Milwaukee has a proud basketball heritage. It's the home of Marquette, the Bucks of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and it's had more than its fair share of great prep prospects across the years. Unfortunately, there may not be nearly as much top-drawer talent this winter, thanks to a dramatic exodus from the Milwaukee Public Schools System.
As reported in Wisconsin Sports Networks' Courtside blog, a whopping seven among the state's top-rated players have all left the state to attend prep schools in the span of the past month, most in the last week and a half. The latest loss may be the most significant, with senior Baylor commitment Quevyn Winters leaving Milwaukee Washington High School for Oldsmar Christian School, a prep school in Florida.
"I cannot remember this many players ever leaving Wisconsin for prep school," said Mark Miller, a Wisconsin Sports Network editor. "This is easily the worst exodus in state history. [Milwaukee] Hamilton [which is losing two returning starters] went from preseason No. 1 in the state to maybe a spot in the top 10.
"They are leaving, in large measure, in an attempt to 'right the ship' academically. ... Many of these prep schools are, in reality, an extension of the summer travel circuit. They play games against teams from non-bordering states and eat, sleep and breathe basketball."
That being said, losing seven top players from a city of Milwaukee's size can be devastating to the general quality of an area's basketball product. That can, in turn, affect the quality of competition, and the ability of other players from the area to get recruited at a top level.
In Winters' case, his summer travel team clearly played a significant role, with his Milwaukee Spartans coach Anthony McHenry advising the move and helping explain why it happened.
"We did a bunch of research and found Oldsmar Christian School to be the best fit for Quevyn," said McHenry. [...] "Some of our coaches knew the coach at Oldsmar and knew the school had done some good work in helping kids get qualified. Attending Oldsmar puts Quevyn in an atmosphere where he can grow, both on and off the court."
So, what's wrong with Wisconsin? Is it really that hard to qualify academically in Milwaukee? And why would two of the departing players -- seniors Charles Lee (heading to Huntington Prep in West Virginia) and Darnell Harris (off to Humble, Texas, Christian Life) -- leave Milwaukee Hamilton, where coach Tom Diener has helped mold a pair of NBA veterans and is a three-time AP state coach of the year?
Maybe it was just the weather. Or maybe it's reruns of "Laverne & Shirley" and "That '70s Show." Whichever, it's not a good thing for Wisconsin basketball, which has to hope it doesn't do long-term damage to Milwaukee prep basketball.