Years Active: 1949 – 1962
Regular Season Stats: 845 games, 30.5 mpg
11.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 35.2% FG, 70% FT
Playoff Stats: 40 games, 25.8 mpg
9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 32.8% FG, 73.5% FT
Accolades: NBA Champion (1956)
Back in 1995, Kevin Garnett kicked off the modern-day craze for high school hoopsters which culminated in the drafting of Dwight Howard. Thereafter, the age restriction was instituted and the heyday of 18-year old NBA players was over. Of course, astute observers back in 1995 were quick to note that Garnett was kicking off a modern-day craze. Two decades earlier, Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone had provided a brief breach in the NBA’s college firewall.
But if you want to go back, I mean waaaaay back, into time you’ll see that in the NBA’s very beginning it was using straight-from-high-school players. Tony Kappen and Connie Simmons may have been first, but most prominent was Joe Graboski from Chicago, Illinois. Unlike most players who’ve subsequently done the HS to NBA jump, Graboski had no spectacular talent that rendered college useless. Instead, Graboski had dropped out of Tuley High School and did some time playing in the industrial leagues common in urban areas at the time.
The 17-year old Graboski eventually got a job as a the ball boy for the BAA’s Chicago Stags. At 6’7″, Graboski was a bit hard to miss and after watching him take some shots, John Sbarbaro, president of the Stags, inquired over whether Graboski might consider joining a local university and after some polishing he might join the Stags. Graboski informed Sbarbaro of his academic situation and the Stags president immediately signed him to a deal.