The NBA no longer allows players to enter the draft right out of high school, but that was not always the case. Stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James skipped college to enter the NBA after they graduated from high school. Another Hall of Famer who did that was Kevin Garnett, but doing so wasn’t necessarily his preferred route for entering the NBA.
He played for college and NBA scouts, but entered the draft instead of going for a post-secondary education because he was worried about the results of a single test.
Kevin Garnett’s high school career
Garnett had an interesting career in high school. He had his first chance to play organized ball as a freshman at Maudlin (S.C.) High School in 1991. He managed to average 12.5 points and 14 rebounds per game, despite just starting out.
He would continue to improve on the court in the subsequent years, but his grades suffered because he didn’t apply himself to his schoolwork. In May 1994, Garnett was nearby when a race-oriented fight broke out at his school, and he was arrested and charged with second-degree lynching, ruining his reputation.
His mom worried that he would be hung out to dry in the charges and news coverage of the event. She wanted to get out of the state, and saw her son’s basketball as the way to do. He impressed on the AAU team that summer and got invited to a Nike summer camp, where he became friendly with a student from Farragut High School in Chicago; Garnett transferred to Farragut for his senior season.
Worrying about the ACT
Kevin Garnett’s grades improved after he transferred, getting a solid 3.8 GPA, but he had not yet passed the ACT, which was required in order to become eligible to play in the NCAA.
That uncertainty over his college uncertainty made the NBA draft a distinct possibility for Garnett. He took classes designed to improve his test-taking skills, but Garnett still failed to score the 17 he needed on the ACT to be able to play in college.
Garnett wanted to go to college, but the NBA was increasingly looking like his best option. Garnett took the ACT for a fourth time on April 9, 1995, about a month before he had to decide if he would enter the draft. He hired an agent to help him make a decision as the deadline approached and he had not yet received his latest ACT score.
He impressed at a private workout and two weeks later declared himself eligible for the draft. The Timberwolves drafted Garnett with the fifth overall pick.
After the draft, Garnett’s high school coach called him to let him know that he scored a 970 on the SAT, which would have made him eligible to play in college. But at that point, it was too late.
Kevin Garnett’s early NBA career
Garnett adjusted to the NBA well from the get-go. He was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team in 1995-96, scoring 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. By his fourth season in the league, he had doubled his scoring average to 20.8 points per game, with 10.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
So it appears that he made the right decision to get straight to the NBA. And he doesn’t seem to regret the decision. When asked about not going to college, Garnett gets irritated, according to the Baltimore Sun, and shoots back “a lot of people said I really didn’t think about all of this, but I did.”
If Garnett went to college, what school would he have attended? Yahoo! Sports reports there was speculation that he was interested in attending Michigan, but he has clarified that he was considering going to the University of Maryland.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference