Last month, the McDonald's All-American Game released its 2013 rosters. The game is a showcase of some of the best high school talent in the country, which this year largely came out of Texas (five players), California (four), Florida (three), and North Carolina (two). Of these 14 players, only five have committed to play at in-state colleges. We wondered: Is this typical of high school talent? Historically, where do high school stars generally come from, and where do they end up playing?
To investigate, I looked at the hometowns and colleges of all 840 McDonald's All-Americans from 1977 to 2012, since the class of 2013 hasn't totally shaken itself out yet. Hometowns were largely based on high school, although if a player went to a religious, private, or boarding school (like basketball factory Oak Hill Academy), I checked to see which state he was actually raised in.* Likewise, I tried to I.D. players who transfered during college, and stick them with the programs they initially played for.
Here are the states that have, adjusted for population, produced the most McDonald's All-Americans:
Indiana, living up to its reputation, may have the strongest high school basketball tradition in the country. With 41 All-Americans in 36 years, Indiana has produced more talent than Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, all significantly larger states, and trails only Illinois, New York, and California. Adjusting for population size, the Hoosier State blows the field away. Maryland is also a hotbed of talent, as are a handful of Southern states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee), and neighboring Illinois.
Alaska is clearly the oddball. When the McDonald's All-American team was inaugurated, in 1977, Alaska was the smallest state in the nation. Still, Alaska has produced three All-Americans, all of whom were subsequently drafted by NBA teams: Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers, and Trajan Langdon. Thirteen states have produced fewer All-Americans than Alaska, which goes to show that while basketball is good for inner cities (where courts are an efficient use of space) and rural areas (where schools may be too small to field football and baseball teams), it's also pretty great for places that are just too damn cold to really play anything outside for most of the school year.
Unsurprisingly, none of those Alaskan stars stayed in-state for college hoops. But how about the others? Let's take a look at each state's "capture rate," i.e., the percentage of All-American players who stay in-state for college:
Overall, 35 percent of McDonald's All-Americans went to school in-state. Utah has produced five All-Americans, all of them Mormon, with three attending BYU (Devin Durrant, Shawn Bradley, Garner Meads) and two attending the University of Utah (Britton Johnsen, Danny Vranes). My guess is that's not a small-sample anomaly, either; Mormon Utahns have little reason to leave the state for school.
North Carolina (26 for 30), Kentucky (11 for 15), and Kansas (seven for nine) also come out on the higher end, which is understandable given the strength of the programs in those states. Arizona, Minnesota, and Arkansas's recruiters all deserve some respect for the job they've been able to do. While Washington D.C. was not included in the per capita talent calculation—D.C.'s per capita anything is pretty skewed when compared with the states' figures—it is worth noting that it does produce a lot of great players, and loses most of them.
Combining these two variables, we can figure out the states that both produce and capture a lot of high school talent, still on a per capita basis:
There aren't a lot of surprises here. UNC/Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, and Kansas are all in the running for the best college basketball program of all time (plus Louisville, Notre Dame, and NC State draw some pretty solid talent as well). The only other school that should really be in the conversation is UCLA, which won 10 of its 11 titles before the creation of the All-American game in 1977. Great programs, it turn out, can attract great local talent, and as a result, they have staying power. Utah, thanks to its perfect capture record, also scores high.
Now let's look at the inverse of this map, the states that produce yet lose the most talent to out-of-state programs (on a per capita basis):
Indiana produces so much talent for its size that it's almost guaranteed to lose a significant chunk of it. Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia, and Georgia are (were) home to the middling schools of the SEC and ACC: the seven major programs in those states have combined for one championship (Maryland, 2002) and only eight Final Four appearances. New Jersey, New York, Georgia, and Illinois are all home to major metropolitan areas that lack their own dominant programs. Major programs in any of these states are a threat to explode every year: All it takes is one great recruiter to make the right pitch.
While the overall capture rate from 1977-2012 was 35 percent, only 29 percent of players on the 2012 squads stuck to their home states. Is college basketball recruitment slowly becoming more fluid?
Here's a chart showing the three-year average of the percent of players who stay in-state (the red line), from 1977 to 2012. The blue line shows the three-year average of the percent of players who stayed in-region, as defined by the U.S Census.
Players have become more likely to venture out of state and out of region, but not by as big of a margin as you'd expect. The large dip corresponds to the years 2001-2005, when 24 All-Americans (20 percent of the total) jumped straight to the NBA. With the one-and-done rule, the capture rate has rebounded, and now roughly 30 percent of players stay in-state (compared with 45 percent in the '70s), and 50 percent stay in-region (compared with 60 percent in the '70s).
This smaller decline is partially due to the rise of international players coming to the U.S. for high school hoops. From 1977-1999, nine All-Americans grew up overseas, or about 3.9 per decade. From 2000-2012 this rate has more than doubled to 9.2 per decade. These players all stick around the U.S. for college, and none of them can be considered "in-staters."
In the next decade, we may start to see a real shift in some of these trends. The number of international players will likely continue to rise. Historically, Texas has produced a small number of All-Americans given its size, but its five entrants in 2013 could be a sign of things to come. The four remaining uncommitted players could drive the capture rate for this year as high as 48 percent, the same as it was back in the '70s. One thing's for certain, though: The schools that have great college basketball have been great for many, many years. While the high-school landscape may shift ever so gradually from here on out, we can still depend on the same state powerhouses for some time.
* This group included a significant number of players: I checked roughly 300, and in some cases I had to make a subjective call about what it meant to "grow up" somewhere. One example: Carmelo Anthony lived in New York until he was 8 years old, but he primarily played ball in Baltimore and has an Orioles tattoo, so I gave him to Maryland. If you think I messed up somewhere and denied your state its rightful All-American, you can check my list here and leave a note in the comments.