All-America selections for high school boys basketball have been on the scene since 1949.
That’s when Chuck Taylor, a roving ambassador and promoter for the Converse Rubber Company, organized the first of eight North-South All-America games at Murray State College in Kentucky,
Taylor, who earlier started selecting college All-America teams for the athletic shoe producer, picked high school A-A teams from 1949-56 based mainly on performances in the post-season all-star game.
The original idea ended when the game was discontinued after the 1956 contest, which was skipped by many of the nation’s most touted high school players including future Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Jerry West plus Kentucky’s legendary Kelly Coleman. By not competing in the game, they weren’t considered for Taylor’s All-American selections.
Two other future Hall of Famers, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor, didn’t play in the previous two games and therefore weren’t on the A-A honor rolls.
The 1956 season did mark the first season for A-A selections by New York based Scholastic Coach Magazine, which earlier started similar selections in football and track in 1951. A selection board headed by Bob Lapidus of New York conducted the nationwide selections and the 1956 team included Robertson, West, Coleman, former NBA coach Doug Moe, and sophomore Jerry Lucas, who would become the first three-time honoree.
Popularity of post-season All-America selections increased a year later, in 1957, when a Sunday newspaper supplement, Parade Magazine, originated its annual A-A honor roll for boys basketball, six years before starting the football selections. The teams were selected by a New York-based public relations firm–Publicity Enterprises, headed by Haskell Cohen, a former sportswriter from Pittsburgh, Pa., and a publicity director for the National Basketball Association from 1950-69. Cohen died at age 86 in 2000 at his home in Fort Lee, N.J.
Parade’s first All-America boys basketball team consisted of three first-player squads. The first team, which later appeared on Steve Allen’s NBC television show, included Terry Bethel of Collinsville, Ill.; Tom Meschery of Lowell High in San Francisco, Calif.; junior Jerry Lucas of Middletown, Ohio; Al Butler of East High in Rochester, N.Y.; and Tony Jackson of Thomas Jefferson High in Brooklyn, N.Y.
After Cohen retired, the selections for all sports were handled by Michael O’Shea, who operates Sports Training Institute in Livingston, N.J.
In 1983, a new national daily newspaper, USA Today, joined the A-A selectors with a sportswriter from LaPorte, Ind., Dave Krider, in charge until leaving the publication in 2000 and being replaced by Chris Lawlor.
In 1972, the nation’s oldest sports preview publication, Street & Smith’s, added a preseason A-A honor roll to its basketball magazine. Pittsburgh schoolteacher and hobbyist Jack McKay compiled the selections until 1979 when Krider assumed the duties. Doug Huff, who contributed national high school statistical articles from 1975-85 and originated the Street & Smith’s football All-America honor roll in 1982, replaced Krider as All-America boys basketball selector in 1998.
Student Sports provided All-America selections between 1989 and 2014, first under the guidance of Huff and executive editor Mark Tennis and then under editor Ronnie Flores. Its unique approach is to pick teams strictly based on high school accomplishment, not based on college and/or pro potential, and are reflective of those that lead their teams to state championships.
Unlike some of the vast amount of recruiting-based All-American teams that have been published in recent years, GrassrootsHoops.net does not knowingly select fifth-year players, and those ineligible due to age or academics, to its All-American teams. Grassroots Hoops also breaks up selections among juniors, sophomores and freshmen and its national player of the year, known as Mr. Basketball USA, is chosen by a distinguished 10-man panel.