Commentary

Big names make cut for all-decade team

The Blueprint: ESPN RISE All-Decade Dream Team

Updated: April 6, 2009, 8:28 PM ET
By Ryan Canner-O'Mealy and Jon Mahoney | ESPN RISE Magazine

The past 10 years have been a golden age for high school hoops. Highlights included an all-time great player in LeBron James, an all-time great team with an all-time great coach at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and three No. 1 NBA draft picks before the age minimum came into play in 2006.

Amare Stoudemire
Richmond Gibbs for ESPN RISE MagazineAmare Stoudemire leads ESPN RISE's all-decade team.

When this year's senior class graduates, the door will close on the new millennium's first decade of high school ballers. So after ESPNRISE.COM debated the best basketball state and counted down the top high school ballers ever, now is the perfect time to name our All-Decade Dream Team.

Like selecting the crew that took gold in Beijing last summer, choosing the All-Decade Dream Team wasn't as simple as throwing the 15 best players together. We were looking for the best team. That's why someone like J.J. Redick makes the starting lineup while Carmelo Anthony comes off the bench.

To create a well-rounded squad, you first need a dynamic playmaker who makes his teammates better and doesn't need to score to be effective. Then a deadeye shooter at the 2 is a must. At small forward, you need … Forget it, you need LeBron. Case closed.

Up front, match one dominant scorer with a big who can rebound and block shots and you're all set. Then the bench should be loaded with players who fill specific roles, whether it's defense, rebounding, instant offense or leadership at the point.

Keep in mind this team is about what these players did in high school, not college or the pros. So guys who blew up after high school like D-Wade don't make the cut. Meanwhile, a player languishing overseas like Dajuan Wagner is represented.

So enjoy, debate and even disagree with our picks. Just don't think you're beating this squad.

The starting five

PG: CHRIS PAUL
West Forsyth (Clemmons, N.C.)
Class of 2003
Who better to guide this ship than CP3, a consummate floor general who proved he could run a team of stars back in high school. Well before becoming an All-Star with the New Orleans Hornets, Paul dished out a game-high 10 dimes at the 2003 McDonald's All-American Game. That capped a senior season in which he averaged 30.8 points, eight assists, six steals and five boards per game.

Dwight Howard
Jeff Crowe for ESPN RISE MagazineDwight Howard averaged more than 25 points per game as a senior.

SG: J.J. REDICK
Cave Spring (Roanoke, Va.)
Class of 2002
Every elite basketball team needs a lights-out perimeter shooter who can stretch defenses. So while it may seem odd for Redick to make this team even though he can barely crack the Orlando Magic's rotation, there wasn't a better high school shooter this decade. Redick nailed five 3-pointers en route to 26 points and MVP honors at the 2002 McDonald's All-American Game. Fittingly, he also won the event's 3-point contest.

SF: LEBRON JAMES
St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio)
Class of 2003
Do we even need to say why? Not only is King James the most talented player on this roster, he's a perfect fit for any system. Even in high school, LeBron could handle the ball, score from anywhere, pass as well as any point guard and lock up his opponent on defense. The two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year averaged 30.4 points, 9.7 boards and 4.9 assists per game as a senior before Cleveland wisely took him with the No. 1 pick of the '03 NBA Draft.

PF: AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE
Cypress Creek (Orlando, Fla.)
Class of 2002
The explosiveness that makes Stoudemire so great with the Phoenix Suns today was on full display during his prep days. With a defensive beast like Dwight Howard starting alongside him on the All-Decade Dream Team, Stoudemire would be freed up to do what he does best -- score. The man-child averaged 29.1 points per game as a senior and would especially flourish running the floor alongside CP3.

C: DWIGHT HOWARD
Southwest Atlanta Christian (Atlanta)
Class of 2004
Howard's scoring, defense, rebounding and power give the Orlando Magic a low-post anchor who's good for 20 and 10 almost every night. If he can do that now in the NBA, just imagine the damage he'd do as the center of this squad. In high school, Howard's presence down low made it nearly impossible for opponents to score inside. He averaged 18.3 rebounds and eight blocks per game during a senior campaign in which he was named Gatorade National Player of the Year. Oh, and he chipped in with 25.5 points per game that year, too.

The bench

PG: T.J. FORD
Willowridge (Houston)
Class of 2001
Now with the Indiana Pacers, Ford has been slowed by injuries during his NBA career. But when he was in high school, hardly anybody could match his point guard skills. Ford ran the show for a balanced Willowridge squad that went 39-0 and won its second straight state title during his senior season. That kind of leadership would make Ford the perfect backup to Paul on the All-Decade Dream Team.

PG: DERRICK ROSE
Simeon (Chicago)
Class of 2007
As a Chicago Bulls rookie, Rose is already wowing NBA crowds. He's done the same thing at every level, including high school, where he led Simeon to consecutive state crowns as a junior and senior. In overtime in the state finals as a junior, Rose stole the ball, drove the length of the court and hit the game-winning jumper with one second left. That winning pedigree and clutch mentality -- not to mention his blazing speed -- would benefit any team.

SG: O.J. MAYO
Huntington (W.Va.)
Class of 2007
The decade's most hyped prep baller not named LeBron would bring versatility to this team. Mayo's scoring ability as a rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies has meant the other aspects of his game have been overlooked. But in high school he did it all, averaging 29.6 points, five boards and 4.9 assists per game as a senior. Perhaps Mayo's best quality is that he's not afraid to take -- and usually make -- the big shot.

SG: DAJUAN WAGNER
Camden (N.J.)
Class of 2001
Illnesses have prevented Wagner from fulfilling the promise he showed when the Cleveland Cavs took him sixth in the 2002 NBA Draft, but in high school no one filled it up quite like him. Most famous for scoring 100 in a single game, Wagner averaged 42.5 points as a senior while setting New Jersey's all-time scoring record (3,462 career points). He'd provide the scoring spark off the bench all great teams need.

SF: CARMELO ANTHONY
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Class of 2002
Other than "The Wire," Melo is Baltimore's finest export this decade. Whether it was scoring 33 points in a quarter for the Denver Nuggets earlier this year or averaging 21.7 points per game for Oak Hill as a senior, Melo has always been able to heat up in a hurry. Back in high school he was also a dominant rebounder (8.1 boards per game) and big-time winner (32-1 record as a senior). Add it all up and you have the perfect sixth man.

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant
Steve Boyle for ESPN RISE MagazineKevin Durant averaged 22.4 points per game as a senior at Montrose Christian.

SF: KEVIN DURANT
Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)
Class of 2006
You want to play a team that can bring a scorer like Durant off the bench? Didn't think so. Durant's role on the All-Decade Dream Team would be pretty simple -- shoot the ball. One of the best scorers at every level he's played, KD averaged 22.4 points per game as a senior at Montrose Christian. His combination of size (6-foot-10) and range (well beyond the NBA line) would make him a difficult matchup for anybody.

SF: JOSH SMITH
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Class of 2004
Smith is the Jamie Foxx of this crew -- he can do a lot of things well. Smith's ability to defend multiple positions would allow him to spell all the frontcourt starters. And if the team needs an energizing block or dunk, he's your man. Now with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith averaged 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.9 blocks, 4.4 assists and 3.1 steals for a 38-0 Oak Hill squad as a senior.

PF: TYLER HANSBROUGH
Poplar Bluff (Poplar Bluff, Mo.)
Class of 2005
Energy guys off the bench are vital to every great team, and Hansbrough is like Red Bull with a little -- make that a lot of -- extra caffeine. Oh yeah, the kid can also ball a little, too. Before becoming a college hoop star and National Player of the Year at North Carolina, Hansbrough won back-to-back state titles at Poplar Bluff, averaging 28.2 points and 13.4 boards per game as a senior.

[+] EnlargeKevin Love
Michael Schmitt for ESPN RISEKevin Love averaged 33.4 points and 16.5 rebounds per game as a senior.

PF: KEVIN LOVE
Lake Oswego (Lake Oswego, Ore.)
Class of 2007
The great thing about Love is he wouldn't need to score to be effective. Now a Minnesota Timberwolves rookie, Love is a brilliant passer for a big man -- either from the post or with his trademark outlets -- and would create plenty of fast breaks and good looks for his talented teammates. Of course, he'd also provide a polished inside scorer. Love averaged 33.4 points and 16.5 rebounds per game as a senior.

C: GREG ODEN
Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Class of 2006
Any team would be happy if its backup center was a two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year and three-time state champion. Don't let Oden's up-and-down transition to the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers fool you. In high school, he was a defensive- minded 7-footer who was a one-man block party. And if Oden gets the ball anywhere near the hoop, he's finishing with a rim-rocking slam.

Coach of the decade

STEVE SMITH
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
Smith would definitely be comfortable coaching a group of stars: He does it nearly every year at Oak Hill, getting a group of ballers who were standouts at their previous schools to play together. For the past 24 years, Smith has taken transfers from across the country and created a cohesive program that's dominated the prep hoops landscape, winning more than 700 games in his tenure.

Ryan Canner-O'Mealy and Jon Mahoney are senior writers for ESPN RISE Magazine.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.