In the 1997-1998 season, basketball dominated the headlines around the Windy City. Most of the attention went to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, as they would eventually win their sixth NBA championship over the Utah jazz that summer.
Those championship runs by the Bulls also motivated the entire city, as Chicago was putting out multiple stars every year in the high school ranks. Many consider the class of 1998 to be particularly loaded. Of course, there was one player who headlined that class and wore the label of not only the top player in the city, but arguably the nation.
Corey Maggette started at Fenwick high school as a player who could play all five positions. Standing at the exact same height as Jordan, obvious comparisons were being made around the city. He was the Jordan of high school basketball at the time, even with plenty of others in the city putting together solid careers.
Consider this: four of the five players on the Chicago Tribune’s 1997–1998 All-State basketball team eventually were drafted by an NBA team. Future NBA players like Bobby Simmons couldn’t even make the first team because it was so loaded. So many of the players in that class went on to successful college and pro careers. Despite that, they all knew who was the best of the best from that era.
By his junior season, Maggette was considered a top-three recruit nationally in his class. He had hit his growth spurt and started to really utilize his athletic ability to dominate at the high school level. After an outstanding season, he really solidified his ranking in the summer on the AAU circuit, and also at major camps.
The Fenwick Friars found a way to make the Elite Eight in his senior year in 1998, which was a huge feat for a school not traditionally known as a power in the area. He made the school the hottest ticket in town not named the Bulls.
Corey or Quentin?
The two best players in the Chicago area heading into the 1997-1998 season were Quentin Richardson and Maggette. Richardson received more notoriety early in their high school careers, thanks largely to him playing for a more traditional power in Whitney Young.
During their senior seasons, many in the area rated Maggette as the more well-rounded player. Even though his team was inferior, Maggette’s physical maturity launched him over Richardson in the eyes of many. Both were projected as future NBA players, but Maggette’s physical skills made him more NBA ready.
The two would end up spending time on the same team in the NBA, and there was plenty of debate between the two going back to high school days. Richardson always has the state championship to hold over Maggette’s head, but even he concedes that his Fenwick rival was the more gifted player at the time.
Living up to expectations
There are countless stories out there of high school phenoms that never reach their full potential. There are always a few things that could go wrong in the end. Maggette understood the importance of school, and top academic institutions like Stanford and Duke recruited him hard. He ultimately decided to go to Duke, where he played one year before declaring for the NBA Draft.
At Duke, he found a role on the most talented team in college basketball in 1998-1999. Coming off the bench, he still found a way to average double-figure points to help the Blue Devils reach the National Title game. His mixture of top-level performance and outstanding potential made him a projected lottery pick after just one year, and he was one of the first three Duke players ever to declare early for the NBA draft.
Although some people doubted he was ready for the NBA after just one season at Duke, he put together a solid 14-year NBA career that led to millions of dollars playing the sport he loves. He stayed out on the west coast shedding his cold weather roots. He most recently lived in Newport Coast California just down the street from friend Kobe Bryant. He still is the most memorable player from that high school class, and will go down as one of the best high school players in Chicago in the 1990s. Like any competitive basketball player, he probably wishes for more success, but not too many people can say they were that productive in the NBA.