In honor of the 35th Anniversary of the American Family Insurance ALL-USA program, USA TODAY Sports’ Jim Halley narrowed down 35 years’ worth of boys basketball players to 50. A panel, consisting of nine experts, ranked each player in their respective positions. Fan polls were created for each position and the results counted as one panel vote, making the 10th panel vote.
Below are the players selected to the American Family Insurance 35th Anniversary ALL-USA Boys Basketball Team.
When USA TODAY began selecting ALL-USA boys basketball teams 35 years ago, shorts were worn to mid-thigh and the players themselves were shorter as well.
The first ALL-USA team in 1983 had only one player taller than 6-foot-7 — Dave Popson of Bishop O’Reilly (Kingston, Pa.), who was 6-10 and would go on to play for North Carolina and for four NBA teams. Last year’s ALL-USA squad had only one player, Trevon Duval, shorter than 6-7 and a front court of three players 6-10 or taller, led by 7-1 center DeAndre Ayton, now at Arizona.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed about elite high school players. Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) coach Steve Smith, who had 13 ALL-USA players in 32 seasons, says today’s elite players are more physically ready and versatile.
“Back then, a kid who was 6-8 would be in the post,” Smith said. “Now, they’re 6-8 and playing on the wing. What’s changed is the athleticism and size of the players. I think a lot of it has to do with how serious kids are nowadays. They also tend to zone in on one sport and they play basketball year-around. There was AAU ball back then, but it was just one tournament and players didn’t play all spring and summer.”
One thing in common for most of the players selected is they didn’t need much college seasoning.
Three of the first-teamers (James, Bryant and Garnett) and one third-teamer, Dwight Howard, went straight from high school to the NBA and of the 15 players on the first three teams, only Mourning and Grant Hill played four years of college basketball.