Looking Back: The Top 10 High School Basketball Players of the Class of 2003

A young LeBron James

As a new list of player rankings come out for the upcoming high school senior class, another batch of kids are brought into the spotlight as the future of professional basketball. Although recruiting analysts spend a lot of their time making these rankings, they are not an exact science of what will happen.

It has been about 10 years since the high school class of 2003 graduated, enough time to let their careers solidify. What follows is a player-by-player examination of what each player has done since they graduated. We will be examining the professional careers of the top 10 rated prospects by

  1. LeBron James: Not much of an introduction is needed for this man. For over a decade, LeBron has made an enormous impact on the game of basketball, both on and off the court. When he was still in high school, LeBron had already become a fixture on ESPN as his high school games were broadcasted nationally. He already had experts analyzing his every decision, be it from what shoe company he was going to sign with, what jerseys he was wearing to school and what car his mother bought him.  On the court, LeBron is now a 4-time NBA MVP and on track to be the one of the greatest basketball player of all-time.


  1. Luol Deng: Born in Sudan and raised in the United Kingdom, he moved to the US at the age of 14 to play basketball at Blair Academy in Blairston, New Jersey. Deng teamed up with fellow NBA player Charlie Villanueva to create one of the most formidable duos in high school basketball. Deng then went on to star at Duke University for a single season and was selected 7th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2004 NBA Draft. He has spent his entire career with the Bulls and is a 2-time NBA All-Star, well known for his all around offense and as a lockdown defender.


  1. Ndudi Ebi: Coming from Nigeria, Ebi moved to Houston as a teenager and attended Westbury Christian School. He was considered an athletic freak of nature with the potential for greatness. Declaring straight out of high school, Ndudi was selected with the 26th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. After two futile years with the Timberwolves, he was released by the team and has since been playing overseas, most recently with Bnei Herzliya in Israel.


  1. David Padgett: David Padgett attended Kansas where he started 19 games for them as a freshman before transferring to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville.  Although he had a successful career at Louisville, a long line of knee injuries hurt his development and he undrafted after graduation. David played a couple years in Spain but after returned to Louisville as the team’s assistant strength coach. He is now currently an assistant coach at IUPUI.


  1. Shannon Brown: In his senior year at Proviso East High School, Brown was named Mr. Basketball in Illinois. He then went on to play three seasons for Tom Izzo at Michigan State University where he then was drafted 25th overall in the 2006 Draft by Cleveland.  After bouncing around the league his first couple of years, he played a key role for the Lakers when they won the championship in 2009 and 2010. At the beginning of this season, the Washington Wizards waived his contract after being traded from Phoenix.


  1. Kendrick Perkins: Perkins declared straight out of high school and was selected with the 27th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, which then traded the pick to the Boston Celtics. Perkins spent eight years in Boston and played a vital role as they consistently competed for the NBA Championship, including being the starting center for the Celtics team that won the Championship in 2008. Perkins is known for being a tough, defensive enforcer with the ability to stop anyone in the post. He now currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.


  1. Charlie Villanueva: As mentioned before, Charlie was the other half of a formidable duo with Luol Deng at Blair Academy. He attended the University of Connecticut for two years where he was a key reserve on UConn’s National Championship team. Villanueva was the seventh overall selection in the 2005 Draft by the Toronto Raptors. Although he has carved out a decent NBA career, he is known for being one of the most overpaid players when he signed with the Detroit Pistons in 2009.


  1. Leon Powe: After winning Gatorade California Player of the Year his senior season, Powe attended the University of California for two seasons, leading the conference in rebounding as a freshman, before declaring for the 2006 Draft. Two reconstructive knee surgeries and questions about his size saw him fall to Boston at the 49th overall pick. Powe was a major contributor as a reserve for the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics. His most notable performance came in Game 2 in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Lakers where he scored 21 points in only 15 minutes of play. Since then, more knee injuries have hampered his ability to play basketball and he is now exploring a career in business.


  1. Chris Paul: In retrospect, it is amazing to see that Chris Paul was only ranked 9th. The day after signing his letter of intent to play at Wake Forest, Paul’s grandfather was found dead after being beaten and robbed by a group of teens. The next day at his school’s season-opener, an emotionally devastated Paul scored 61 points in his grandfather’s honor, one point for every year his grandfather lived. Chris is now currently playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, where he is highly regarded as the best point guard in the NBA.


  1. Mustafa Shakur: Shakur played all four years at the University of Arizona, starting in every single game except for two in his entire college career. His senior season saw him post averages of 11.9 points, 6.9 assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals for the Wildcats before going undrafted. He has since been playing overseas and in the D-League, last recently for the Erie Bayhawks.

Although these rankings are usually a fair indicator of talent, some prospects still slip through the cracks or bloom late. In this class, two perfects examples are Jared Dudley and Paul Milsap. Dudley was ranked as the 44th best small forward while Milsap was the 41st best center. Each of these players would end up doing well in college with Jared Dudley winning the ACC Player of the Year his senior year while Milsap led the nation in rebounding for three straight years. Dudley is now playing with the Clippers and Milsap with the Hawks.