Kim Anderson last sat on the bench at Mizzou as an assistant coach under Norm Stewart, Mizzou was finishing out it's farewell tour for Stewart in earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. The year was 1999.
To some of you, including myself, that doesn't seem like that long ago. The 90's still feel close. Yet it was 15 years ago. I still roll my eyes a bit when a "throwback" song comes on the radio and it's from 1999. I'm sorry, Living La Vida Loca is not a throwback song.
A lot has changed in 15 years. For one, Kim Anderson spent 3/4 of that time coaching a Division 2 school. Another is the presence of a powerhouse basketball program based in Huntington, WV. Huntington Prep is a program that sprouted up out of nowhere in 2009 behind the work of a coach by the name of Rob Fulford. Fulford started the school in his home state, and in doing so jump started his career in a big way. Since starting Huntington Prep, Fulford has placed 30 (THIRTY) players in division 1 programs. Including NBA Draftees Gorgui Deng, Sim Bullar, and the most well known alum of Huntington, Andrew Wiggins. To say that Fulford can recruit is a bit of an understatement.
Straight out of the cliche-o-meter, Fulford came from humble beginnings. He was a three sport star at a small high school in southern West Virginia, and attended Marshall University. As soon as he graduated from Marshall University, Fulford headed to the now defunct Mountain State University as an NAIA assistant coach, he coached for a few years before getting out of the game. The lure of coaching was too strong, and Fulford took over as head coach of Academy at Mountain State, where he built that program into a powerhouse in a short three year span, even toppling the well known basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, a team that had Juwan Staten, Roscoe Smith and Doron Lamb on the team. Then, he started Hunington Prep.
After just one full season he had Huntington Prep nationally ranked and a roster full of future college players, and two guys headed to the NBA. That's how you go from zero to 100 in a hurry, but doing that requires a lot of work, a lot of recruiting, and some help. Fulford benefitted from some relationships he had stemming from his Mountain State Academy stretch, but how do you talk players into going to the hills of West Virginia to play basketball at prep school?
You have to think that if he can talk high level players to go to prep school in the hills of West Virginia, that he can talk a few into coming to Columbia, MO. Take a look at this list...
- Andrew Wiggins, Kansas - NBA
- Gorgui Deng, Louisville - NBA
- Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State - NBA
- Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
- Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
- Dominic Woodson, Memphis
- Elijah Macon, West Virginia
- Jaquan Lyle, Oregon
- Josh Perkins, Gonzaga
- Jalen Lindsey, Providence
- Montaque Gill-Caesar, Missouri
- Stefan Jankovic, Missouri
- Negus Webster-Chan, Missouri
- Thomas Bryant
- Ted Kapita
- Miles Bridges
The prep school to college pipeline is certainly nothing new. The aforementioned Oak Hill Academy (Virginia) has been around and producing college players since the early 80s, turning out players like Carmelo Anthoney, Brandon Jennings, Jerry Stackhouse and Rajon Rondo. Findlay Prep (Nevada) is one of the newer programs that has produced Nick Johnson, Avery Bradley, Corey Joseph and Tristan Thompson. Brewster Academy out of New Hampshire has produced Jeff Adrien, T.J. Warren, C.J. Fair and Thomas Robinson. What is new is the prep school coach to college route. Oak Hill coach Steve Smith has been there as long as I can remember. Jason Smith has been at Brewster for 14 years. Findlay hasn't been around very long, and have cycled through a few coaches while only one has moved on to an NCAA job to across town UNLV.
That doesn't mean it's not a trend worth keeping an eye on. The landscape of basketball has changed and Rob Fulford is the guy that's represents that change. He's a young, energetic guy who is known as a recruiter first and basketball coach second. It doesn't matter how true it is, it's the perception. John Calipari faces the same criticism despite being an excellent coach, he's know as a recruiter. He'll get players.
Rob Fulford delivered immediate results when Mizzou signed Gill-Caesar in August. He has the chance to delivery more as top 40 Forward/Center Thomas Bryant visits Mizzou on October 10th for an official visit. With Bryant, he'll have Ted Kapita, Miles Bridges and Curtis Jones along for the ride, because, you know, why not? Kapita is a 2015 recruit, and doesn't have a Mizzou offer, but could get one on the trip. Jones and Bridges are 2016 recruits, and Mizzou is in on both of them. When Kim Anderson brought on Rob Fulford, he recruited one of the best recruiters in the country to give the Midwest a shot. Come to Columbia, he said... we'll build something big.