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Best High School Player You've Seen


Dwight Howard, the first time I saw him play, at a prep tourney in New Jersey. (2004 TWP photo by Michael Mancuso)


Two of the first athletes I covered in the pages of the Washington Post were named Daryl Thompson and Manny Burriss. Thompson was a skinny, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for La Plata High in Charles County whose hat kept falling off his head every time I saw him pitch; he helped the Warriors advance to the 2002 3A state final. "It was a big game, and we had to win," I quoted him as saying after the state semifinal victory, which was the sort of quote he gave me every time I asked him anything. Also, his shirt kept coming untucked. Like, after every pitch. His games took forever, because he was always tucking in his shirt. Just seemed like a 16-year-old goof.


Daryl Thompson, as a high schooler, losing his hat. (2003 TWP photo by Jonathan Newton).

The following spring, I profiled Burriss, a Wilson High shortstop who told me "People have been kind of shady about baseball in D.C., and maybe this is my opportunity to show everybody that it's not a joke." He had a nice season, but when it came All-Met time, we figured he couldn't be that good if he went to Wilson and made him honorable mention.

And you know what happened next. Burriss made his big league debut in late April and has improved every month, hitting .333 in June. Thompson, after being traded from the Nats to the Reds in the Austin Kearns deal, finally made his MLB debut this month, throwing five shutout innings at Yankee Stadium. These guys have made me feel simultaneously old and stupid.

And that's not all! I also covered Rajon Rando and Dwight Howard playing basketball as high school seniors, pronouncing myself unimpressed with either! Amazing eye for talent, right?

The point is, you feel like you've accomplished something when some kid you once watched as a high schooler makes it big. On this day of NBA drafting and nothing at all else to write about, I'm soliciting your stories of the best high schooler you've ever seen play, in any sport, in any venue, and whether you knew how good he/she was. To get us started, after the jump we have stories from my very kind and accomplished co-workers Leonard Shapiro, Camille Powell and Mike Wise.

By Leonard Shapiro

I saw a young freshman named Adrian Dantley come off the bench for DeMatha at the O'Connell Christmas tournament in 1970. I'd never heard of him, but he scored and rebounded in double figures. Afterward, Morgan Wootten told me he thought the kid was pretty special.

I also covered a Dunbar football game that year or the next and watched a quarterback named Cornelius Green dominate the game. His wore red shoes, had red tassles on his shoe laces and, if I'm not mistaken, a red headband under his helmet. He was a fabulous option quarterback who also played defense, and in the paper the next day, I called him a "flamboyant flim-flam man."

The next week, he had taped the word "flamboyant" on the front of his helmet and it was later shortened to "Flam," the nickname he took with him to Ohio State, where he became the first African American to start at quarterback for the Buckeyes.


Delonte West, as a high schooler with one tattoo. (2001 TWP photo by Dennis Drenner).

By Camille Powell

The three players that immediately come to mind for me are Michael Sweetney, Delonte West and Branden Albert. To me, the most interesting story is West's, because when I first met him during his junior year at Eleanor Roosevelt, he wasn't even the best Delonte on his team (Delonte Holland was), and I think he had only one tattoo ('REDZ' on one of his upper arms).

There are two things I really remember about West in high school: 1) He played harder than any other kid that I covered, in any sport, and 2) His mom almost always brought a book to his games, so she could read during the lulls in the action. I don't remember him being a great long-range shooter, so I got a kick out of seeing him beat the Wizards with a three.

The thing that struck me about Sweetney in high school was how unassuming he was for someone who had been a star since his freshman year at Oxon Hill. He didn't like talking to reporters (I always tried to see if I could get him to smile), so I thought it was funny that he ended up in New York with the Knicks. As for Albert, he was just physically huge. He wasn't particularly skilled, but I remember him manhandling opponents -- I covered one game during his senior year at Glen Burnie in which he twice pulled down the opposing running back with just one arm.


Manny Burriss, as a trend-busting D.C. high schooler. (2003 TWP photo by Joel Richardson).

By Mike Wise

My first sports writing job, at the 5,000-circulation Sanger Herald outside of Fresno ($250 a week to shoot pictures, write stories and use a waxing machine and exacta knife to layout a really brutal looking section) I covered the local high school. When Sanger played Edison, I went to West Fresno in 1988, home of 6-year-old DeShawn Stevenson and, at the time, Bruce Bowen. Bruce was a high school senior on his team. Every Edison player dunked in warm-ups. We spoke outside the gym after the game and I remember thinking, "Wow, this kid has it going on upstairs. God I hope he makes it out of this neighborhood." Flash forward to New York, circa 2000. I run into Bowen and tell him the story and he tells me his tale of woe growing up and we've been close ever since.

Third job: Covering preps at the now-defunct Sacramento Union. This big smiley-faced kid just eats up everyone playing defensive end for Roseville High School. When it comes time to name the All-Metro Team, a rival coach, whom I'll call Fred (not his real name; his real name is Randy Blankenship; he's a warped taskmaster who used to coach Nevada Union) lobbied hard for his kid, saying the Roseville kid, "takes plays off. He's lazy. He'll probably will flame out in Division I. My kid should be first team. Not him." The Roseville kid was Tedy Bruschi and, yes, he was named to the first team.

Fifth job: My first week of employment at The New York Times they send me out to do a story on all these incredible freshman Stanford recruited in every sport: from gymnast Dominique Dawes to, yes, Tiger Woods. An 18-year-old Tiger sits down in the Sports Information Office on campus and greets me, by saying, "Do you know Larry Dorman, who covers golf at the New York Times? Yeah, well, I played golf with him once. Cool, right?" I'm thinking Larry Dorman has probably told that story more than Tiger at this point.

Ok, so we've got Adrian Dantley, Dwight Howard, Tiger Woods, Tedy Bruschi and Delonte West. Your turn.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 26, 2008; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Comments

I watched LeBron play as a junior against nationally ranked Amityville at the Slam Dunk to the Beach in Deleware. It was the first time I'd seen him in person and he was playing with a pretty high fever. With the clock winding down, and SVSM down 4, LeBron pulled up for a deep 3 and nailed it while taking one on the elbow. He hit the free throw to tie it, but Amityville's point guard went coast-to-coast for the last second layup.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 26, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Odd that there's no mention of the Forte/Bogans backcourt at DeMatha.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 26, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Since I'm too young...DeMatha: Kenny Tate the last few years. Basketball and football. He was just an athlete.

Posted by: Nick | June 26, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Not based on what they have done in the pros..truly based on high school...

Ronald Curry of Hampton High School (Football).

Posted by: JonInVB | June 26, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I can remember watching Iverson play in an AAU tournament in Richmond. Considering most of my team (of 14 year olds) was bigger than he was, we were all totally amazed at how good he was.

I was gonna mention Forte/Bogans backcourt as well, Unsilent, they were incredible to watch.

Posted by: CRitch | June 26, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I saw Ron Curry play football while I was in college at Hampton U, and he was simply dominant. He played QB and safety with great aplomb, he never showboated, and oh by the way he was an honor student.

Posted by: Rashad | June 26, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Tamir Goodman for Talmudic Academy. He was p[laying against a team whose average height was maybe 6 inches taller than his own. Tamir could run the fast break like nobody else except maybe DJ Strawberry. While DJ managed to outruns everyone down the court, Tamir made his teamates look great with no look passes right under the basket for easy layups.

Posted by: Andrew | June 26, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Allen Webb during his senior cross country season at South Lakes, he was a man among boys.

Posted by: John Jr | June 26, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Good topic!

This is making me feel old too, but the best athlete I saw in this area (from my childhood) was probably Lawrence Moten. Not only was he a dominant basketball player (still Syracuse all-time leading scorer, I believe), but also a great football player at Carroll. I vaguely remember him running an interception back from endzone to endzone vs St. Johns to win that game. Fantastic athlete.

Also, maybe not as recognizable of a name, but another guy from this area that went to Syracuse was Bryce Bevill. He was an unreal running back for DeMatha in the late 80s. Played in the CFL and is now the head coach at McNamara.

Posted by: Kev | June 26, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Grant Hill's South Lakes High School basketball team beat us in the quarterfinals of state by like 30 points. Sitting on the bench and watching him was incredible. Silky smooth, tremendous vertical, and lightening quick.

I also played against his travel soccer team when I was younger. I think his team was the Reston Flying Tigers. He was good in the air.

Posted by: qualude conduct | June 26, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

O.A.R. at wootton high school...oh wait this is sports stars?

Posted by: JDP | June 26, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I remember a running back from West Springfield (at least I think it was), named Damon Boone; back in '96/97. He would average something like 300 yards rushing a game and 2 td's a game. He was recruited all over the country, ended up at Umd, but I don't know what happened after that.

Posted by: Go Skins Go | June 26, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

UMD: Where highly touted high school talent goes to die.

See Mike Jones.

Posted by: JDP | June 26, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Nick Smith was the greatest high school athlete I have ever seen. His Freshman year at Park View he was the starting QB, Point Guard, and 3rd baseman on all the Varisty teams. He led Park View the state champtionship his Junior year, before they lost on a last second field goal to Salem. His senior year he transfered to Centreville High School to play QB. He won a state title that season and was the AAA player of the year. He went to Wake Forest on a full ride. In the middle of his freshman year he picked up a sexual assault charge and was failing his classes, and dropped out of Wake. A shame, I fully believe with the right work ethic and right guidance he would have been playing the NFL today.

Posted by: Park View Legend | June 26, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I offer my take here:

http://chroniclesports.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/whos-your-best-high-school-athlete/#more-275

Posted by: Ben | June 26, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Another vote for Ronald Curry here. The first time I saw him was when his school beat James Madison like 76-12 in the state semifinals. The next week, in the rain, I drove down from NoVA to see his team in the state final. Curry was responsible for 4 TD's in like 6 minutes in the second quarter...Pass, Punt Return, Run, you name it. I made it a point after that to get to Hampton whenever possible to check him out. If I remember right, he was something like 48-2 in his h.s. career, including 40 in a row

Posted by: MeHereYouWhere? | June 26, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Found this article on Curry..pretty good read:

http://www.dailypress.com/dp-top100-currysep24,0,2779736.story

Posted by: JonInVB | June 26, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I knew a guy in high school who had slept with over 125 girls at the same school...that is by far the best high school player I have ever seen (and yes, he used to write them all down)

Posted by: PartyOnTheTop | June 26, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Just going to post that I saw a Bogans/Forte matchup versus Paul VI Catholic at Fairfax High (PVI's gym was the size of a crackerbox). The air was electric. It was easily the most anticipated game of the year. Keith and Joe were both committed at this point and PVI did not have a single DI recruit. Great game, PVI almost won in the last seconds.

I also saw Linus Kleiza play for Montrose Christian at Notre Dame prep. Notre Dame had a player going to Florida State and was heavily favored. Montrose won the game somewhat easily.

Posted by: Funfax | June 26, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

BACK in 79-80 Caroll Hs had a kid Who was All-Met in both Football and Basketball who went on to Notre Dame on a football scholarship . but played Hoops there as well wher Digger phelps was recently quoted as saying he was the best atlete he ever coached. and he actually had a try out with the Atlana Hawks before going on the the NFL with the Bills Redskins and Vikings, as weel as the CFL and World leagues. and now he coaches football at caroll right back where he got his start. and the best HS athlete to ever come out of DC is Joe Howard-Johnson

Posted by: dc sports | June 26, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Bryson Spinner (from Episcopal and later UVA) was the best high school bballer i had ever seen until i saw lebron. but i hate lebron with a feverish passion...so i'm going with Spinner

Posted by: rfzonadc | June 26, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Michael Horton at TC Williams in 95-96 was unbelievable.

Posted by: John | June 26, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Sharif Karie ran cross country and track at West Springfield High School. Had he focused on just one event, i.e. the mile, he would have received more recognition than Alan Webb. Sharif would run the max number of events, two individual and two relays. He led the WS boys to Penn Relay titles, National titles and even anchored a National Record setting relay. Karie put the team before everything he wanted for himself, as evidenced by all the state championships outside West Springfield!

Posted by: D | June 26, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I got to watch Delino DeShields play in high school. Was so far and away ahead of anyone else on the field, it was nuts.

Posted by: Brian | June 26, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I saw Rodney Rogers play during his senior year at Hillside High in Durham, N.C. A man among boys--it didn 't look like he was in the correct gym because he towered over everyone else in every way.

Posted by: Fingerman | June 26, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I watched Vin Baker play high school basketball in CT when I was about 5 or 6, and even then I knew he was a LOT better than everybody else. My school-- hell, my whole half of the state-- hasn't produced an athlete of the caliber since.

Posted by: pondaz | June 26, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I went to high school down the street from where Freddy Adu went to middle-school (The Heights Academy) when he first came to the U.S. Our school entered an indoor soccer tournament hosted by Bullis and who should appear but the Heights team with little Fred Adu himself?

At first I didn't believe it was him. Partially because he was a lot smaller than I though he'd be and because I knocked him off the ball a couple of times. Then he pulled a move on me that left me flat on my ass. I wish I could tell you what he did, but I can't. I was too busy falling.

I thought he was OK.

Posted by: Illegal Immigrant | June 26, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Mine would be two guys that I went to high school with, Jake Voskhul, who was on the UConn title team and has carved out a second-squad NBA career, and Chris Darkins, a RB who went on to Minnesota (for college) and got a ring with the Pack. Also the fastest human I've ever seen in person. If he broke loose at practice, we (the D) were toast. Played soccer with him too....could score at will.

Posted by: BobT | June 26, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Mamadi Diane was pretty stellar in middle school.

I remember Kleiza having a monster game in the Cap Classic, overshadowing most of the McDonald's guys.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | June 26, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

ERHS '00

I would have to agree with Camille on that one. Seeing Delonte West and Eddie Basden (played briefly for the Bulls) go up against Sweetney was awesome. But being from PG, I would add that Bogans/Forte need to be included as well.

Posted by: 70 Chip | June 26, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Two stories:

1. Charm City Classic in '93 or so...HS tournament with Oak Hill (Ron Mercer), Dunbar (Tommy Polley), Patterson NJ (Tim Thomas), St John's Prospect Hall (all those guys who went to Clemson), and the marquee matchup -- Lake Clifton (Shawnta Rogers) vs. Lincoln Tech (Stephon Marbury). Marbury spent all of warmups working on his halfcourt jumpter while the rest of his team did layups. I don't remember the result, but I remember little Shawnta held his own in that game.

2. Freshman year of college this gangly male-model looking kid lived down the hall from me. He was probably the least touted of a great recruiting class Herb Sendek brought into Miami that year. Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Mr. Basketball in Minnesota, all-time leading HS scorer in Mass, and then this white jump shooter from Long Island named Wally Sczcerbiak.

Posted by: Markus V. | June 26, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I've spent much of my life following talent all over Virginia more than the DMV. I don't even know how to classify all of the people I've seen and met over the years in basketball, football, wrestling, track & field, lacrosse, swim & dive, gymnastics, soccer, figure skating and just about everything in between. This area is rich in talent for all sorts of sports and events. I just dream that one of those people will remember and be able to use any of the things I've ever told them.

Posted by: sitruc | June 26, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Best all-around player: probably Tommy Brown at Montgomery Blair, late 1950's. Saw him play football and baseball and I think he also played basketball. Covered the AAABA baseball tournament in Johnstown, Pa.for the old Daily News where he played for Federal Storage. Brown played in that...two great games against a Brooklyn NY team that featured Frank and Joe Torre. Brown later played baseball for the Senators, football for the Packers. Not bad at all.

Posted by: Marty Chase | June 27, 2008 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Not a local, but Jason Kidd in the Capital Classic (1992?) was pretty amazing. Many blown assists that his teammates never saw coming but a phenomenal save that ended up in his teammate's hands under the basket. Also, Eric Metcalf running the single wing as O'Connell upset DeMatha (1988). Late in the game, he took an intentional safety to protect the lead. Instead of just taking a knee, he killed more time by making the DeMatha players chase him around the end zone.

Posted by: Bill Fitzgerald | June 27, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Are we talking strictly high school here? If that's the case, I'm too young (23). I'll probably have to wait a few years to judge the verdict on a couple of guys who I've seen.

Derrick Lutz, Reds (I think he's with the AA affiliate right now) I went to high school with the guy. Didn't realize how talented he was until college, when he started putting up pro-potential numbers. Credit to the guys work ethic.

Kellen Kulbacki, Padres (He might be with the A affiliate at this moment). Kulbacki went to Hershey, the chief rival to Lower Dauphin, my school. I saw Kulbacki, and his "three-to-four tools", more than a few times. Not sure on this guy. He's a position player and in the league its so hard to make it in that aspect. I hope he does, though. He has a brother who plays at Kutztown University, where I graduated, who subsequently had a guy I covered in the paper....

Mike McCardell, Twins (6th round pick two years ago; He's with the AA affiliate) McCardell WILL, I repeat, WILL be a good pitcher in the league. He's got natural length and imposing power on the hill; plus he just looks mean. I don't think he shaves or cuts his hair much. I penned the nickname "Ramboesque" in a feature story once; apparently he read it, because I heard his girlfriend call him "ramboesque" on more than one occasion. He's a guy who's going to reach at least 95 on the gun, but has nice control with his slider and changeup. The Twins don't screw up much when it comes to the draft. So, I think it's safe to say McCardell will get his chance next year, if not late this season.

I covered soccer for KU, too. But we were terrible.

Posted by: Cory | June 27, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

My junior year of high school in New Jersey, I got to see Dajuan Wagner come into our gym with his teammates from Camden High and just embarass our team. It was the first time in school history that we sold out a basketball game, so yeah, we knew he was good. Little did we know that on our freshman squad was a skinny kid named Jason Thompson, who just got drafted...

Posted by: AL | June 27, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

My dad saw "Lew Alcindor" (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) play in high school...

Posted by: Bryan | June 27, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I watched a 12 year old Ray Leonard fight Golden Glovs at P.G.Community College (I think) when I was 12 also that skinny kid was the fastest thing (human or animal) I had ever seen. I still have the construction paper program and followed his every move.I don't know if this counts to you but it does for me.

Posted by: Mick | June 28, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Best high school athlete I ever saw was Rod Rutherford played qb at pitt with larry fitzgerald. This kid dominated on the football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. Would have been a pro at any other position in any other sport.

He threw well over 90 mph ran under 4.5 and was left handed
He's only 27 major league scouts should give him a workout

Posted by: Joe fan | July 7, 2008 3:48 AM | Report abuse

Fredy Adu was easily the best high school athlete of all time.

Posted by: RJ | July 7, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

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