12 High School kids in the draft?

Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Shaun Livingston are just three of as many as 12 high school kids who might declare for the 2004 NBA Draft.

Updated: March 19, 2004, 11:50 AM ET
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
For those of you who thought we were joking several months ago when we claimed that as many as 10 high school players could enter this year's NBA draft ... you better sit down.

After Insider blew the doors off the international draft last week by detailing the rush of young foreign 18-year-olds determined to enter the draft, it's time to shift the focus to the U.S., where a record number of high school players still look determined to test their NBA draft stock.

Many people want to blame LeBron James for this year's flood. But that seems somewhat silly. Five high school players were drafted last year. James is the only one who has done anything.

Travis Outlaw (Portland), Ndudi Ebi (Minnesota), Kendrick Perkins (Boston) and James Lang (New Orleans) haven't done jack this year. Lang already has been cut, and Outlaw, Ebi and Perkins are seeing fewer minutes than Darko Milicic. This is despite the fact all four were ranked among the top 10 high school players in the country last season.

So before we declare that prep players have turned the corner and are now NBA ready straight out of school, let's be clear. Only three high school players -- LeBron, Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett -- have done anything significant in their rookie years.

The best ones (Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, Rashard Lewis) took at least two years to develop. Many more (Jonathan Bender, Darius Miles, Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, DeSagana Diop, DeShawn Stevenson, Outlaw, Ebi and Perkins) will take much longer than that.

So if 10 high school players are planning on heading to the NBA draft, along with six to seven under-20 international prospects, and three to four college freshmen, this draft is going to be the most potential-heavy, developmentally challenged draft ever.

With that said ... here they come.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer