High School Rumors
Evans’ job with the Thunder is expected to be as an amateur evaluation scout. Thunder general manager Sam Presti’s move to bring on Evans comes at a time when the evaluation of high school prospects is at a premium, as a new pathway to professional basketball has been created through the NBA G League via high school.
Four-star forward Mason Miller spent one night recently watching film with his dad, Mike, breaking down plays on how the senior can improve his game. Mavrick, the younger of the two brothers, will go over old highlights from Mike’s time at Florida and the NBA. But now it’s different. Mike Miller, who played with the Memphis Grizzlies and was a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, will be their coach at Houston High School for the 2020-21 basketball season.
Mason and Mavrick, an unranked sophomore, will be playing together for the first time on the high school level, and people expect Mike will build Houston to the same level as Memphis coach Penny Hardaway did when he was at East High School. “I’m definitely excited to play with him (Mavrick),” Mason said. “This is the first year I really get to play with him so it’ll be exciting. We should be really, really good.”
Before his first Instagram or TikTok account, Bronny was already a social media star. An Instagram fan page that covers the Jameses like America’s sports royal family features more than 449,000 followers, including LeBron and Savannah. On YouTube, there are highlight videos with more than a million views, including a recurring segment called AAU 2K19, which features a custom-made Bronny character. The NCAA has opened the door for student-athletes to financially benefit off of their name, image and likeness, but the rise of influencer culture has miniaturized the modern NBA’s branding obsession, seeping into high school basketball as players around the country become stars. The internet and the modern fame machine is molding a future generation of basketball stars, changing the business, power dynamics and culture of the sport, on and off the court.
As Shareef O’Neal’s high school basketball star rose, he saw trolls flood his comments with hate after an off night. “It was like if I didn’t have 30-15-10, everyone would compare me and say that I’m not as good as my dad,” O’Neal says. “For other players, the kids who aren’t getting the attention and they should be, they are telling themselves they need to get highlights in order to be seen and be famous.” This can all take a toll on a player’s mental health. Graham Betchart trains basketball players on the mental skills needed to overcome the stresses and anxieties of pro-athlete life, with clients including Aaron Gordon (since age 11), Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Jaylen Brown. His main message: Don’t stress over what you can’t control.
That next guy will be Miller, who will be coaching his son Mason, a highly-regarded class of 2021 standout, on Houston’s varsity squad next season. As a player, Miller won consecutive NBA championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013 and overall spent 17 seasons in the league, including two different stints with the Grizzlies.
If social media had been around, it would’ve been crazy. The closest thing we’ve seen is probably Zion Williamson (who became a household name in high school) or Andrew Wigggins (who had a viral mixtape at 13 years old). Are you glad that you didn’t have to deal with even more attention online or do you think it would’ve helped you? Schea Cotton: I mean, it would have helped me because you have a ready-made marketing tool with social media. Back then, you couldn’t get any bigger than Sports Illustrated! All these mixtapes and stuff, that’s great man, but you got to remember before all of that, the pinnacle was Sports Illustrated and I think it still has an impressive stature today. The issue that I was in, the cover was when Brazil won the World Cup. The title was “Viva! Brazil” There was a four-page layout, and I was 15 years old when that happened! We’re talking about Zion Williamson, and Zion Williamson is a freak of an athlete today… Zion is probably the closest thing to what I was as far as the explosiveness, but my skill set was much better at this phase in the game. I think if he can develop his guard skills and his mid-range, he’s going to be unstoppable because he’s already a problem around the basket.
You spent one summer at UCLA before your SAT score was invalidated and Baron Davis mentioned that you were dominating the UCLA pick-up games against Magic Johnson, Penny Hardaway and Hakeem Olajuwon. In the film, writers also talk about how you outplayed Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett in high school. These are NBA legends! What do you remember about those pick-up games? Schea Cotton: I was having fun! (laughs) It didn’t really matter who was in front of me, I had a killer mentality. These same legends that you talked about? I mean, I came out with guys like Kobe Bryant – rest in peace. Kobe couldn’t do nothing with me either when we played! I was a problem because I had a chip on my shoulder… I played against Kevin Garnett, and Kevin has talked about my legacy and my career and what it was like playing against me. These are guys that I came up with and made my name against. These guys were the best in their area and we all came up together. It was a magnificent experience. I don’t know if they’ll ever see basketball like that again, because we’re living in a different time.