Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oak Hill Academy: Basketball's Production Line

Recently I fell victim to the whims of Basketball Reference. Not that I'm new to the site - I've used it as a valuable reference tool since I discovered it several years ago. But this one was different, not necessarily information for a particular purpose, just the sheer pleasure of getting lost surfing basketball. And I happened upon a list of all the McDonalds High School All-Americans, a showcase game where the best High School basketballers in the land are matched against each other. This game has run for thirty-four years and has featured such luminaries as Michael Jordan, Danny Manning, Shaq, Derrick Coleman and Shawn Kemp.

One thing struck me even though I was subconsciously aware of its importance: Oak Hill Academy, in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, is America's College Hoops production facility. Going back to their first All-American in 1980 (the immortal and never since heard from Glen Mayers), they've churned out an astonishing twenty-six representatives in the McDonalds' game, including some of the most notable names in the sport. And that's not the best part. The best part is their best players often either transferred or didn't make the cut for the game.

The list is certainly impressive: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rod Strickland, Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Jerry Stackhouse, Rajon Rondo, Josh "J-Smoove" Smith, Ron Mercer and Steven Jackson. Those twenty-six Oak Hill All-Americans include three NBA All-Stars (Melo, Rondo and Stackhouse). And that's just the NBA stars emanating from the school near the VA/NC border. Plenty more pro starters, role players and Collegiate champs refined their craft in Mouth of Wilson, a place best described as the middle of nowhere.

11 current NBA players attended Oak Hill Academy at one time or another; 2.5% of the NBA population. Their total of 26 McDonalds' representatives comprises 3.2% of that game's total ever players. Never have Oak Hill sent more than two to any one All-America game. They've graduated twenty-one players to the NBA - 23% of all NBA players who graduated from High School in VA. Oak Hill's dominance in High School circles has long been acknowledged - but it is only really now that we have a complete picture of what the school has achieved.

While they sit atop the pile, a few schools chase them but without ever really hoping to overtake such numbers. Wilt Chamberlain's alma mater (Overbrook) has twelve alumni who made it to the League while Oak Hill rivals Hargrave Military (and Washington High in Indianapolis) have sent nine. The nearest comparison comes from legendary coach Morgan Wootten's DeMatha Catholic High School with fourteen.

Is this healthy? If a student with basketball talent receives an education as a result of their involvement with Oak Hill - and you can almost bet every player on their basketball team is scouted for college and perhaps most even attend - is only a positive and schools must find ways to differentiate themselves in what has sadly, become a crowded and competitive marketplace. Education as a side effect is preferable to no education at all.

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