Kobe, Shaq among top 15 prep players

Kobe, Shaq among top 15 prep players

Updated: April 3, 2009, 5:26 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

This week, ESPN RISE takes a look at the top 50 high school basketball players of all time. It's a tough task, and our experts debated the criteria. Check back each day as we count down to No. 1. Disagree with our list? Want to weigh in? Sound off on the conversation page.

15. Jason Kidd (St. Joseph Notre Dame/Alameda, Calif.)
Kidd shaped his game on the playgrounds of Oakland against future NBA star Gary Payton. Kidd helped SJND win back to back state titles, the second in 1992. He concluded his prep career as California's all-time assist leader (1,155) and the state's seventh best scorer (2,661 points). He holds national steal records, both single-season (245) and career (719). He was the two-time California player of the year and named national player of the year by three outlets. He played in the McDonald's All-American Game before heading to California-Berkeley. Kidd, a nine-time NBA All-Star, currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks. He won gold medals in Sydney (2000) and Beijing (2008). Watch high school highlights of Jason Kidd. Kidd talked to Student Sports Magazine about being a point guard in 1991.

[+] EnlargeJason Kidd
ESPN RISE CalHiSports.comJason Kidd was one of the best prep players to come out of California.

14. Isiah Thomas (St. Joseph/ Westchester, Ill.)
The consummate point guard and leader, Thomas was raised on the mean streets on the west side of Chicago. In 1978, he led St. Joseph to a second place finish a the Illinois state tournament and was named a McDonald's All-American as a senior in 1979. He lasted two years at Indiana University, capped by the Hoosiers' national title in 1981. He was a lottery pick by the Detroit Pistons in 1981. Thomas, a 12-time NBA All-Star, was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team and won two world championships with the Pistons. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. Watch high school highlights of Isiah Thomas.

13. Patrick Ewing (Rindge & Latin/Cambridge, Mass.)
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Ewing came to the United States when he was 11 years old, having played soccer and cricket. Ewing learned basketball on the playgrounds around Boston and blossomed into a McDonald's All-American in 1981 under the tutelage of coach Mike Jarvis (who later coached at George Washington and St. John's). After a stellar career at Georgetown (he was the 1984 national player of year), which included the national championship in 1984, he graduated. He was the first overall pick of the NBA draft in 1985 by the New York Knicks but never won an NBA title, falling in the finals to Houston in 1994. Ewing, an 11-time NBA All-Star, played 17 years in the NBA, mainly for the Knicks. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

12. Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion/Ardmore, Pa.)
Bryant capped his prep career with a bang as Lower Merion won Pennsylvania's Class AAAA title (the school's first in 53 years) and he was the consensus national player of the year. As a senior he averaged 30.8 points and 12 rebounds and left as Southeastern Pennsylvania's all-time leading scorer with 2,883 points. He bypassed college for the NBA draft in 1996, launching a spectacular pro career. His career continues to flourish as an 11-time NBA All-Star and three-time world champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. He earned a gold medal with the U.S. men's team in 2008. Watch high school highlights of Kobe Bryant.

Best Ballers

ESPN RISE is counting down the top 50 high school basketball players of all time. Which players made the cut? Check out Nos. 50-26. On Wednesday, we rolled out Nos. 25-16. You might be surprised with some of the players ranked Nos. 15-6.

On Friday, we crowned the No. 1 player and announced the top five. See who was voted Best Baller.

Check out the full list -- with vote totals.

How did we arrive at this list? Our experts talk about how they voted.

11. Shaquille O'Neal (Cole/San Antonio)
Born in Newark, N.J., O'Neal was raised in Texas when his stepfather was reassigned to a post there by the U.S. Army. He helped Cole accrue a 68-1 record in his final two years of high school and won a state title as a senior. He grabbed a season-record 791 rebounds (fourth all-time) in 1989, when he was also named a McDonald's All-American. At LSU, he was a two-time All-American and holds the NCAA single-game record for blocked shots with 17 in a game in 1990. He was the first overall pick of the NBA draft in 1992 by the Orlando Magic and has earned nearly every league honor. The ultimate teammate, O'Neal is most proud of his gold medal earned with the U.S. men's team in 1996 and four NBA world championships. He currently plays for the Phoenix Suns in his 17th pro season. Watch high school highlights of Shaquille O'Neal.

10. Bill Walton (Helix/La Mesa, Calif.)
The Big Redhead (he's 6-foot-11) grew up in suburban San Diego and forged a winning pedigree, winning a pair of state titles at Helix. He would not lose a varsity game from the middle of his junior year of high school until he was a senior at UCLA (a span of five years). As a senior during the 1969-70 season, he sank a national-record 78.3 percent of his shots (384-of-490) and hauled down a state-record 825 rebounds (third all-time nationally). Walton, the first pick of the NBA draft in 1974 by the Portland Trail Blazers, won two NBA rings (1977, '86) and a pair of NCAA titles. He is member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Watch high school highlights of Bill Walton.

9. Jerry Lucas (Middletown, Ohio)
Lucas was a three-time Ohio player of the year (1956-58) but drew praise for his unselfish play. His Middletown teams went 78-1 in three years, losing in the state semifinals of his junior year. He made more than 60 percent of his shots and 85 percent from the charity stripe as a senior. He was a main reason Middletown won 78 straight games. He went onto Ohio State, where is widely considered the greatest Big 10 player after bagging three conference player of the year awards. The 6-9 Lucas, a gifted long-range shooter, had an 11-year NBA career and earned a gold medal with the U.S. men's team at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and an NBA championship with the Knicks in 1973. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.

[+] EnlargeShaquille O'Neal
Bob Daemmrich/Getty ImagesShaquille O'Neal won his first title with Cole.

8. Kevin Garnett (Farragut/Chicago)
He might have graduated from a Chicago high school, but he also attended Mauldin High in South Carolina. Some consider Garnett the greatest player for his versatile play. He totaled 2,533 points and 1,807 rebounds in four years. At Farragut, he was USA Today's national player of the year and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1995 when he averaged 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the McDonald's All-American Game in 1995 and two months later was taken with the fifth pick of the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Garnett, a 12-time NBA All-Star, earned a gold medal with the U.S. men's team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and a world championship ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Watch high school highlights of Kevin Garnett.

7. Jerry West (East Bank, W. Va.)
Mr. Clutch developed his trademark midrange jumper shooting on a rim nailed to a shack in his backyard in Cheylan, W. Va. As a senior, he led East Bank to the state championship in 1956, averaging 32.2 points. He enjoyed a stellar career at West Virginia, where he is clearly the state's and WVU's greatest player. He captained (along with Oscar Robertson) the gold-medal winning U.S. men's team in the Rome Olympics in 1960. The 6-2 West scored 25,192 career points with the Los Angeles Lakers and won one title in 1972. As successful as a player as West was, he excelled in the front office as the general manager of the 1980s "Showtime" Lakers which won four NBA crowns. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

6. Moses Malone (Petersburg, Va.)
Malone was a basketball pioneer. He was ready to attend Maryland, after putting up eye-popping numbers as a senior -- 36 points, 26 rebounds and 12 blocks a game -- and leading Petersburg to a pair of Virginia state championships and a 50-game win streak. However, instead of enrolling at Maryland he jumped directly to the ABA and the Utah Stars. Malone, 6-10, was a presence in the post, winning three NBA MVP awards and a NBA world championship with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and was tabbed one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in 1997.

ALSO SEE