Boys of Summer
High schoolers wowed recruiters--and NBA scouts--at a pair of
For elite high school players, July is the critical month for
impressing college recruiters and, increasingly, a time to catch
the eye of NBA scouts as well. No player made a bigger name for
himself this month than LeBron James, a 6'7" forward who will be
a junior this fall at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron. In a
matchup that was the stuff of summer legend, James got the better
of Lenny Cooke, a 6'6" forward from Brooklyn, in a hotly
contested game at last week's Adidas ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J.
"It seemed as if all week people were hyping it up like it was
the game of the century," James said. "I just wanted to give
everyone a good show."
Cooke is widely regarded as one of the nation's top seniors, but
James outscored him 24-9, capping off the showdown by making a
running 25-foot trey at the buzzer to give his team an 85-83 win.
"He's the best high school player I've ever seen," one NBA scout
says. "He's so explosive and versatile, and he has a great feel
for the game. The guy is just a freak."
James may have been the talk of the ABCD camp, but he's
no overnight sensation. His coming-out party occurred last Jan.
13, when he scored 33 points in a one-point loss to Oak Hill
Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va., then ranked No. 1 in the
country. In March, James became the first sophomore to be named
Ohio's Mr. Basketball, and in June he was the leading scorer
(with a 24.0 average) at USA Basketball's Youth Development
Festival in Colorado Springs, where 40 of the nation's top high
school players competed in a four-day tournament.
However, James's performance last week did touch off speculation
that he might be the first player to try to enter the NBA draft
as a junior, which would require a legal challenge to the
league's rule prohibiting such a move. Goaded by reporters, James
said that it was a possibility, but he backed away from that
stance last Friday, after returning to Akron. "It's not going to
happen," said James. "I'm not going to give it any thought. I
have friends here, and I'm not going to leave them. I'm going to
graduate with my class and then see what happens."
Pitched Battle For Randolph
Shavlik Randolph had a bigger reputation than LeBron James coming
into last week's Nike All-American camp in Indianapolis. Now he's
learning what it's like to be a marked man. Despite lingering
tendinitis in his left foot, the 6'10" post player, who will be a
senior this fall at Broughton High in Raleigh, more than held his
own against the other leading big men at the Nike camp.
Yet plenty of people--from bruising opponents to nitpicking NBA
scouts--have been trying to knock him off his perch recently. Last
week Randolph's hometown newspaper ran a story reporting that one
analyst had rated him as only the fourth-best player at the Nike
camp. The headline read RANDOLPH'S STOCK DIPS. "These rankings
are for the birds," says Randolph's father, Kenny. "What's the
difference between the Number 1 player in the country and the
Number 10 player, anyway?"
A highly skilled power forward who is more likely to pull off an
artful ball fake than a thunderous dunk, Randolph did nothing in
Indianapolis to diminish his stature as one of the most coveted
players in the class of 2002. For more than a year he has been at
the heart of an intense recruiting battle made all the more
intriguing by his Tobacco Road bloodlines. His grandfather,
Ronnie Shavlik, was an All-America center at North Carolina State
in the '50s, and his parents graduated from North Carolina.
Both schools are on Randolph's short list, but he says Duke is
also one of his top choices, along with Florida, whose coach,
Billy Donovan, flew to Raleigh last year just so he could stand
in a parking lot and wave at Shavlik as he walked out of the gym.
Not to be outdone, Tar Heels coach Matt Doherty sent Randolph a
picture of Michael Jordan wearing a T-shirt that read SHAV
Randolph, a devout Christian, seems almost too good to be true.
He's a gym rat who doesn't like to play in pickup games because
he would "rather do drills," he says. He rarely goes out
socially, and he doesn't even have a driver's license. "Shavlik
wants to be a great basketball player," says his dad, "and he's
willing to sacrifice for that."
Trouble for Top Recruit
Will Whaley Find A College?
Robert Whaley says that he has never heard of Richie Parker, the
former New York City high school star who became a national
pariah five years ago after being convicted of sexual abuse, but
Whaley is dangerously close to being cast into oblivion in
similar fashion. A 6'9" forward from Benton Harbor, Mich.,
Whaley, now 19, was charged last January with two counts of
criminal sexual conduct for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl.
The case was dropped on June 13, two weeks after Whaley's trial
ended in a hung jury. However, Missouri, which signed him to a
letter of intent last November, still voided his scholarship
offer. "It seems a lot of people are judging me who don't even
know me," Whaley says. "How can you punish someone who wasn't
Given his considerable talents, Whaley will probably still end up
playing for a major program next season--Memphis and West Virginia
are the leading candidates--but any coach who wants him will first
have to convince his university that Whaley is a risk worth
taking. Whaley has had numerous brushes with the law, dating back
to 1994, when he was charged with unlawful use of an automobile.
He pled guilty and received probation. The following year he was
charged with breaking into a house. He pled guilty to home
invasion and was kept on probation.
Last Nov. 28, five days after the alleged rape, Whaley checked
himself into a detox program at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, and
hospital records showed that Whaley suffered from chemical
dependency and depression. Whaley was also arrested last winter
for his involvement following an altercation in which he
allegedly kicked in the front door at the home of a 40-year-old
man in Benton Township, Mich. Those charges were dropped, but
Whaley was later placed under house arrest and spent two weekends
in jail for having violated his bail agreement from the rape
Missouri coach Quin Snyder says the school had decided to rescind
Whaley's scholarship several months ago but held off making the
announcement until the trial was over. "Given the sensitivity of
the legal proceedings, we didn't think it would be fair to
distance ourselves from Robert in a self-serving way," says
Snyder. "He has had an inordinate amount of adversity in his
life, and we thought we were the right environment for him. I
think what he needs now is a fresh start."
Whaley agreed to sign with the Tigers largely because of the
presence of Snyder's top assistant, Tony Harvey, who had been
hired as an assistant in 1999 and was elevated to associate coach
the following year. Harvey's father, Lou, served as Whaley's
legal guardian for almost three years while Whaley was in high
school. Whaley says he was "shocked" when Missouri revoked his
scholarship, which he learned of from a newspaper reporter at the
courthouse, but he is trying to stay upbeat.
"I have a whole different outlook on things," he says. "They say
all men go through trials and tribulations. I think all this was
a wake-up call for me. It's time to get straightened out."
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Randolph (in white) quickly learned that extra attention goes along with being a top prospect.