Movin’ On Up
by Jed Tai
Football has been, and likely will always be, king in the state of Texas. It’s all gridiron talk at the water cooler in the fall. There’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Houston Texans have now joined the fray. The Longhorns and Aggies are essentially the Hatfields and the McCoys. Even high school football is fanatically followed, as Friday night football games are community events.
However, if last year was any indication, basketball is catching up. Especially in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Sure, there’s Mark Cuban and his Mavericks, but one of the bigger stories last season was the quality of high school basketball in the area. The Metroplex not only featured a national and state championship team in Dallas Lincoln, but two other nationally ranked teams in Cedar Hill and The Colony. As the season progressed, high school gyms became filled to capacity – and not just with parents, students, and alumni of the teams involved, but many general hoops fan simply there to catch the action. A impromptu tripleheader at Reunion Arena featuring the top six teams in the DFW area was a sold-out affair. Basketball fever was definitely in the air.
Individually, the quality of players was likely the best the area has ever seen. While DFW hoops historians point to the Class of 1991 as the standard – its players included Jimmy King, Greg Ostertag, and Mario Bennett – this class at the very least ranks at the same level. There were no fewer than three McDonald’s All-Americans, seven consensus Top 100 nationally ranked players, and 30 future NCAA Division I players in the class of 2002. Now while it remains to be seen whether this class can produce three future NBA players such as King, Ostertag, and Bennett – not to mention many productive college players – the general feeling is that it definitely has the potential to match – if not exceed their accomplishments.
However, success in high school is one thing – how will it translate to the larger stage of college basketball? How much of a national impact will these young men have as they move on from DFW to beyond?
The Dallas Morning News named a six man All-Area team which recognized the top players in the DFW Metroplex for 2001-02. Here’s how each of the players on that squad should fare at their next destination. Players are ranked in the order of impact they will make on the national scene.
1. Chris Bosh
Lincoln HS, Dallas
Want the ultimate winner on the high school level last year in DFW? Look no further than Chris Bosh. Bosh was the centerpiece on Lincoln HS’s 40-0 state and mythical national championship team. Add in a 4-0 record in the Global Games in July – he led Team USA past Yugoslavia and New Jersey Nets draftee Nenad Krstic for the gold medal – and Bosh was undefeated on Texas soil. He finished off his busy summer helping USA Basketball to a bronze medal in the FIBA Men’s Junior World Championships in Venezuela. The 6’10” Bosh is a player built in the Kevin Garnett mold – long and lean, yet skilled and athletic – combination of size and skills that has pro scouts already drooling. He can do damage offensively down low or from the perimeter, and defensively he blocks about every shot that comes his way. Expectations are high for Bosh at Georgia Tech, where he should step into a starting role immediately. Starting at either center or power forward, he will compliment last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year (and fellow Global Games alumnus) Ed Nelson very well. Expect to see him average double figures in scoring and anchor the Yellow Jackets defense down low. He is one of the top candidates for this year’s ACC Rookie of the Year and ranks as our top choice for DFW native making an impact on the national scale. Look for him on TV playing against Duke and Maryland with Dick Vitale gushing about his pro potential (and lamenting about how he should stay in school) on a TV set near you this fall. Take a long look too, because if he continues to put some muscle on his bones, he may not be in college long as the NBA is already beckoning.
2. Bracey Wright
The Colony HS, The Colony
If you’re looking for one of the best looking shooting forms in all of basketball, you need to look no further than Bracey Wright. Picture perfect form, smooth release, quick wrist snap, tight ball-rotation and follow-thru – it’s thrilling to watch Wright shoot the ball, even when he misses. But the 6’4″ Wright is much more than simply a shooter, he is a tremendous scorer. While the catch-and-shoot game is his bread and butter, he has the ability to create off the dribble, penetrate the lane, and elevate on the break. After a brilliant, record-setting career at The Colony, he was honored by being selected as a McDonald’s All-American. He also kept busy in the summer helping lead Team USA to the gold at the Global Games. Wright now moves on to Big Ten country at Indiana where he is the top recruit in a banner class assembled by Mike Davis. With Jared Jeffries and Dane Fife moving on, two spots in the starting lineup appear to be up for grabs. While he’ll have to wrestle it away from veteran A.J. Moye, Wright should find himself starting at shooting guard, where the team will no doubt benefit from his outside shooting. It would not be a surprise to see Wright average in the low double digits and challenge for conference freshman of the year honors.
3. Daniel Horton
Cedar Hill HS, Cedar Hill
While Chris Bosh and Bracey Wright seemingly got most of the local headlines, Daniel Horton put together a fantastic senior season in his own right last year. Horton led Cedar Hill to a national ranking, a tournament win and MVP performance at the Slam Dunk to the Beach Invitational, and a run in the state playoffs which included a big win over Bracey Wright and The Colony. The third McDonald’s All-American from the Metroplex – who was teammates with Bosh and Wright at the Global Games and with Bosh down in Venezuela – now moves on to the next challenge at Michigan, a school he chose as much for academics as he did for athletics. While he’s not exactly looked upon as a savior, Horton is thought of as someone who can help bring the Wolverines back to respectability. A combo guard in high school, he will see time at the point for Tommy Amaker and Michigan. Horton’s offensive explosiveness and take-charge ability will remind observers of last year’s college Player of the Year Jason Williams, and his defensive abilities will reflect those that Amaker displayed during his playing days. While Avery Queen is the incumbent point guard, it is expected that the taller, 6’3″ Horton will take over the reins eventually, if not right away. His rivalry with Wright will continue on the Big Ten.
4. Bryan Hopkins, SMU (Lincoln HS, Dallas)
SMU has had good success in recent years grabbing some of the top talent out of the DFW area. Standouts such as Willie Davis, Jeryl Sasser, Damon Hancock, and current senior Quinton Ross have all had fantastic Mustang careers. But as much impact those players have had (Sasser became the school’s all-time leading scorer), there may not be as important a recruit as Bryan Hopkins – arguably the most heralded recruit in recent SMU history. Hopkins just missed making the McDonald’s All-American team, and along with Bosh, led Lincoln HS to the mythical national championship. With Hancock having graduated, Hopkins should step right in as the starting point guard from day one. The ultra-quick, ultra-athletic Hopkins – who, at sub-six feet tall, was legendary in Dallas for his high-flying dunks – will be the #2 offensive option behind Quinton Ross, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him as the #1 option by the end of the season. SMU head coach Mike Dement will likely grant Hopkins the same freedoms he allowed Hancock and Sasser to play under, so expect him to put up some big numbers once he has adjusted to major college basketball. He is the odds-on favorite for WAC Freshman of the Year honors. He only ranks #4 on our list because the WAC simply does not get as much national exposure as the ACC and Big Ten, but he should be one of the top freshmen in the country.
5. Ike Diogu, Arizona State (Garland HS, Garland)
The freshman from the DFW area who’s the least known nationally is probably Ike Diogu, but even he was a consensus Top 50 prospect. Arizona State is certainly expecting big things out of this big man. In high school, Diogu was simply put, a man amongst boys. Playing against collapsing defenses and triple-teams, Diogu still ruled the paint and games of 20+ points and 20+ rebounds would occur on any given night. The former football tight end’s pure size and domination in the lane brought about memories of a minature version of Shaq. But Diogu now moves up to a level where he’ll see bigger and taller bodies – can he adapt? The feeling is that he will. Diogu got a good taste of what it is like playing against bigger players in the summer at the Global Games, and more than held his own. And while his strength is his main asset, he does possess a soft touch from the outside and is actually rather nimble in his moves. At ASU he will not have to face multiple defenders on a nightly basis, which will allow him to take advantage of individual matchups. While he probably won’t score double-digits from the get-go, he could very well step into the starting lineup alongside Tommy Smith up front and average 7-8 boards a night. He is a definite candidate for Pac-10 honors.
6. Deron Williams, Illinois (The Colony HS, The Colony)
The second half of The Colony’s dynamite backcourt last year was Deron Williams. While Wright lit up the scoreboard, Williams was the one who ran the show. With his size (6’4″) at the point, supreme ball-handling, court vision, and leadership skills, Williams’ play brought up comparisons by many observers to none other than his idol, Jason Kidd. In fact, often times opposing teams concentrated on trying to stop Williams the most in their defensive game plan. He was considered a consensus Top 50 prospect and just missed out on joining his teammate Wright on the McDonald’s All-American team. Illinois enters 2002-03 looking for backcourt stability, as Cory Bradford and Frank Williams have both moved on. This should provide Williams the opportunity to play heavy minutes right away, and if Head Coach Bill Self decides to go with a two point guard lineup, he could choose to start Williams in the backcourt along with fellow freshman (and McDonald’s All-American) Dee Brown. He already has experience playing alongside Brown with Team USA down in Venezuela. Will he play the point or at shooting guard? Will he start or come off the bench? Any way you slice it, expect Williams to see a ton of playing time for the Illini and be a key contributor, even if his true role is yet to be defined.
Other DFW-area products who look to make an impact as freshmen in college this upcoming season include:
Will Allen, Baylor (Trinity Christian Academy, Addison)
Walk-on combo guard could be a surprise contributor
Herman Banks, Albany (William T. White HS, Dallas)
Sleeper recruit will need to build strength and put on weight
Seneca Collins, Tulsa (Duncanville HS, Duncanville)
Scoring swingman is physically built like a tank; will play immediately
Matt Davis, The Citadel (Creekview HS, Carrollton)
Big guard has the ability to shoot lights out
Ross DeRogatis, Oklahoma State (Mansfield HS, Mansfield) Terrific
shooter/scorer turned down scholarship offers to walk-on for Eddie Sutton
Nick Goellner, Southwest Texas (Rockwall HS, Rockwall)
Long and lanky post player could see lots of action early
Derick Grubb, Pepperdine (Heritage HS, Colleyville)
You can’t teach size; will likely be a work in progress
Bamfield Harmon, Rhode Island (The Colony HS, The Colony)
Athletic combination guard will help off the bench
Ron Harris, North Texas (Oakridge HS, Arlington)
Combo forward has the size to contribute inside.
P.J. Hatcher, Maryland-Baltimore County (Lewisville HS, Lewisville)
Burly swingman can do the job inside or outside the three-point arc
Ryan Hopkins, SMU (Lincoln HS, Dallas)
Fraternal twin of Bryan won’t see nearly as much action as his brother
Jarrett Howell, Niagara (Bowie HS, Arlington)
Lefty point guard is quick and can penetrate the lane
Michael Kawalek, Princeton (Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound)
Tall point guard who does a little bit of everything should fit right in
Shelton Johnson, Colorado State (Oakridge HS, Arlington)
Versatile player should see plenty of time off the bench
Mitch Laue, UNC-Wilmington (Bishop Lynch HS, Dallas)
Tough competitor has a soft shot in addition to post moves
Alan Mason, Grambling State (Lincoln HS, Dallas)
Backup in high school; could find himself starting at GSU
Chris Moore, Arkansas State (Lancaster HS, Lancaster)
Lean forward crashes the offensive boards well
Allen Morrill, Arizona State (Sam Houston HS, Arlington)
Defensive-minded forward is not afraid to get physical and hit the boards
Yemi Ogunoye, Oral Roberts (Cedar Hill HS, Cedar Hill)
Long and lanky big man is a long-term project, but has potential
Evan Patterson, Stetson (Cedar Hill HS, Cedar Hill)
Well-built forward has a lefty shot with a soft touch
Ronnie Smith, Idaho (South Oak Cliff HS, Dallas)
Prototypical third guard can sink bombs from long range
Arim Solares, Central Connecticut State (Berkner HS, Richardson)
Native of Mexico knows how to score and rebound
Tommy Swanson, Baylor (North Crowley HS, Crowley)
Raw big man is coming off a head injury his senior season
Seth Taylor, Nevada (Heritage HS, Colleyville)
Walk-on shooting guard has a nice mid-range game
Steve Thomas, Texas-Arlington (Dunbar HS, Fort Worth)
High-flying forward may be undersized, but knows how to score inside
Ty Thomas, North Texas (Sam Houston HS, Arlington)
Underrated swingman could contribute in the front or backcourt
Morgan Williams, Long Island (Plano East HS, Plano)
Combo guard can put points on the board in a hurry
Kyle Wilson, Illinois (Jesuit HS, Dallas)
Inside/outside game – and hair – resembles none other than Dirk Nowitzki
Good luck to all those who embark on their freshman seasons in 2002-03. It was a unique pleasure covering you last year.