Let’s do a quick thought exercise:
Take the boys’ basketball teams from four imaginary high schools in the same state. Each team has 15 players — so 60 players in total — and generally the talent level on each team is about the same.
How many of those 60 players do you think will play Division-I college basketball?
If your imaginary four teams were in Maryland, three players would, according to NCAA research.
The Old Line State has always been a hotbed for basketball talent. But between 2013 and 2016, data shows 5 percent of the state’s boys’ basketball players were recruited to play at the highest level of college hoops, the highest proportion of any state.
This is not a surprise to hoops savants, who for years have been putting together the ultimate all-Maryland NBA team. Native-born Marylanders include Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Victor Oladipo, Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green and a whole lot of others.
Washington Huskies freshman and DeMatha graduate Markelle Fultz is the odds-on bet to be the No. 1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft.
Maryland’s closest competitors are North Carolina at 3.6 percent and Georgia and Nevada, both at 3 percent. Virginia was fifth among states for exporting boys recruits at 2.8 percent.
The numbers hold up for the girls’ game, as well; 4.5 percent of Maryland girls players between 2013 and 2016 went on to play Division-I basketball.
“I think our area does a good job of balancing the competitive atmosphere of how sports has gotten with teaching,” Rock Creek Christian boys’ Coach Christian Cole said.
Maryland coaches, both at the high school and AAU level, have become so adept and sending players off to the college ranks, they’ve settled into a groove on how to prepare players for the college atmosphere on and off the court.
Five percent might be the largest proportion of players from around the country, but it still means 95 percent of Maryland high school basketball players will at best play Division II hoops. Cole meets with freshmen players before the season begins to learn about their interests and learning styles. Rock Creek pairs each player with a professional from a field of study in which they have interest. If career aspirations change, Cole helps them find a new interest area the next year.
And when it comes time to pick a college, Cole tries to get players to momentarily set basketball aside.
“They need to pick a school,” he said. “They need to be happy without the basketball.”