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NBA Finals: A look back at the recruitments of Lakers players

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (AP Images)

The NBA Finals kick off on Wednesday night as the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers take on the Miami Heat in Orlando. Here is a breakdown of the Lakers' roster and how the players were recruited out of high school.


MORE: Breaking down the Heat roster

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team


Kostas Antetokounmpo


Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 89 overall in the class of 2016

College: Dayton

Recruitment: The younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Antetokounmpo attended Whitefish Bay (Wisc.) Dominican High School while living with Giannis in Milwaukee. Florida looked to be the leader in his recruitment until close to its conclusion in June of 2013, when he selected the Flyers. Kostas was a three-star prospect for much of his high school career before being bumped up to a four-star on the heels of a strong senior season.



Avery Bradley

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 4 overall in the class of 2009

College: Texas

Recruitment: Bradley signed with Texas in the same class as fellow NBA standout Tristan Thompson. The Washington-born star chose the Longhorns over fellow finalist UCLA and won the McDonald’s All-American Dunk contest shortly thereafter. Despite being from the Pacific Northwest, Bradley lived out a chunk of his childhood in the Dallas area, which helped Texas land his letter of intent.



Devontae Cacok

Ranking: Three-star prospect in the class of 2015

College: North Carolina-Wilmington

Recruitment: Having spent his youth on the football field, Cacok didn’t start playing basketball until he was a sophomore in high school. And while the stats were there in spades, he wasn’t a highly recruited prospect. He attracted just a handful of low-major offers before signing with North Carolina-Wilmington.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 12 overall in the class of 2011

College: Georgia

Recruitment: A bright spot in the mostly gloomy Mark Fox era at Georgia, Caldwell-Pope chose UGA over Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Tennessee, becoming the first McDonald's All-American to play at Georgia since Carlos Strong in 1992. Caldwell-Pope played two seasons in Athens before entering the 2013 NBA Draft.



Alex Caruso

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 84 overall in the class of 2012

College: Texas A&M

Recruitment: Caruso attended high school down the road from Texas A&M’s campus and decided to stay in town for college. The fact that Caruso’s father worked as an associate athletic director for the Aggies at the time certainly helped push him in that direction, but the four-star prospect cited his relationship with the A&M staff as the driving force behind his decision. Caruso chose the Aggies over Colorado, where he took a late official visit.



Quinn Cook

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No 38 overall in the class of 2011

College: Duke

Recruitment: Cook’s recruitment came down to Duke, North Carolina and UCLA, and the Washington D.C-area star eventually chose the Blue Devils. He seemed like a lock for Cameron for most of the process, but things momentarily looked uncertain when whispers circulated that the Blue Devils might prefer eventual Texas signee Myck Kabongo. That line of thinking didn’t last long, though, as Cook announced his intentions to sign with Duke on Nov. 4, 2010, during a segment on ESPNU.



Anthony Davis

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 2 overall in the class of 2011

College: Kentucky

Recruitment: Davis had a timely 6-inch growth spurt prior to his senior year, so he arrived on the national scene late in the process. That said, he was considered a heavy Kentucky lean for months leading into his decision, so drama was in short supply. Ohio State, Syracuse and DePaul were also involved, but none of them seriously threatened John Calapari’s program, which was in the midst of a historic recruiting roll at the time. Davis was part of a four-man 2011 class that was composed entirely of five-stars, including NBA peer Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.



Jared Dudley

Ranking: Unranked in the class of 2003

College: Boston College

Recruitment: Dudley was not a highly recruited prospect. Despite leading his high school team to back-to-back state titles, Boston College is the only offer listed on his Rivals profile. He fielded some late-arriving interest from San Diego State, Creighton and Washington, but he was clearly seen as a last-minute backup option for most. He committed to the Eagles in August of 2003 and eventually became a first-round draft pick.


Danny Green

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 31 in the class of 2005

College: North Carolina

Recruitment: Green committed to North Carolina over Pitt and St. John's. It seemed for a bit that he would be a package deal with his younger brother, Rashad Green, a member of the 2006 class. That never came to fruition, however, as Rashad eventually ended up at Manhattan College while his brother became a star in Chapel Hill. Danny Green was the quarterback of the football team at his original high school before giving up the sport to focus on basketball after transferring to St. Mary's High on Long Island.



Talen Horton-Tucker

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 33 overall in the class of 2018

College: Iowa State

Recruitment: Horton-Tucker chose the Cyclones over Illinois and Xavier. At the time, he said the Cyclone coaches saw him as a “more versatile version of Georges Niang.” The fact that Horton-Tucker spurned the hometown Illini to attend Iowa State was a bit of a surprise, but it was by no means an earth-moving shock.



Dwight Howard

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 1 overall in the class of 2004

College: None (straight to NBA)

Recruitment: The top-ranked prospect in the class of 2004, Howard didn’t flirt much with college on his way from Southwest Atlanta Christian High School to the NBA, but some wondered if his skills were polished enough to make the jump. Howard briefly considered both Duke and North Carolina before declaring for the draft and has since said that he thinks UNC would have landed his letter of intent if he decided to go the college route.


LeBron James

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 1 in the class of 2003

College: None (straight to NBA)

Recruitment: The most celebrated high school basketball player in history, James was never going to set foot on a college campus. Still, he’s since given interviews suggesting he would have narrowed his list to Duke and Ohio State should he have been forced to go that route. He’s also hinted that he would have eventually chosen the Buckeyes. There’s an alternate reality in which King James brings a title to Columbus and it’s one that Ohio State fans would love existed.


Kyle Kuzma

Ranking: Three-star prospect in the class of 2013

College: Utah

Recruitment: A native of Flint, Mich., Kunzma attended prep school in Philadelphia and chose Utah over Florida State, Memphis, Seton Hall and Texas A&M, among others. At the time, Kuzma cited his bond with head coach Larry Krystkowiak and assistant DeMarlo Slocum, who now coaches at UNLV, as the reason behind his decision. He was a late signee for the Utes and redshirted his freshman season because of it.



JaVale McGee

Ranking: Unranked in the class of 2006

College: Nevada

Recruitment: McGee was a later bloomer and burst onto the scene just a few months before making his commitment to Nevada. At the time, the Chicago-raised McGee said he focused only on West Coast schools because he liked “the feel of the region.” The 7-foot center chose Nevada over San Francisco after touring both campuses.

“"I love it out West," McGee said before committing to the Wolfpack. "I spent a lot of time in California and the weather there is great. I've always felt comfortable out there."


Markieff Morris

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 49 overall in the class of 2008

College: Kansas

Recruitment: Markieff and his twin brother, Marcus, were always going to be a package deal. The duo decommitted from John Calipari-led Memphis twice and were actually granted releases from letters of intent on one of those occasions. After the twins hit the market for a third time, Kansas, Villanova, Indiana and others became heavily involved. It was an October visit to KU that sealed the deal, however, as both Marcus and Markieff were committed to the Jayhawks two weeks after the trip. "It was very hard to say no to Villanova,” Markieff told the Lawrence Journal World upon his commitment to KU. “Jay Wright is a good guy.”



Rajon Rondo

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 25 overall in the class of 2004

College: Kentucky

Recruitment: Illinois and Georgia were the first two schools to offer Rondo, and the two programs actually led his recruitment until Kentucky and Louisville got involved in early 2004. The Wildcats were the eventual pick, of course, which gave then-head coach Tubby Smith a massive recruiting victory over the rival Cardinals, who were led by Rick Pitino at the time.

“NBA scouts come all the time to see Josh Smith,” Steve Smith, who coached Rondo at Oak Hill High School, told Rivals in 2004. “Every single one of them has come up to me afterwards and said that Rajon is the best point guard they’ve ever seen. They think he’s an NBA lock after one or two years.”


J.R. Smith

Ranking: Five-star prospect, No. 8 overall in the class of 2004

College: None

Recruitment: Before he was J.R. Smith the Laker forward went by Earl Smith and signed with North Carolina before deciding to forgo college and enter the 2004 NBA Draft. Smith actually looked like he was ready to attend UNC until he won Co-MVP honors with current Lakers teammate Dwight Howard at the McDonald's All-American Game. Weeks after the performance, while still committed to the Tar Heels, Smith held a press conference at his high school and announced his intention to enter the draft.

"Coach (Roy) Williams let me know that he supported my decision and offered to help me with anything that I might need in making this tough decision, and I really appreciated that," Smith told Rivals in 2004. “I know that if I had went to UNC, I would have had the chance to play for my dream school, to meet new people and be a part of the great tradition. Even though I may never go to UNC, it will always be my school."


Dion Waiters

Ranking: Four-star prospect, No. 29 overall in the class of 2010

College: Syracuse

Recruitment: When Waiters committed to Syracuse in July of 2007, he told Rivals that the chance to play with his cousin, Scoop Jardine, was a major reason behind his decision. Waiters' early commitment was most notable because it took place during his freshman year, weeks before he played his first game of high school basketball. Still, the pledge managed to go the distance. Waiters’ quick and steadfast commitment kept other programs at arm’s length, as he received no other scholarship offers.