Chicago is prime real estate when it comes to harnessing high school basketball talent. Fifteen years ago, Fox Sports featured the city with a television show called "Preps: Chicago Hoops." The show featured some of the best high school talent that the city had to offer. It was able to put the spotlight on well-known hoopers such as Luther Head (NBA), Will "The Thrill" Bynum (NBA), Sean Dockery (Duke), Eddy Curry (NBA) and a host of others.
Back then, Chicago wasn't too far removed from the Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields era at Farragut High School, so it made sense to feature the next crop of great players coming from Chi-Town. This show was honestly ahead of its time. Today, you can type in the most popular high school basketball players' names into YouTube, and a plethora of highlights will show up. In 2001, though, you had to either see them play in person or just speculate how good the players were until you actually saw them.
With "Preps," fans had the luxury to see Eddy Curry beast his way from Thornwood High School to the NBA as well as get the opportunity to watch lesser-known players, such as Jason Straight, Kyle Kleckner and LeVar Seals, make a name for themselves.
Let's take a trip down memory lane to relive some of the best moments from the show.
Not to slight Tracy McGrady, but Luther Head may be the originator of the self off-the-backboard slam dunk. In the New York vs. Chicago High School All-Star Game, Head did the unthinkable by faking out his defender making it seem like he was passing the ball to a teammate, but before the defender noticed, it was a tad bit too late.
Sean Dockery Was A Point God
At that time, you couldn't tell me anything wrong about Dockery. He didn't have a lot of flash to his game like many Chicago point guards, but he was a damn good one. In his junior year, he was an unstoppable force on both offense and defense.
He didn't make it to the NBA as many expected, but he went on to play four solid years at Duke. Dockery's collegiate success helped enhance the pipeline from the city schools in Chicago to the tobacco roads, as players such as Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker would go on to play for the almighty Coach K.
With "The Grindfather" Tony Allen taking his talents to Butler County College, Will Bynum was the sole leader at Crane High School during his senior season. He was arguably the most exciting high school player in the country. Bynum averaged 27 points and seven dimes in his senior season, wowing fans with an array of dunks and no-look passes. The high-flying, diminutive point guard was must-see TV at all times. Bynum was my favorite player from the show, and it made it even sweeter that he had a chance to enjoy a successful collegiate and professional basketball career.
Eddy Curry's Path From High School To The NBA
Before becoming a semi-successful NBA center, Eddy Curry was arguably one of the best players in the country in 2001. In a class that featured Tyson Chandler, David Lee, James White, Dajuan Wagner, Kwame Brown, Mo Williams and T.J. Ford, Curry was ahead of all of them. At a time when many high school players were contemplating making the jump from high school to NBA, it wasn't uncommon for scouts to believe that Curry didn't need to play college basketball.
Watching Curry's rise as a senior in high school was awesome to see. From him winning Mr. Basketball to receiving an opportunity to play in the McDonald's All-American Game, it felt as if I was apart of that journey. I remember vividly how dominant he was on the court, but at times you could see he would have moments when he would drift away during games. Curry didn't become Shaq-like in the NBA like many pegged him to be, but he still had a pretty solid NBA career.
Reality TV At Its Best
Before the days of "Love and Hip-Hop" and all of the other low-level reality television shows, this show was about as real as it comes. "Preps" captured a lot of the struggle that many young teenagers face in the rough streets of Chicago. The trials and tribulations that they had to deal with off the court helped fuel them to what they became on the court.
Many of the teens with hoop dreams around the world want to get their families out of poverty-stricken neighborhoods to make a better life for them. Whether it's getting a free college education or making it to the NBA, being in position to improve one's family has always been at the forefront. Looking back on it 15 years later, it is good to see that most of the guys from the show had opportunities to graduate from college, play in the NBA or overseas, and, of course, mature into successful grown men.