Ex-Indiana All-Stars now vying for draft position
Jerry Bomholt could tell the 2007 Indiana All-Star team was going to be special.
Now NBA scouts could confirm what the longtime Indiana high school coach knew all along. These guys can play.
''I remember (head coach) Mike Miller and I talking one time and we couldn't get the kids playing at the level we thought they could,'' recalled Bomholt, an assistant on Miller's staff with that team. ''Then we looked around and said, 'What do we know? These guys are all going to be pros.''
Certainly not all of them. Still, it could go down as the most talented classes in Indiana's storied prep history.
Eric Gordon and Jeff Teague, teammates on that 2007 team, are already established NBA players. Three more players - Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and Butler's Matt Howard - could get picked in Thursday night's NBA draft. And at least two more players from that roster, former high school teammates Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin, have hopes of joining the NBA next year.
If all goes well, seven of the 14 players on that All-Star team could be playing in the NBA by 2012-13.
There was so much talent that Teague, taken No. 19 overall by Atlanta in 2009, was relegated to bench duty behind Gordon and Moore.
None of his All-Star teammates are expected to go that high this year, though all three could get picked.
At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Johnson has impressed scouts with a still-developing mid-range jumper and the kind of shot-blocking ability NBA teams crave. Scouts are still trying to figure out if he warrants a first-round pick, and the hometown Pacers brought him in during the first draft workout.
''He can catch and shoot, he makes his free throws and even though he has a very unorthodox jump hook, he can make that jump hook,'' Purdue coach Matt Painter said. ''He's always been capable of making a pull-up. There's just something to be said for a 6-10 guy who can knock down perimeter shots and score in a variety of ways.''
Moore made his mark as a shooting guard in high school and college, though at 6-foot-4, he may have to play point guard in the NBA. He said he's willing to make the move and insists he can defend either guard spot.
Howard, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward who led Butler to two straight national runner-up finishes, does not have a prototypical NBA game. But a whirlwind workout tour took Howard to at least 10 NBA cities and included a reunion with Moore in the Pacers' home arena, Conseco Fieldhouse.
''I think that's the other time we were in here together,'' Howard said when asked about the All-Star games. ''That was a great team, a great group of guys. That's why you enjoy it, even now.''
The former Indiana All-Stars aren't the only draft hopefuls with Indiana ties.
Shooting guard Shelvin Mack, a junior, left Kentucky to play at Butler with Howard. The Pacers brought in swingman Andrew Warren, who averaged 18.8 points as a senior at Bradley after playing prep ball at Indianapolis Brebeuf.
Also in the mix is Indiana State point guard Jake Kelly, who got a rare opportunity to perform in front of the school's most famous alum, Pacers president Larry Bird, on June 7.
''It was cool because his pictures are everywhere on campus, and he's really a down-to-earth guy,'' Kelly said. ''It wasn't like I was nervous or anything, it was just neat seeing him.''
Those who have played prep or college ball in Indiana may have an advantage in the draft. The state that accounts for slightly more than 2 percent of the U.S. population has produced 5.4 percent of all NBA draft picks over the past four years, including nine first-rounders.
Gordon and Teague, of course, are on that list, and Bomholt believes the legacy of that 2007 All-Star team will only grow after this year's draft.
''I coached some really good players, but I never had an opportunity to coach those kinds of thoroughbreds,'' said Bomholt, who recently retired after 31 seasons as a head coach at several Indiana high schools. ''I can't remember one kid being late or having an exchange where someone got ticked at somebody else. When you have that combination, you feel pretty fortunate as a coach, and, you know, that's probably the reason all these guys are going to play pro basketball.''