Looking at the Preps to the Pros: Part One

Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant all suited up as starters for the 2004 NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles on Sunday night. All four are also players that skipped college basketball and entered the draft as high school seniors. The current prep class of 2004 is loaded with players that possess skills worthy of consideration for the league. In the first of a three-part series, we take a look at this year’s elite players that are considering a jump to the NBA.
After speaking to a half dozen scouts and sources close the draft, we have complied three lists concerning this 2004 class. Today we explore the top high school players in North America and their potential spots in the lottery if they do decide to make the leap to the NBA.
Dwight Howard
6-foot-11, 225 pounds
Southwest Atlanta Christian (GA)
No. 1 on the Rivals150
Coming into the prep season, Howard was the must-see prep prospect for NBA scouts. A representative from the league has been at nearly every Southwest Atlanta Christian game across the country and every team in the league has seen him in action at least once this season. Why? He possesses the body, skills and upside that general managers love to draft. After losing on national television the basketball public have been questioning Howard’s readiness for the NBA. Scouts still like what they have seen. But the great debate remains: Who will go first overall in the draft – Howard or UConn’s Emeka Okafor?
Draft Range: Top Three
Josh Smith
6-foot-8, 215
Oak Hill Academy (VA)
No. 3 on the Rivals150
Moving to Oak Hill Academy may have been the best thing for the 6-foot-8 small forward. The Powder Springs, GA native has traveled all over the world with the Warriors and has played a college-like schedule against high-level talent. Smith has shined at nearly every event. He knows how to attack the basket and knows what to do when he gets there. His perimeter game is improving and his overall court awareness is maturing. While questions surrounding his ball handling, jump shot and quickness remain, the often-used p-word (potential) is oozing from Smith’s game. He is quickly moving up the draft charts.
Draft Range: Between three and seven
Shaun Livingston
6-foot-7, 175 pounds
Peoria Central (IL)
No. 2 on the Rivals150
Livingston signed with Duke in the fall but Blue Devil fans have been worried about his possible jump to the NBA. There is hope, however, that they can still him play in the state of North Carolina. The Charlotte Bobcats have been trailing the 6-foot-7 point guard hard since the New Year. Several other teams have seen the crafty floor general and come away impressed with Livingston’s basketball IQ and decision-making. Offensively, he has improved but the biggest question remains the same since day one: will his thin frame scare teams away? That remains to be seen.
Draft Range: Between five and 10
Sebastian Telfair
6-foot, 160 pounds
Lincoln (NY)
No. 5 on the Rivals150
The game has matched the hype of late regarding the Brooklyn point guard. One of our sources says the Louisville signee is “99% in the draft”. Others disagree but Telfair has played well against the top talent. There are still questions that remain unanswered to teams. 1. Will he become a more consistent jump shooter? 2. Is the speed of the game too fast for him? 3. Is the hype bigger than the player? GMs are asking themselves the last question the most. Telfair came into the season with as much hype as LeBron James did last year. And James has lived up nicely to the hype so far. No high school point guard has ever declared for the NBA draft. Will Telfair be the first?
Draft Range: Late lottery to mid first round
Ivan Chiraev
7-foot-1, 235
St. Thomas Aquinas (CAN)
This big man’s name may not be a familiar one to those that frequent the network but his name is often discussed amongst NBA scouts. Chiraev is from Russia but he has been playing prep ball for the last two years in Ontario, Canada. He can shoot like a guard and handles the ball like a wing. Kentucky
Draft Range: Late lottery to mid first round
Over the next two days, we will look at the rest of the field. Tomorrow we will highlight those sitting on the proverbial first round fence and on the bubble to burst for the pros. We will also run down this same list of prospects after the post-season all-star games.