From Maywood to the league: A look back at Proviso East’s NBA pipeline
The basketball powerhouse in Maywood has churned out a dozen players who have played or are playing in the NBA. The list includes six first-round picks.
There are hundreds of players from the state of Illinois who have gone on to play in the NBA. Hundreds.
Many of the biggest basketball names in NBA history played their high school basketball in gyms across the Chicago area. The names are legendary: Isiah Thomas of St. Joseph, Dwyane Wade of Richards, Kevin Garnett of Farragut, Derrick Rose of Simeon, Anthony Davis of Perspectives and more.
There have also been plenty of obscure NBA talents who began their slow rise to professional basketball in Illinois, as well as big-time busts and tremendous, overachieving success stories.
But one Illinois high school has run the gamut when it comes to NBA dreams and success while producing the most NBA talent.
The parameters to make the list were simple: players had to have played in at least one NBA game in their career.
There is one school that stands out above the rest: Proviso East.
The basketball powerhouse in Maywood has churned out a dozen players who have played or are currently playing in the NBA. That list includes six first-round picks.
Simeon is next with seven NBA players, including four — Rose, Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker — who were all on NBA rosters at some point this past season. The rest of the Simeon list includes Nick Anderson, Bobby Simmons and Zach Norvell.
We are at the start of a sixth straight decade with at least one Proviso East product playing in the NBA. That doesn’t go unnoticed by those from the past or present.
Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce starred at Proviso East and is a part of the Pirates’ NBA legacy. As a coach, he’s used it as a tool and carrot.
“I definitely understood it by the time I was coaching there,” Boyce said of the Proviso East NBA pipeline. “I was drilling it into my players’ heads, especially that group that went through with Sterling [Brown] and Paris Lee and Jevon [Carter]. I reminded them we’ve had a player make it to the NBA in every decade since the 1970s. Who is going to be the next one?”
Boyce grew up four houses down from the home of the legendary Doc Rivers. He was always playing in the Rivers backyard as a kid.
“They would always let us come over and play there with three rules: no cursing, no fighting and put the ball back up when you’re done,” Boyce said. “Doc was such a mentor in so many ways for us as kids. He was always looking out for me. But having a NBA player as a neighbor was pretty big for me.”
Proviso East and University of Illinois icon Dee Brown wasn’t born and raised in Maywood. He didn’t arrive at Proviso East until his freshman year, moving in with his mom from the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.
“It was a basketball decision because all I knew was I was told I would be the first freshman starter in Proviso East history and I would be playing with a 7-footer and future NBA player,” said Brown of being given an immediate opportunity to play with big man Steven Hunter. “It was God’s plan, because I didn’t know much of anything about Proviso East before I moved there.”
But it didn’t take him long to figure out the basketball hotbed he was a part of as a freshman in high school.
“Once I got there I learned all about the history,” Brown said. “Playing there and being a part of that basketball was special. When you get to college and they ask where you want to be announced from in the starting lineup, it wasn’t Chicago. It’s Maywood and Proviso East. There is a pride thing there, growing up in their environment. You know what you’re going up against when you are out there, playing against NBA talent and future Division I players.”
From Rivers to Boyce to Brown, the lengthy list of Proviso East to the pros is impressive.
The following is a list of Proviso East players, listed by the year they graduated from high school, along with their greatest accomplishments.
Jim Brewer (Class of 1969)
The first big-named star out of Proviso East. He played collegiately at Minnesota, where his number was retired, after helping the Pirates to the program’s first state championship in 1969.
Brewer was the second overall pick in the 1973 NBA Draft, just behind another Illinois product, Doug Collins, from downstate Benton.
The 6-9 Brewer played for four different teams over nine NBA seasons, finishing with career averages of 5.8 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Glenn “Doc” Rivers (Class of 1980)
Without question the biggest star to ever come out of Proviso East. The 6-3 guard was a McDonald’s All-American who went on to star at Marquette.
The 31st pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, Rivers was a NBA all-star who finished his lengthy 13-year career with 9,377 points and 4,889 assists.
Rivers has had an even more successful career as an NBA coach. Currently the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, Rivers has won over 1,000 NBA games and led the Boston Celtics to a NBA title in 2008.
Reggie Jordan (Class of 1987)
Following two years at Southwestern Junior College, the 6-4 guard played two seasons at New Mexico State where averaged 14.6 points as a senior.
Jordan went undrafted but did reach the NBA, playing for five different franchises in a support role. He played in 186 NBA games over parts of six different seasons and averaged 2.7 points in his career.
Michael Finley (Class of 1991)
The long, storied career includes being a focal point for a Proviso East state championship team in 1991 that is regarded as one of the best and most exciting in state history.
Following a tremendous four-year career at Wisconsin, where he scored over 2,000 career points and had his number retired, Finley enjoyed a 15-year NBA career. He was a two-time NBA all-star and won an NBA title in 2007 with the San Antonio Spurs. Finley scored an impressive 17,306 points in his NBA career.
He now works in the front office for the Dallas Mavericks.
Donnie Boyce (Class of 1991)
The current head coach at Proviso East. He led the Pirates to a state runner-up finish in 2012 and a third-place finish in 2013.
As a player, Boyce was a star on the 1991 state championship team.
Although the record has since been broken, Boyce left Colorado as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Boyce put up whopping overall numbers for the Buffaloes with career averages of 18.6 points, six rebounds and 3.8 assists over four seasons.
A second-round pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, Boyce played just 30 games for the Atlanta Hawks during two NBA seasons.
Sherrell Ford (Class of 1991)
The third member of the famed “Three Amigos” that fueled the 1991 state championship team at Proviso East. At the time, Ford was arguably the biggest name among his high school teammates, Finley and Boyce.
After sitting out his first year at UIC, Ford became the most productive player in Flames basketball history. He put up over 2,000 points in just three seasons. His career averages were 22.9 points and 9.2 rebounds as he became the first UIC player ever to be drafted.
Ford was a first-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics — 26th overall in the 1995 NBA Draft. He played one season for the Sonics, averaging 3.2 points in 30 games as a rookie. Ford played in the CBA and overseas for 10 seasons.
Steven Hunter (Class of 1999)
The long, athletic and agile 7-footer was one of the top 50 prospects in the country as a senior in 1999. He signed with DePaul but spent only two seasons with the Blue Demons. He averaged just 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in those two seasons.
Hunter went on to play eight seasons in the NBA, primarily in a backup role. He averaged 15 minutes a game throughout his career, averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds.
Dee Brown (Class of 2002)
A superstar in high school and McDonald’s All-American who became a legend at the University of Illinois.
Brown was an All-American at Illinois while helping the Fighting Illini to a 37-2 record and national runner-up finish in 2005. He was a part of two Big Ten title teams.
Brown was a second-round NBA Draft pick. After being picked by the Utah Jazz, he played a total of 68 NBA games for three different teams before a long, successful nine-year career overseas.
Brown is beginning his first season as head coach at Roosevelt after five seasons as an assistant coach at UIC.
Shannon Brown (Class of 2003)
Considered one of the top five high school prospects in the country in the Class of 2003, Brown signed with Michigan State. While at Michigan State he scored 1,183 points in three seasons. As a junior, Brown averaged 17.2 points and 4.4 rebounds before departing for the NBA.
Cleveland selected Brown with the 25th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. While he was never a full-time starter, Brown carved out a productive nine-year career in the NBA, playing for eight different NBA teams. He ended his career averaging 7.6 points and won a pair of NBA titles while with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jacob Pullen (Class of 2007)
The scoring guard put together a sensational career at Kansas State, where he ultimately became the program’s all-time leading scorer. He scored over 2,000 career points for the Wildcats, including averaging 20.2 points as a senior. Pullen has his name all over the KSU record book as the all-time leader in three-pointers made and second all-time in both assists and steals.
Pullen’s NBA career consisted of playing in a total of three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2017-18 season. He was 1 for 2 from the field and scored 2 career NBA points.
Pullen has had a long, impactful career overseas and played this past season in the EuroCup in Slovenia.
Sterling Brown (Class of 2013)
A part of some big-time winning as a junior and senior at Proviso East. Brown led the Pirates to a pair of state trophies — second place in 2012 and third place in 2013.
He headed to SMU where he put together a rock solid career, scoring 1,110 career points.
He played this past season with the Dallas Mavericks, completing his fifth season in the NBA. His best season came a year ago when he played 24 minutes a game and averaged 8.2 points for the Houston Rockets.
Jevon Carter (Class of 2014)
Somewhat overlooked coming out of Proviso East and recruited by mostly mid-major programs, Carter signed with West Virginia and emerged as an All-American and national Defensive Player of the Year as a college player.
Selected in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft by Memphis, Carter has found his niche in the NBA and earned the reputation of being a valued, hard-nosed role player. He’s spent four seasons in the NBA and split time this past season with the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets.