Jenni Carlson: Oklahoma high schools produce draft hopefuls

by Jenni Carlson Modified: June 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm •  Published: June 24, 2010

Never has there been a better time to be a product of an Oklahoma high school.

Just two months after three Oklahoma high schoolers were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, three more are projected to go in the first round of tonight's NBA Draft. Who will go where depends on what draft guru you ask, but everyone agrees that Edmond Santa Fe's Ekpe Udoh, Putnam City's Xavier Henry and Bishop McGuinness's Daniel Orton will all be first-rounders.

They will make history in the process.

Never before has our state produced three first-round picks in the same NBA Draft. Heck, only once before has Oklahoma had more than one first-rounder in the same year — 1992 with Lee Mayberry and Byron Houston.

Tonight, Oklahoma will have more first-rounders than it has had in the past seven years combined.

Our fair state has long been known for its football and baseball prowess. Basketball? Not so much.

But eat your heart out, America. Oklahoma will be the epicenter of the basketball universe tonight. No other state claims quite the cache that ours does. Oklahoma has produced three of the best young basketball players in the world.

Udoh is a self-made man. This is a guy who's never been considered the best player on his team. Not at Edmond Santa Fe where he played second fiddle to Obi Muonelo. Not at Michigan where he began his college career. Not even at Baylor where he finished it.

A couple years ago, he was a defensive monster at Michigan but an afterthought to the NBA. He blocked a ton of shots and grabbed a bunch of rebounds, but no one thought of him as a pro prospect because he lacked offensive skill.

He took a chance, transferring to Baylor and transforming his game.

Udoh is now expected to be a lottery pick.

Henry could be, too, though that has been his projection for years. Even as a middle schooler, he was talked about as a future pro. He's always had the long, muscular build and the smooth, dynamic game.

Yet this past year brought doubters. First, there was the recruiting rigmarole, the de-commitment from Memphis, the commitment to Kansas, the flirtation with Kentucky. Then, there were the questions about his skills on the pro level after he declared for the draft after only one season as a Jayhawk.

His reaction?

Henry went out and wowed scouts during the pre-draft process. After the combine and nearly a dozen workouts around the league, he has been called the player who's getting less draft attention that he deserves.

Despite the feel-good storylines that Udoh and Henry have authored, neither has anything on Orton's.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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NBA Draft
→When: 6 p.m. tonight

→Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

→TV: ESPN (Cox 29)

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