Dwight Howard II, Randolph Morris and Josh Smith, amateur teammates with the Atlanta Celtics, know they will be reunited during the McDonald's All American Game in Oklahoma City next month. What they don't yet know — or at least haven't announced publicly — is whether they will also be reunited in the NBA next season.
Howard has garnered the most national attention, but Morris — a 7-foot center at suburban Atlanta school Landmark Christian — and Smith — a 6-8 forward who is spending his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. — are also potential entrants into the NBA draft.
Smith has committed to Indiana University, but he said he'll make a decision about the NBA after his high school season ends. NBA scouts marvel at his leaping ability — "the wow factor," according to one Eastern Conference executive — and observers tell tales of Smith's improbable schoolyard dunks from more than a foot behind the foul line.
Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith, who has coached Jerry Stackhouse, Ron Mercer and Carmelo Anthony, said Smith is the best athlete he has had at Oak Hill. One Eastern Conference scout said Smith is a certain lottery pick, and several NBA employees predicted that he would declare for the draft.
At a tournament in early February, between posing for photos with players from another high school team, Smith was repeatedly asked by autograph-seekers whether he would turn pro. Again and again, he answered that he wasn't sure, but he said the constant query doesn't rankle because "I'm a very patient person."
"I'm just worried about playing in the moment; I'm not worried about the future," said Smith, who later described his biggest weakness as "whatever the media say."
Morris, meantime, received a boost after outplaying Howard during a head-to-head meeting in a late-January game televised on ESPN2 and played before a large contingent of NBA scouts and general managers. He said he is still considering Georgia Tech, Kentucky and the NBA draft.
Wallace Prather Jr., the co-founder and general manager of the Atlanta Celtics, has said several times that Morris will one day be as good or better than his more heralded teammates, adding that "all three of them have the potential to become professionals next year, but whatever decision they make, they're at the point where they can't lose."
The three players have posed for photos in Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine, which Morris said was never part of the plan.
"We just played because we liked it and had fun; we never thought it would be this big," he said. "The extent of our talent, I don't think we could have ever imagined."