Chicago has a deep-rooted history in basketball, which is best represented by the amazing players who have come from its high schools. These players, who come from various schools and time periods, have made a lasting impact on the game. Let’s take a step-by-step look at the careers of some of the best high school basketball players Chicago has ever produced
1. George Wilson, Marshall, 1960
George Wilson, standing tall at 6-foot-8, was a key player for the Marshall Commandos, leading them to many victories in Chicago’s West Side. During his high school years, he scored more than 2,200 points, was chosen for the All-State team multiple times, and was named the Player of the Year by the Chicago Sun-Times. Wilson’s impressive skills were also seen at the University of Cincinnati, where he helped the team win a national championship in 1962. He also had a seven-year career in the NBA.
2. Cazzie Russell, Carver, 1962
Cazzie Russell, one of Michigan’s top players, is a product of Carver High School located on the far South Side of Chicago. In high school, Russell had an average of 25 points per game, was the first to be named Mr. Basketball USA from Illinois, and led his team to the state championship game. He continued his success at Michigan, where he contributed to three Big Ten titles and two Final Four appearances. After college, he went on to win an NBA championship with the New York Knicks.
3. Rickey Green, Hirsch, 1973
Rickey Green, with his impressive abilities and quick speed, led Hirsch High School to win a Class AA state championship. This was the first city school to win a title since the time of Cazzie Russell. Green’s success continued at Michigan and he had a fruitful NBA career for 15 years, even being recognized as an All-Star in 1984.
4. Eddie Johnson, Westinghouse, 1977
Eddie Johnson, a skilled basketball player standing 6-7, made a name for himself at Westinghouse High School, known for its strong basketball program. He then showcased his abilities at the University of Illinois. His successful journey continued in the NBA for 19 years, where he scored more than 19,200 points, grabbed over 4,800 rebounds, and made more than 2,500 assists.
5. Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse, 1978
Mark Aguirre, who played alongside Eddie Johnson, is frequently recognized as the top high school basketball player in the history of Chicago. His exceptional scoring skills led Westinghouse to a city championship. At DePaul University, Aguirre was instrumental in helping the team reach the Final Four in 1979. He had a successful NBA career spanning 20 seasons, during which he was selected for the All-Star team three times and played a significant role in the Detroit Pistons’ consecutive NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.
6. Mitchell “J.J.” Anderson, Metro, 1978
J.J. Anderson is celebrated for his scoring skills in basketball. His record of averaging 43.5 points in the 1977-78 season is still the highest for a single season in Illinois. He maintained his successful streak at Bradley University and later joined the NBA, where he played for Philadelphia and Utah.
7. Terry Cummings, Carver, 1979
Terry Cummings grew from 5-8 to 6-9, which kick-started his successful high school basketball career at Carver. Averaging over 20 points and 15 rebounds per game, he earned the title of All-American at DePaul. His basketball journey continued for 19 years in the NBA.
8. Russell Cross, Manley, 1980
During a season where future NBA player Doc Rivers was also playing, Russell Cross was the standout player at Manley. He led the team to win the Class AA state championship. Standing tall at 6-10, he dominated the game and received several awards. He was named All-Stater twice, became a McDonald’s All-American, and was chosen as the Parade National Player of the Year in 1980.
9. Ben Wilson, Simeon
Ben Wilson, a promising basketball player, had his life tragically ended in a shooting near Simeon High School in 1984. Despite his early death, Wilson left a significant mark on the game. He went from being an average freshman to a national sensation, leading Simeon to its first state championship.
10. Lowell Hamilton, Providence-St. Mel, 1985
Lowell Hamilton was an important player for the “Flyin’ Illini” team in Illinois. In high school, he achieved a lot, including being named a first-team Parade All-American and helping St. Mel secure the Class A state championship in 1985. His successful time playing basketball at Illinois University led to his induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 1998.
This list, which covers many years, highlights the lasting impact of Chicago’s high school basketball and the amazing players who have played on its courts. Each player has made a lasting contribution to the game, adding to the rich basketball history of the city.