Plenty of players from Indiana high schools have played in the NBA, but which ones most exceeded expectations?
Here are 20 players who made the most of their opportunity relative to their draft position. Some of these are household names, but it’s still not easy to realistically project players among the all-time greats when they’re in high school or college.
Five of these players are in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (as individuals) and seven more earned spots on at least one NBA and/or ABA All-Star team. Three earned NBA Most Improved Player honors and another a Sixth Man of the Year nod.
Most of the players on this list were first-round picks and all of them had pro careers lasting at least nine seasons. One was a fifth-round pick, and the draft hasn’t been more than two rounds for decades. Five played during the 2018-19 season.
(Included are the player’s high school, his draft year and position, and his career Player Efficiency Rating, a per-minute measure of production. Basketball Reference’s numbers for each player are listed here, and the league average is 15. Basketball Reference lists 172 NBA/ABA players from Indiana high schools.)
1. Larry Bird
High school: Springs Valley
Draft: 1978, 6th overall
Career PER: 23.5
The Boston Celtics drafted Bird in 1978 in the hope that he would skip his senior season at Indiana State. He stayed with the Sycamores and arrived in Boston in 1979. Career highlights include Rookie of the Year in 1980, three NBA titles, MVP honors for three straight years (1984-86), 12 All-Star berths in 13 seasons (he played just six games because of injury the other season), 21,791 career points and entry into the Hall of Fame.
He gets the top spot here because that one-year gap increases the chance of injury before turning pro.
2. Oscar Robertson
High school: Crispus Attucks
Draft: 1960, 1st overall
Career PER: 23.2
He revolutionized the sport the minute he stepped on the court, showing that a player his size (6-5) could dominate as a point guard while also scoring and rebounding at an elite level. He was an All-Star his first 12 seasons, and in his second season he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists. It would be decades before anyone else averaged a triple-double for a season. He won one NBA title and is a Hall of Famer.
He’s arguably one of the five best players ever, so that’s over-performing, even for a top overall pick.
3. George McGinnis
High school: Washington (Indianapolis)
Draft: 1973, 2nd round (22nd overall; 17 teams in the league)
Career PER: 20.0
He was already playing for the Indiana Pacers in the ABA when Philadelphia drafted him. Otherwise, his NBA draft spot would have been higher. After four years in Indy, winning two titles, he played his next three with the 76ers. He also played for Denver, earning six All-Star berths between the leagues. He averaged a double-double for seven straight seasons and is a Hall of Famer.