot players in college right now who aren’t any better than they were their junior year of prep varsity. They haven’t put in much work and they aren’t listening to their coach. Don’t be another ‘sob story’.

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