Commentary

Oak Hill boosts Virginia's resume

Updated: January 22, 2009, 2:54 PM ET
By Mark Tennis | ESPNRISE.com

It's the big boys up front who set Virginia apart, as the state has been the home of some of the most celebrated big men in basketball -- Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson and Alonzo Mourning, to name a few. That trio could match up with just about any front line from any other state.

Who's Next?

America's team, Oak Hill Academy, a tiny private boarding school in Mouth of Wilson, is the nation's most productive school. Coach Steve Smith's program has placed several players in the NBA and annually sends many to the college ranks. His teams have won several mythical national championships. The Warriors are currently No. 2 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 rankings. Class 4A powerhouses are Bethel, T.C. Williams and Norcom. Private schools such as Paul VI, the Miller School, Bishop O'Connell, Benedictine and Atlantic Shores Christian will vie for independent school titles. Hargrave Military might be the strongest school nationally that fields fifth-year players.

The commonwealth produced five ESPNU 100 players (four playing in-state), including 6-foot-9 DeShawn Painter, 6-7 Tristan Surlock, 6-7 Marshawn Powell and 6-5 Steve Pledger. Three of the top four juniors are headed to Tobacco Road schools, 6-5 Andre Dawkins and 6-8 Joshua Hairston (both to Duke), and 6-3 Kendall Marshall (North Carolina).
-- Chris Lawlor

But Virginia is like several other states in that the elite players -- and high school teams -- are not an annual occurrence. In recent years, Virginia's stock has risen in producing football talent while holding fast to the status quo in basketball.

"There are geographic areas of Virginia which are above others in talent," says Steve Smith, coach of private school Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), a national powerhouse. "There is good high school competition in the largest public school class [AAA], but most of the individual talent in recent years comes from the Tidewater area on the East Coast or Richmond and the Northern Virginia area south of Washington, D.C."

Retired Associated Press writer and state high school historian Marshall Johnson said, "Once there was a lot of basketball tradition, but the evolution of so many new schools has cut into the old-time rivalries."

Still, with the lineup of all-stars the state has produced, Virginia has a strong case in the Great State Debate.

Note: The Great State Debate counts players based on where they went to high school and not their home state. For example, all Oak Hill players count for Virginia.

Top all-time Virginia players
Carmelo Anthony (Oak Hill Academy)
Steve Blake (Oak Hill Academy)
Randolph Childress (Flint Hill, Oakton)
Dell Curry (Fort Defiance)
Kevin Durant (Oak Hill Academy)
Grant Hill (South Lakes, Reston)
Allen Iverson (Bethel, Hampton)
Stephon Jackson (Oak Hill Academy)
Brandon Jennings (Oak Hill Academy)
Ty Lawson (Oak Hill Academy)
Moses Malone (Petersburg)
Ron Mercer (Oak Hill Academy)
Alonzo Mourning (Indian River, Chesapeake)
J.J. Redick (Cave Spring, Roanoke)
David Robinson (Osbourn Park, Manassas)
Rajon Rondo (Oak Hill Academy)
Ralph Sampson (Harrisonburg)
Dennis Scott (Flint Hill, Oakton)
Josh Smith (Oak Hill Academy)
Jerry Stackhouse (Oak Hill Academy)
Rod Strickland (Oak Hill Academy)

Doug Huff is a senior editor of ESPN RISE.