EArly Risers
As the NBA digs deeper and deeper for talent, here are some names to remember
November 13, 2000
By Bruce Feldman
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark

DWAIN WILLIAMS, Grade 8, Murrieta, Calif.

Dwain William has never met Shaq, but the slick 5’10” point could probably teach the big fella a thing or two about nailing free throws. Williams, 13, has won more foul-shooting contests than he can remember and says he once sank 963 out of 1,000. Big game Dwain earned his nickname after draining a game-tying three in AAU ball despite playing on a broken foot. Now he’s the focus of the nation’s most intriguing recruiting battle, as prep schools from New York to L.A. vie for his services. “I love pressure,” Dwain says, “but I think my family’s gonna make that decision.”

SHAVLIK RANDOLPH, Grade 11, Raleigh, N.C.

Named after his granddaddy, Ronnie Shavlik, one of the greatest players in NC State history, the 6’10”, 215-pound Randolph could be the most sought-after named Jordan. A smooth inside-outside treat, he was the first sophomore ever to play for the U.S. at the Schweitzer Games in Germany. But before you Wolfpack fans get too excited, don’t forget: Randolph’s daddy, Kenny, played baseball for UNC.”I’m not in any hurry to make a decision,” says Shavlik, who turns 17 on Nov.24. “Besides, the NBA is always an option.”

MAJOR WINGATE, Grade 10, Florence, S.C.

He answer questions with “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.” But there’s nothing polite about the way 6’10”, 230-pound Major Wingate treats opponents. Just ask Oak Hill’s DeSagana Diop, a seven-foot, 300-pound man-mountain regarded as one of the nation’s top 10 seniors. The agile Wingate showed off an array of post moves while going for 20 points and 12 boards during a summer matchup with Diop. And consider this: Wingate, 16, has been playing for only four years, “Major’s game is strong, and so is his makeup,” says one Pac-10 assistant. “He’s as close as you get to a sure thing when it comes to underclassmen.”

SHANNON BOBBITT, Grade 9, New York City

When it comes to Big Apple hoops, if you don’t have a nickname, you ain’t got no game. Shannon Bobbitt- a.k.a. Sugar Shannon, Ms. Magic- has plenty of both. At 5’3”, she has become every playground legend’s favorite phenom. Booger, Sham, SkiptomyLou and Future have all been wowed watching Bobbitt shake fools-boys, girls, grown men- for several years now up at the Rucker. “The only way someone can take the ball from me is if I let them have it,” says the 14-year-old, who’ll suit up for St. Ray’s in the Bronx this season. Just wait ‘till she starts sharing with her new teammates.

DREW HAYMAKER, Grade 7, Hennessey, OKLA.

Image the look on Glendon Alexander’s face when it happened. Not the part where the then-Oklahoma State swingman got his shot swatted by the no-name gym rat with shaggy hair. But the part where the no-name gym rat with shaggy hair announced he was a fifth grader. You get used to all kinds of looks when you’re 13 years old and 6’8” with size 18 feet. And it’s no surprise that every big-time college coach is already thirsting for Mountain Drew. Dad Rex rattles off the names: “Eddie Sutton, Bill Self, Matt Doherty. Dean Smith even talked to Drew for 25 minutes about someday playing at Carolina.”