Texas is synonymous with high school football. Three of the top 15 teams in this week's USA TODAY High School Sports editorial rankings hail from Texas. And the first two picks of the 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, played high school football in the Lone Star State.
Be that as it may, if the 2012 preseason American Family Insurance ALL-USA high school basketball team is any indication, Texas’ basketball talent is catching up to its reputation for churning out football stars.
Three Texas players – Travis (Richmond, Texas) guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) forward Julius Randle – made the list of 10. Illinois posted two players while no other state had more than one selection.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to say we’re a basketball state just yet,” said Andrew, who, along with his twin brother Aaron, committed to Kentucky last month. “Football is so big down here, but if we keep on the way we’ve been going it could be headed that way.”
The numbers certainly back him up.
From the Class of 2012, 13 players were in the ESPNU 100, the most of any other state. Two were named to the ALL-USA team and four were McDonald’s All Americans. This year there are 10 players in the ESPNU 100.
“That speaks volumes to the level of basketball talent that is there in Texas,” ESPNU national recruiting director Paul Biancardi said. “It’s always been a rich and fertile state in football, but in basketball it’s clearly emerged over the last couple of years.”
Texas has been quietly churning out elite basketball players for a while now – NBA stars Deron Williams and LaMarcus Aldridge grew up in high school – but nothing like this.
“I think that in terms of star power this 2013 class could be really special,” Biancardi said. “I don’t remember three kids coming out of Texas as good as the twins and Randle in a long time.”
Of course, perception is reality. And the perception remains that there’s no hoops hotbed quite like Chicago or New York.
Aaron said he’s always had a chip on his shoulder thanks to that mentality.
“I wanted to work even harder on my game to get people talking about where I’m from,” he said. “I think just hearing so much about guys from other areas made our grind even more intense. It made us want to put Texas in the same conversation as those other places. Now I think we have the best players in the country. ”
If you buy into recruiting rankings, Texas will have talent for years to come. Six players are ranked in the ESPNU 60 for 2014 while three make the ESPNU 25 list for 2015.
Both numbers could grow substantially after this high school season and next year’s AAU season.
“Texas basketball has definitely been on the rise for a couple of years now,” Randle said. “We used to only be known as a football state, but, if you ask me, basketball is just as good here now.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSAToday.