Everyone who follows the NBA knows that the middle of February marks the “halfway” point of the regular season and serves as the checkpoint for All-Star Weekend. Between personal pride, contract incentives, and individual legacies (in addition to the entertainment for fans), this game is meaningful to a ton of players. Phenom Hoops has been fortunate enough to see a variety of players make their way into the NBA and the All-Star Game. Of the 22 selected players, 5 of them had been previously featured at Phenom Hoops’ events during their high school days. Let’s take a brief look at each…

The oldest of the group, Bam Adebayo, has rapidly become one of the top big men in the League. Folks might remember his dominant days at Northside Pinetown or High Point Christian (where he finished his high school career, won Mr. Basketball, was named an All-American, and later committed to Kentucky). Halfway through his fifth season, Adebayo has seemingly improved his numbers across the board in each of the last five years. He’s always been an elite defender and rebounder, and that’s only been more evident throughout his transition into stardom. However, Adebayo has made clear strides to become a very polished scorer (both from midrange and on the block) and is now capable of carrying a heavy offensive load whenever necessary. Given everything he does on both ends of the floor, it’s genuinely shocking that this will only be Adebayo’s second All-Star appearance. 

Although similar in terms of high school status, Jaren Jackson’s path in the NBA has been quite different from the previous entry. After having a notable career at Park Tudor, he transferred to La Lumiere, generated a ton of national buzz, and ultimately committed to Michigan State as a top-ten player in the country. During his journey, Jackson was featured at our Indiana Top 80 Camp and later covered at the CFA Classic. Since entering the NBA, Jackson has been a yearly mention as a DPOY candidate, but has yet to win the award. That being said, his bid to this year’s All-Star contest is indicative that folks are starting to truly appreciate what he brings to the table (even if it required a scorekeeper investigation to get here). This should be the first ASG appearance of many for Jackson.

Of all the players listed, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s story is arguably the most interesting. He was a highly touted prospect who played for national powerhouse Hamilton Heights and had already committed to Florida. After an intense pursuit by people from Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander randomly decommits and makes a new pledge to the Wildcats (who were also bringing in Quade Green, a top-five PG nationally). While this was going on, we saw him at our Joe Miller Invitational and at the CFA Classic. Unexpected by most, Gilgeous-Alexander then goes to Kentucky, snatches the starting spot, and then goes eleventh in the NBA Draft after just one year in college. He showed flashes of stardom for the Clippers but was traded to Oklahoma City as the “other” centerpiece in the Paul George trade. Fast-forward a few seasons, and Gilgeous-Alexander is now clearly the better player (and is only 24). In looking at his numbers, it doesn’t really make sense that he’s only earned one All-Star appearance. However, it feels like Gilgeous-Alexander should be a heavy favorite to make the game across the next decade.  

Given his sudden thrust into superstardom, everyone should already know about Ja Morant and his story in getting to this point. Just a young kid from Crestwood, South Carolina, he attended our camps early in his high school days and numerous events amidst his recruiting blow-up. Watching Morant explode during the summer of 2016 was nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider that he played alongside Nic Claxton (who was by far the more notable national prospect) during that span. He went from zero offers to nearly a dozen and eventually committed to Murray State. Though he was putting up high-level production for the Racers, the vast majority of people still did not regard Morant as a draft-worthy prospect. Folks might try to say different, but the general masses did not start pushing his name until after his alley-oop video from CP3 Elite Guard Camp went viral. Regardless, Morant has earned his status as one of the top, most electric players in the NBA and feels guaranteed to be a staple in this contest over the foreseeable future. 

Of everyone listed, Zion Williamson easily had the most NBA buzz during his high school days. Sure, some outlets were ranking guys like EJ Montgomery above him, but there was no question that Williamson was one of the most exciting and dominant high school players over the last twenty years. In hindsight, it makes sense. That being said, there were legitimate questions from a lot of people surrounding Williamson and his ability to translate to college—much less the NBA. He went to Duke, blasted through his shoe (whilst dominating), and all the naysayers went, “See?!” as if Williamson isn’t one of the most unique athletes we’ve ever seen. Luckily NBA teams have gotten progressively smarter and chose to still take him first overall. He battled with injuries during his first season, but then earned an All-Star appearance in year two. After missing last season with a foot injury, Williamson has returned for his second appearance while remaining one of the most polarizing, yet unguardable players in the League.