Draft's top 20 hidden gems (since 2000)

Share This Story

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>

There is no shortage of hidden gems expecting to hear their names called during the 2011 NBA draft, guys virtually no one expected to come this far when they were recruited over the past few years.

Players like Derrick Williams, Alec Burks, Jimmer Fredette, Kenneth Faried, Justin Harper, Charles Jenkins, Marshon Brooks and Norris Cole.


Find out which players are planning to leave college early for a shot at the NBA.

With that in mind, we give you the top 20 hidden gems since the turn of the century — with a couple of stipulations in mind.

-- None of these guys was ranked by most — if not all — of the major recruiting sites.

-- All are enjoying some level of success in the NBA (that rules out Adam Morrison).

Top 20 Hidden Gems (Since 2000)

1. Dwyane Wade
Class: 2000
High school: Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.)
Recruiter: Tim Buckley
It was partially academics that scared coaches away, but also the fact that many didn’t feel as though D-Wade would succeed at the highest level. Marquette beat out Illinois State and DePaul for his services — and he’s become one of the NBA’s elite players, averaging more than 24 points per game in each of the past seven seasons with the Miami Heat.

2. Russell Westbrook
Class: 2006
High school: Leuzinger (Long Beach, Calif.)
Recruiter: Kerry Keating
Was considered a mid-major guy when former UCLA assistant Kerry Keating offered him a scholarship. One recruiting service had him ranked 294th in the class of 2006. was the only one that had him ranked in the Top 100. Westbrook averaged 3.4 points as a freshman with the Bruins, left after his sophomore campaign and has turned into one of the NBA’s elite point guards, averaging 21.9 points and 8.2 assists for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season.

3. Stephen Curry
Class: 2006
High school: Charlotte Christian (N.C.)
Recruiter: Matt Matheny
Hoop Scoop had Dell Curry’s kid ranked at No. 534 in the nation, but it wasn’t the only one who missed on the former Davidson star. Virginia Tech (where his father went to school) passed on offering him a scholarship — as did just about every other big-time school. Curry was taken seventh overall in the 2009 draft and comes off a season with the Golden State Warriors in which he averaged 18.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.


The murky NBA labor situation complicates the decision for college basketball's potential early draft entrants. Jeff Goodman offers sage advice.

4. Kevin Martin
Class: 2001
High school: Zanesville (Ohio)
Recruiter: Duggar Baucom
K-Mart was an unheralded guy coming out of Zanesville, Ohio, and his lone D-1 offer was from Western Carolina. He finished second in the nation in scoring as a junior before declaring for the draft and being picked 26th overall by Sacramento in 2004. Martin spent the first five-plus years with the Sacramento Kings before being traded to Houston, where he averaged 23.4 points this season with the Rockets.

5. Danny Granger
Class: 2001
High school: Grace King (Metarie, La.)
Recruiter: Duane Broussard
Granger was ranked 407th in the nation by Hoop Scoop and chose Bradley out of high school over Yale. He transferred to New Mexico after two seasons and eventually was drafted 17th overall in 2005 by the Indiana Pacers. Granger averaged 20.5 points and 5.4 rebounds this season.

6. Devin Harris
Class: 2001
High school: Wauwatosa East (Wis.)
Recruiter: Tony Bennett
It was basically down to Wisconsin and Central Florida for the kid who was tabbed 289th in the country by one service. Harris committed to Wisconsin in the middle of his senior season, but turned out to be one of the biggest steals in the past dozen years. He was terrific with the Badgers and was drafted fifth overall in 2004. He began his NBA career with Dallas before spending time in New Jersey and being dealt to Utah a few months ago. Harris averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 assists this season between the two teams.

7. Chris Kaman
Class: 2001
High school: Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (Mich.)
Recruiter: Jay Smith
No one else wanted Kaman coming out of high school — and the 7-footer wasn’t ranked by anyone. He played three seasons at Central Michigan before being taken sixth overall in 2003 by the Los Angeles Clippers, where he has spent the past eight years. Kaman was an All-Star in 2010 and averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds this season.

8. Paul Millsap
Class: 2003
High school: Grambling University (La.) Lab
Recruiter: Johnny Simmons
Didn’t get much fanfare when he signed with nearby Louisiana Tech out of high school, but wound up leading the nation in rebounding three consecutive seasons — the only player in D-I history to do so. He was taken 47th overall in the 2006 NBA draft by Utah and has turned out to be a steal — averaging 17.3 points and 7.6 boards for the Jazz this season.

Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor led UConn to a national title in 2004.

Stephen Dunn

9. Emeka Okafor
Class: 2001
High school: Bellaire (Houston, Texas)
Recruiter: Karl Hobbs
Okafor was spurned by Stanford as a junior and was basically bound for Rice his senior year until Connecticut offered late. He was ranked 153rd in the nation by Hoop Scoop, but wound up having a terrific career at UConn and was taken second overall by Charlotte in 2004. Okafor averaged 10.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks this season in New Orleans.

10. Jared Dudley
Class: 2003
High school: Horizon (San Diego)
Recruiter: Bill Coen
Was set to go the prep school route when Coen, then an assistant at Boston College, took him in July. Dudley wound up being one of the best players in school history despite not being ranked in anyone’s Top 100 ( had him as the 44th-rated small forward in the nation) and being passed over by virtually everyone on the West Coast — including hometown San Diego and San Diego State. Dudley was drafted 22nd overall by Charlotte and has flourished since being traded to Phoenix in 2008. He averaged 10.6 points this season for the Suns.

11. Gordon Hayward
Class: 2008
High school: Brownsburg (Ind.)
Recruiter: Brad Stevens
He was a former tennis star who committed to Butler over Purdue and IUPUI, but no one had him ranked. In fact, he was a two-star kid on We all know what Hayward wound up doing — nearly winning Butler a national title and becoming the ninth overall pick in last year’s NBA draft. Hayward averaged 5.4 points per game as a rookie with the Utah Jazz.

12. Wesley Johnson
Class: 2006
High school: Corsicana (Texas); Patterson School (N.C.)
Recruiter: Jean Prioleau (Iowa State); Rob Murphy (Syracuse)
Initially committed to Louisiana-Monroe, but wound up backing out and going to Iowa State out of high school while being rated as a two-star guy by Later transferred to Syracuse, where he became a star and the No. 4 overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft. Johnson averaged nine points this past season, his rookie year, with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

George Hill

IUPUI was 61–30 during George Hill's three seasons.


13. George Hill
Class: 2004
High school: Broad Ripple (Indianapolis)
Recruiter: Todd Howard
The Indianapolis native wasn’t ranked by anyone coming out of high school (he was a two-star guy on, was passed over by Indiana University — and went on to star at IUPUI. He was the 26th overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2008 draft. Hill averaged 11.6 points this past season.

14. JaVale McGee
Class: 2006
High school: Detroit Country Day (Mich.), Providence Christian (Mich.); Hales Franciscan (Ill.)
Recruiter: Mark Fox
The only two visits the 7-footer took were to San Francisco and Nevada. McGee wound up at Nevada and spent two years in Reno before leaving and becoming the 18th pick in the 2008 draft. McGee averaged 10.1 points and eight boards per game this past season.

15. Tyrus Thomas
Class: 2004
High school: McKinley (Baton Rouge, La.)
Recruiter: Butch Pierre
No one saw this coming from the skinny local kid who ultimately chose LSU over Miami (Fla.). Thomas redshirted his first season with the Tigers, blew up the following year and was taken fourth overall in the 2006 NBA draft. Thomas spent the first three-plus years of his NBA career with Chicago before being dealt to Charlotte — where he averaged 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds this past season.

16. Jason Thompson
Class: 2005
High school: Lenape (N.J.)
Recruiter: Tommy Dempsey
Thompson couldn’t even be found on Hoop Scoop’s list of top 800 seniors in the Class of 2005 and opted for Rider over Niagara and UNC-Greensboro. He averaged 16.7 points in his four years at school before being taken 12th overall in the 2008 draft by Sacramento — where he has averaged 10.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in his three-year career.

17. Ramon Sessions
Class: 2004
High School: Myrtle Beach (S.C.)
Recruiter: Mark Fox
The fourth-year pro’s only offer came from Nevada out of high school in South Carolina. Part of the issue was academic concerns, but most of it centered around whether Sessions could play at the highest level. He left Nevada after his junior season, was drafted by Milwaukee late in the second round and was traded to Cleveland last year. Sessions averaged 13.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game for the Cavs this past season.

J.J. Barea

J.J. Barea was the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year in 2006.


18. J.J. Barea
Class: 2002
High school: Miami Christian (Fla.)
Recruiter: Ron Everhart
The native of Puerto Rico moved to Miami and was questioned by just about everyone. In the end, he chose Northeastern because of the relationship between his coach, Art Alvarez, and former Northeastern assistant Frank Martin. Marquette, New Orleans and Oregon State were interested. Barea finished second behind Reggie Lewis on the school’s scoring list, but went undrafted. He has been with the Dallas Mavericks for the past five years and averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists this season.

19. Eric Maynor
Class: 2005
High school: Hoke Country (N.C.); Westover High (N.C.)
Recruiter: Jeff Capel
The Hoop Scoop had Maynor ranked at No. 321 in the country, and had him as a two-star player. VCU beat out schools like Tulane, East Tennessee State, Appalachian State and Winthrop for his services. Maynor was taken 20th overall by Utah in the 2009 draft, and after being traded to Oklahoma City in 2009, he’s become one of the top backups in the league behind Russell Westbrook.

20. Courtney Lee
Class: 2004
High school: Pike (Indianapolis)
Recruiters: Archie Miller, Darrin Horn
Lee was a two-star kid, according to, and was ranked 168th by Hoop Scoop coming out of high school. He chose Western Kentucky over Bradley and wound up being the 22nd overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s played for three teams in his first three seasons via trades, but he’s been productive at all three stops — averaging 9.6 points in his career thus far.

Tagged: Butler, Gordon Hayward

More Stories From Jeff Goodman

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black 74.95 Nike Florida Gators #1 Replica Elite Basketball Jersey - Black
    Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue 119.95 Nike Georgetown Hoyas #22 Hyper Elite Road Performance Jersey - Navy Blue
    Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue 27.95 Nike Duke Blue Devils #5 Tourney Takeover Replica T-Shirt - Duke Blue
    Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green 24.95 Nike Oregon Ducks X-Ray Ball T-Shirt - Green
    Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet 29.95 Nike Ohio State Buckeyes Road Warrior Tri-blend T-Shirt - Scarlet
    Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Crimson 19.95 Indiana Hoosiers 2013 NCAA Men\'s Basketball Road to March Madness T-Shirt - Cri..
    adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red 89.95 adidas Louisville Cardinals 2013 March Madness #10 Premier Swingman Jersey - Red
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey - White 89.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2013 March Madness #45 Premier Swingman Jersey ..
    Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue 24.95 Nike Gonzaga Bulldogs March Madness Bracketville T-Shirt - Navy Blue
    Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Champions Adjustable Hat – Green 25.95 Top of the World Miami Hurricanes 2013 NCAA ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Cham..