Friday, October 7, 2011

SCHEA COTTON: The Legend that Never Was!!!

Schea Cotton: Class of 1997

Written by: Ronnie Flores & Prospect-Central

There is an up and coming documentary entitled "Manchild" and it features a Los Angeles basketball legend by the name of Schea Cotton.  As if he were an urban legend, the story of Schea Cotton has been passed down from one hooper to another, supplanting the once future star into basketball mythology.  Like any story though, there has been misconceptions as to what really happened to the legend known as Schea Cotton.  For the first time, Schea and the people closest to him tell the story of what REALLY happened to the once can't miss prospect.  If there was ever such a thing as a "lock" for the NBA, then Schea Cotton no doubt would have been the "key".  The story of Schea Cotton just goes to show that no matter how certain something appears, nothing is guaranteed in life. Below is a trailer of the documentary "Manchild" followed by an article written on Schea from August of 2010.

Expectations for the future of Schea Cotton were as great as any pre-high school aged player ever, even LeBron James.
Today, 32-year-old Cotton spends his time on a basketball court teaching young players, instead of schooling them. He’s still in good shape, around 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, roughly his same size as a sophomore at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
His size is problem No. 1.
Cotton was the first -- and only -- sophomore ever named Cal-Hi Sports Div. I State Player of the Year.
That occurred in 1995, problem No. 2.
Cotton was reared during the explosion of AAU basketball, expanding media coverage of high school athletics and an increased emphasis on sport-specific training at a young age.
After summer basketball pioneer Sonny Vaccaro parted ways with Nike in 1990, shoe companies fought over allegiances to the nation's elite high school talent. The infatuation with the elite players was hard to corral. And Cotton was the best among his peers.

"He was our LeBron James," said 1996 North (Riverside, Calif.) graduate, SoCal AAU veteran and former NFL linebacker Chris Claiborne.

"Schea was very good, but he was put on top of the mountain, without ever really climbing the mountain," said Vaccaro, founder of the ABCD Camp. "What happened was many California kids didn’t maintain that competitive edge. Those kids were further along in their development. It showed when they played teams from other regions."
“When we played AAU teams from California and New York, we were automatically intimidated,” said Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, a product of Lincoln (Dallas) and Texas Blue Chips AAU. "Once we got over that, we realized we could play with anybody."
The intimidation factor and Cotton's early exposure to the high-level performance training methods of Marv Marinovich (Todd Marinovich's father) likely worked against him in the long run.
"It turned into a dunk and power show," said ESPN RISE Vice President Andy Bark, who first met Cotton in the fourth grade. "Schea could just overpower kids. That’s works in high school, but when you’re 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5, that’s not necessarily going to work against 7-footers in the NBA.”  
Could Cotton see those three aligning forces in high school? Was it all too much, too soon?
"I was a 15-,16-year-old kid," Cotton said. "Tell me, what were you doing when you were 16? It's kind of hard to see that at 16 years old. The hardest thing to do is remain the best, not be the best, especially when all they want to do is chip you down."
Cotton says another force, namely the NCAA, was a larger hindrance. After missing his senior year with a shoulder injury -- suffered in a 35-point, seven-dunk performance in an AAU game against Lamar Odom, Cotton signed with UCLA. The NCAA, though, ruled his SAT score invalid.
He wasn't able to suit up for UCLA -- a huge blow in Cotton's estimation -- nor N.C. State in 1998-99 following a year of prep school at St. Thomas More (Andre Drummond's High School).
"There are certain things I can't discuss, but the NCAA invalidated my test scores and took two years from my career,” said Cotton, who has a documentary on the topic in the works. "I could never recoup them.”
A different point of view why Cotton didn't reach the NBA also emerged: perception.
He wound up at Long Beach City College, his seventh straight season of dominating mostly inferior competition after repeating a grade in middle school. Cotton evolved from a 13-year-old with unlimited potential to a 20-year-old with a perceived low ceiling and a rap sheet of dominating younger, lesser opponents.
Cotton doesn’t focus on that seven-year period to explain what went wrong. 
“I think the big question is: What would have Schea done with those two years at UCLA?” said Cotton, who feels declaring for the NBA out of high school would've been the right move. “If the competition was up to par, great. But if it was not, there was nothing I could do about it. That was out of my control.”
In a brief moment of realization, Cotton speaks on the prevailing conditions that surrounded him – and their affect on his pro career.
"Honestly, a majority of the best players didn’t make it. When you’re hot, then you go cold, it's kind of hard to warm up again.”  Original Article. 


  1. Just one of many overhyped players. Not his fault, but he was way overrated, just like Korleone Young,James Lang, Lenny Cooke, Jonathan Hargett,etc.

  2. Maybe he should've stayed at one high school- instead of constantly transferring and attending four.

  3. I am not defending schea but, I went to high school with him and everyone took from him, from the self proclaimed basketball genius of coach Breslin to the little high school hangers-on. It has to be difficult with all those voices.

  4. schea cotton once considered the best high school basketball player in the country (and rightly so), but never really improved much after that. Michael Jordan on the other hand couldn;t even make his own high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore but worked very hard to become what many say the greatest basketball player ever. Maybe had schea worked harder and not try to take numerous lazy short cuts he would have at least made the NBA.

  5. I think I saw him play a game over the 95/96 Christmas season in the Anaheim area but I am not sure. Would he have been playing at Maitre Dea at that time? I think they were playing Tustin in a tournament final at a community college but it was a long time ago now.

    1. Could have been at Chapman College, now Chapman University in Orange, at the Orange Holiday Tourney. Mater Dei used to play in that every year. I saw him play many times.

  6. Having seen him as a freshman (he was actually the age of a sophomore in HS since he was held back a year), I can say I was more wowed by what he could do than any other player I've ever seen in high school. He was not a good shooter. He was not a great free throw shooter either. He played lazy defense. But, when he slashed through the middle or went up to challenge a shot it was amazing. I never saw Lebron play in HS but I imagine Lebron was similar. The problem with Schea was he never got any bigger and ended up being a "tweener". He brought the ball up court sometimes but wasn't a point guard. He was shooting guard size but with a poor shot. He could jump like a small forward but couldn't defend. He was built proportionately like a power forward but was too small. Contrast him with Charles Barkley who was an inch taller (maybe) but 50 pounds heavier and could shoot. Charles didn't play defense either but you couldn't push him around and he was sneaky quick. Plus, if you left him alone he would bury his shots. He also had a tenacity to get to the rebounds. Schea just didn't play like that. Still, he was a highlight reel. I hope he keeps working with kids and helping them out. He's got a perspective of growing up that few kids every get.

    1. Well said sir. You hit the nail right on the head with your assessment. PC actually had a feature back in January of the Top 25 Ballers Never to Play in the NBA, and Schea cracked the list. In the article, an NBA executive summed up why Schea never made it to the highest level:

      "If I were a basketball coroner, it would be an easy cause of death: Too much, too soon, and he wasn't 6'11''. As he got older, other players matured and advanced their skills, but he was stuck in neutral with horrible habits."

  7. Shea was an absolute beast! No sugarcoating needed!...Why didn't he jump from hs to the pros after his sr year? ...Any1 know? I mean honestly was it for lack of talent!? ...Honestly? Don't hire an agent and put your name in the draft out of Bosco, no? ....That's what I don't get!??... Had he declined that much from his soph yeah div 1 championship & #1 ranking for his class to his sr. year after leaving Mater Dei? That is the largest ? that looms and if any socal follower is on here and can answer that I'd be delighted to hear about it via PM or otherwise. Did he hit his peak as a soph or as a fresh at MD? Or possibly 8th grade? Really was the NCAA/UCLA thing single handedly to blame? Idk about that. Or was his downfall after he was on top the world as state player of year as a soph leading his team to win the ultimate prize a state title at the largest div. Why I said that is cuz I'm from norcal and saw Schea once in the state champ game at what is now Oracle Arena (Oak Coliseum then) up here and that OT win Mater Dei put on Fremont of Oak. Schea's performance single handedly made me want to better myself and take basketball serious (only a 3rd grader just started to experiment w the sport). He/that performance was all the motivation I needed. The guy was basically superman and a man amongst boys out on that court as a soph in the div1 state game (I think he had like 39pts? & just absolutely willed MD to that victory). He was clearly playing himself out there basically. No one could guard was silly looking back. Now I am a super bball junky and hs/grassroots bball junky at that and annoy everyone w my knowledge of hs cbb n nba hoop trivia. I love the game and apart of me has Schea to thank for that. As his performance in that game...honestly was up there w Lebron's Espn natl televised games vs Oak Hill and Westchester etc. etc.. and motivated this 9yr old in the stands to take up bball for life. Glad to see Schea giving back and I would hope since I was also a classic case of "too good too early" (at least according to my peers in my small town whom didnt know any better and thought I was destined to get a full ride to play at UNC),... that he is content in his heart and happy w life after ball. Same goes for the Lenny Cooke's Ronnie Fields and all the others ones out there as well tho. Things in life happen for a reason. Somewhere else I saw where he stated most of the best one's don't make it. That held true for my class. Every class is diff tho. You gotta re-prove and maintain your game at every level while balancing the different growths or lack of growths and off the court distraction stuff is the bottomline I think. Everything must just fall in place to make it pro in NBA/NFL etc etc..