How Dallas Became a Hotbed of High School Basketball Recruiting
By Brandon Jenkins
When the 24 McDonald’s High School All-American basketball players were announced Jan. 25, five members of this year’s elite class were from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Anthony Black from Duncanville, Keyonte George from Lewisville, Arterio Morris from Dallas Kimball, Jordan Walsh from Cedar Hill and Cason Wallace from Richardson all were voted in by a committee of longtime national basketball scouts, media members and program directors.
Only once in the 44-year history of the all-star game have five players from one metropolitan area been selected. (The greater Los Angeles area was able to accomplish the feat in 2008.)
Coaches and trainers in the Metroplex credit the area’s basketball rise to an increasing number of skill training programs for young players, year-round competitive traveling basketball teams and the impact of Dallas-area players who have gone on to professional success.
Oak Cliff Faith Family Academy coach Brandon Thomas won a state championship as a player at Kimball High School in 1997. Prior to coaching in Oak Cliff, he coached state championship-level high school basketball teams in Chicago. He also coached against Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker and many others who went on to play in the NBA.
“There were so many players during my time in Chicago that there was a time where I felt it could not get any better than what I was experiencing,” said Thomas. “Then I move back home and we have five McDonald’s All-Americans … in what is considered a football state.”
The Great American Shootout is an Irving-based basketball organization that hosts tournaments for the top high school and travel teams in Texas and scouts the state’s best players. Sam Lowe has worked as an assistant tournament director and writer for the company for 27 years.
Lowe estimates that the Metroplex features more basketball talent right now than anywhere else in the nation.
“The crazy thing is you have some classes in Texas where they may have one or maybe two NBA players,” Lowe said. “But when you look at this class, you might have six from Dallas alone.”
“If (colleges) just recruit the I-20 corridor in the city, I feel schools could win at any level,” Lowe said. “This year you have high schools from all over the metroplex with players. Dallas has been one of the top producers of talent for years.”
A former state champion basketball player at Duncanville High School in the 1990’s, Lowe said that he didn’t have access to the quality training that players have today and that training from a young age is making a difference in quality of play.
“Skill training surfaced in 2010 and took players to a whole new level,” Lowe said.
TJ Thomas, who founded the youth basketball program Texas Impact 4:13 in 2012 and has coached for a decade, says year-round travel basketball teams have helped improve the level of play.
“I feel travel basketball has been a great conduit for our youth here in Dallas and has helped us produce some of the country’s best young rising stars,” Thomas said. “In the summer, they get to travel the country and play against some of the top teams the nation has to offer. I feel it has had a major impact.”
Shawn Ward, owner of 3D Hoops Academy in the Dallas suburb of Southlake, agrees with Thomas. Ward, who coached and trained Anthony Black, also credits the Metroplex’s surging reputation in basketball circles to an increase in year-round basketball tournaments in the area.
“There are more opportunities for kids to train and play year-round,” Ward said. “In Dallas, there are so many great options of trainers, coaches and ex-players that can help players get to where they want to go.”
Dallas resident Barrington Stevens played professionally abroad for nearly five years. Stevens has trained dozens of the top players in the Metroplex. In addition to improved skills training and year-round play, Stevens says the professional success of Metroplex players has inspired a younger generation.
Several players from the Metroplex who have gone on to play in the NBA, including Julius Randle, CJ Miles, Thaddeus Young and Seth Curry. Each of those players has returned to the metroplex to teach at basketball camps or train with up and coming middle school and high school players, Stevens said.
“They show our kids what it means to be a professional and work for everything you want to accomplish in the game of basketball,” Stevens added.