In this article, I will highlight High School players whose careers didn’t go as expected; either better or worse than expected.
If a player had a major injury I didn’t include him on the list. All rankings are via 247 composite.
Skal Labissiere: In a class that featured Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell, and Dejounte Murray; Skal Labissiere was ranked second in the 2015 class behind only Simmons.
Labissiere commited to Kentucky and was thought of as a future NBA star. Before his one and only year at Kentucky Labissiere was considered a top 5 pick.
Before the season people thought Coach Calipari would use Labissiere similar to how he used Karl Anthony Towns. This would consist of Labissiere getting many post up opportunities and being the anchor of the defense.
After a few games it was clear he was nowhere near as good as Karl Anthony Towns. At Kentucky Labissiere didn’t live up to expectations and he averaged 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Even after a disappointing freshman season people still had high expectations for Labissiere.
Before the draft Labissiere was considered a late lottery pick, but he fell to pick 28.
In 2016 – 2017 Labissiere played 17 games in the G-League and averaged 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists. This season, in the NBA, Labissiere averaged 5.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Josh Jackson: The number one recruit in 2016, people thought Josh Jackson’s potential was the sky. Jackson played one season at Kansas and he played well. Jackson would average 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks a game.
Unlike the other busts on this list, Jackson played well in college.
Jackson was selected with the fourth pick in the draft by the Suns and was compared to NBA superstars Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.
One of Jackson’s biggest problems is his efficiency. Throughout his career he has shot an abysmal 41.7% from the field, 29.8% from three and 65.1% from the free throw line. Jackson was playing so poorly, that he was traded and then sent to the G-League.
Behind Jackson in his class were two players who became NBA stars, Jason Tatum and Bam Adebayo. One pick after him in the draft was another NBA star De’Aaron Fox.
Cliff Alexander: Alexander attended Curie High School in Chicago, Illinois and was the fourth ranked recruit. He played in one of the most watched games of all time against Whitney Young and future NBA player Jahlil Okafor. Alexander was denied the ball the whole game, so he finished with a disappointing 20 points.
In High School, Alexander was a man among boys and he would dunk and block everything. In one early NBA mock draft he was projected to be the third pick. In almost all NBA big boards and mock drafts he was either a top 14 prospect or a lottery pick.
One article before the college season said, “Get Ready for the Cliff Alexander show, America. Highlight reel dunk and blocks and an endearing personality…” (SB Nation).
Alexander decided to play college ball at Kansas. In his one season, he averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. After that lone season at Kansas, he declared for the draft, but he went un-drafted.
Alexander would only play one season in the NBA, and he only averaged less than 5 minutes per game. The next year Alexander would play in the G-League and he would average 15.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. In the next few years Alexander would split time between the G-League and LNB Pro A League.
Ja Morant: Morant was unranked coming out of Crestwood High School in South Carolina, but he got one offer from Murray State and he would commit there. In Morant’s freshman season at Murray State he averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 0.9 steals. Then in his sophomore season he averaged an impressive 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 10 assists and 1.8 steals.
Murray State would end up getting a 12 seed in March Madness and beat 5 seed Marquette. In this game Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately Murray State would lose in the next round.
The Grizzlies would select Morant with the second pick in the draft. In his rookie season he averaged 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 0.9 steals. Also, with Morant the Grizzlies have improved mightily.
If the NBA playoffs started right now the Grizzlies would be the eight seed in the West.
Victor Oladipo: Unlike Morant, Oladipo was a three star coming out of DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, and he was ranked 136 in 2010.
In Oladipo’s three years of college basketball at Indiana, he increased his points per game by 3 points every year. By his junior year he was averaging 13.6 points per game, and he was considered an NBA prospect.
Before the draft people thought of Oladipo as a player with a lot of potential, but he might need a few years to fully develop. People knew he would become a good defender in the NBA, but not everyone was confident of his offensive ability. In the 2013 draft he was taken second by the Magic.
Even though he bounced around for his first years in the NBA, he finally found a home with the Pacers. In 2017 – 2018 Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals. His last two seasons have been injury riddled, but watch for Oladipo and the Pacers to become contenders in the East.
Pascal Siakam: Siakam was born in Douala, Cameroon, and he went to high school at God’s Academy in Lake Dallas, Texas. Siakam was unranked and unthought of as a recruit.
Siakam decided to attend New Mexico State University. In Siakam’s sophomore season he dramatically improved his stats and averaged 20.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1 steal and 2.2 blocks. Siakam played very well at the combine and he started to rise up draft boards. His pre draft comparison was Larry Nance Jr., because of their energy and athleticism.
Siakam has improved every year of his career and he has become more than just a rim runner and an energy man. In his rookie season he averaged 0.1 three point attempts per game, and this season he was taking 6 three pointers per game and he was hitting 35.9%. Also, Siakam has become a good passer as he was averaging 3.6 assists.
Additionally, Siakam is one of the best defenders in the league. He averages around a steal and a block, and when the Raptors play zone he is the most important player. He plays the middle of the front of the 3-2 zone and his length and athleticism makes it hard for players to drive.
Photo: Basketball Insiders