During 2007 and 2008 an astonishing six players that attended high school in the Indianapolis area were drafted into the NBA. Let’s take a look at the progress those six guys have made in their professional careers.
After playing just one season at Indiana University, the former North Central standout was selected with the 7th overall selection in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. After a slow start to the season, Gordon was implanted in the Clippers starting lineup towards the end of November, and immediately displayed the sweet shooting touch, explosiveness to the basket, and overpowering strength that made him the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in his lone year at Indiana. From December on, Gordon, or EJ as he’s known in Indianapolis basketball circles, averaged over 38 minutes a game, scoring 18.4 points and shooting nearly 40 percent from behind the three point line.
Starting his second year entrenched in the starting lineup, Gordon scored 15 points or more in each of his first seven games, but a strained groin shut him down for the next eight. He’s still battling soreness, but managed to score 29 points against Memphis on November 29. His 48.8 shooting percentage is unheard of among shooting guards, and despite being hobbled, his numbers are up across the board. A sure sign that Gordon will live up to the hype the Indianapolis media has heaped on him since his early days in high school.
Oden, possibly the most heralded prep player ever to come out of Indianapolis, is finally starting adjust the physicality and speed of the NBA. After leading Lawrence North to three consecutive state final victories at Conseco Fieldhouse, Oden took his game to Ohio State to play for former Butler coach Thad Matta. In his only year in college, the seven-footer guided the Buckeyes to the national title game, defeating current Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert and the Georgetown Hoyas in a memorable NCAA Final Four matchup in the process.
Oden made himself eligible for the 2007 NBA draft, where he was taken #1 overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, before he could ever take the court, he had microfracture surgery on his right knee causing him to miss the entire year. In his “rookie” season, Oden battled injuries that limited him to 61 games. His averages of 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game were considered a disappointment by many, and some began to wonder if the big fella’s fragile body would prevent him from ever being a dominant NBA player. The 2009-10 season has changed that thinking however. Through 20 games, Oden’s scored in double-digit points 12 times, and recorded five double-doubles. He recently set a career-high with 20 rebound in a December game against the Miami Heat.
Oden’s teammate at Lawrence North and Ohio State, Conley entered the draft at the same time as his best friend, going to the Memphis Grizzlies with the fourth pick. As a 20-year old rookie point guard, Conley’s initial season in Memphis was widely considered a success. He finished the season averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 assists, great numbers for a youngster playing at the Association’s most demanding position.
His second season started on a disappointing note though. With point guards Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton also on the roster, Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni replaced Conley in the starting lineup, and his play suffered as a result. As the season progressed and the Grizzlies fell out of contention, the team fired Iavaroni and traded both Crittenton and Lowry. New coach Lionel Hollins handed the keys to the offense over to Conley late in February, and he responded by posting 14.8 points and 5.7 assists per game for the rest of the year.
He hasn’t been able to perform at that level in his third season, averaging a career-low 8.7 points with a career-high 2.3 turnovers per contest. With Jamal Tinsley now in the fold and playing his way back into shape after missing the past year and a half, Conley will need to show marked improvement if he hopes to remain a starting point guard in the NBA.
Lee was part of the Pike high school team that won the 2003 Class 4A state title. He attended Western Kentucky University where he was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year as a senior. He finished his career as the leading scorer in school history. He was selected with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Orlando Magic, and enjoyed unprecedented success in his initial year for such an unheralded rookie. Handed the starting role in January, Lee played a crucial role in the Orlando’s run to the NBA Finals, averaging 8 points and playing shut-down defense despite suffering a sinus fracture in the first round.
In a curious move, the Magic traded Lee and several other players to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson before the start of the current season. Lee’s seen action in only 11 games for the winless Nets this season because of injuries, but he’s playing 28 minutes when he’s available, and his upward trending numbers suggest what’s been apparent since days shooting hoops on the cities Northwest side; Lee’s a bonafide NBA talent who should enjoy a lengthy career as a standout role player.
Hill graduated from Broad Ripple high school in 2004 after averaging 36.2 points as a senior, the fifth-highest single-season scoring average in IHSAA history. Shunning offers from Florida, Indiana, and Temple, Hill choose to attend nearby IUPUI. He earned Summit League Player of the Year honors as a junior and led the Jaguars to a 61-30 record during his three season playing in downtown Indianapolis.
He declared early for the 2008 NBA Draft, and was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 26th pick. Playing for such a veteran dominated Spurs team limited Hill’s opportunities during his rookie campaign, but when called upon, he stepped right in and performed at a very high level. His overall numbers (5.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists) fail to show the promise that Hill possesses as a difference maker at the professional level.
In his second season that promise has begun to show up in the stat book. Playing over 26 minutes a game, Hill’s scoring 11.2 points and thanks to his 6’9″ wingspan, he’s already become known as being an outstanding defender. With players like Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili still playing at a high level, it may be a few years before Hill fully gets a chance to display his talents, but trust me I say, that time is coming. And you can bet Hill will take full advantage when it does.
McRoberts has yet to establish himself in the professional game. After spending two outstanding seasons at Duke, the former McDonald’s All-America Game MVP from Carmel, Indiana was drafted by the Trailblazers in the second round of the 2007 draft. He spent his first year as a pro shuttling back and forth between Portland and Boise, Idaho, where he was sent to play for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League.
Before the 2008 season, McRoberts was acquired by Larry Bird and the Pacers as part of a draft day deal that also netted the Pacers Brandon Rush. He played in only 33 games for Indiana last season, averaging 2.4 points per contest. He did show flashes of potential however, and his frenetic, hustling style of play endeared himself to Indianapolis sports fans who follow the team. The early part of the 2009-10 season has played out much the way the previous year did, with McRoberts seeing game action very sporadically.