By Marcus Shockley
If you’ve read Basketball Elite for long you know that I have mentioned the realities of going pro versus the myths of high school talent many times. Bluntly, everyone thinks rankings matter (they don’t) and everyone thinks all high school stars are going pro (they’re not).
So now Basketball-Reference.com has added some hard numbers that really hammer this home, and it’s even more dramatic than just looking at busts like Omar Cook and Jonathan Bender.
It turns out that being ranked in the Top 100 in high school means almost nothing when it comes to NBA success, or even ending up in the NBA at all. 70% of players who are ranked lower than 25 never play in the NBA. No player who was not ranked in the top 5 ever went on to become a superstar in the NBA.
Over the years, when people ask me how to become a scout or what scouts look for, I often tell them that anyone can spot a top 5 player. They look like NBA players in high school. It takes no real scouting ability to see Kevin Garnett or Dwight Howard in high school and project him right into the pros. After that, it’s completely different. Scouts’ opinions on players outside the Top 5 – especially when getting up over the Top 50 – are widely varied. The rankings should be divided up more on projection, which is what we do at Basketball Elite. We don’t care about rankings because rankings don’t tell you how good a player really is. Does it matter if you’re the #25 player in a class when the next ten players ranked higher than you aren’t good enough to go pro? What really matters, more than rankings, is an evaluation. If we project a player as solid contributor at the Mid-Major level, we mean that we think he can play significant, impact minutes for at least a mid major program by the time he is a senior. Does that mean he can’t go pro? Of course not. But it does mean that if he was ranked #20 in the class, many people would think that made him a pro prospect or a ‘4-star’. Fan sites would gush over the commitment of the player and rankings of recruiting classes would reflect it, but this doesn’t actually reflect reality.
The issue with the overall rankings of players are that they really don’t mean anything. It’s pretty much a joke to think that the player ranked #89 and the player ranked #99 are vastly different, since at that evaluation level we’re talking about college careers and maybe semipro/overseas. Colleges who aren’t competing for Top 5 or Top 10 players – which is almost every college at all levels – have to be better at actually evaluating players in order to be successful at recruiting.