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What cities have the most basketball talent?

All the places you’d expect and Houston

Minnesota v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

In this post, we are going to look at two general questions. First, what areas of the country do basketball players come from. Second, what areas of the country are true basketball hotbeds?

A key concern whenever we start graphing spatial data is whether all we are actually doing is mapping the underlying general population. You may recall that we wrote an article highlighting just that problem a few months ago. In the image below, we show the total number of recruits by state from 2003 to the Present.

There are three caveats to this map. First, the data comes from 247Sports which does not seem to have consistent coverage of recruits for all years, especially future years. Second, prep schools that recruit nationally will skew this graph somewhat. New Hampshire’s recruits are almost entirely due to Brewster Academy. Third, while obvious this map only looks at the contiguous United States. A complete table of all states and the District of Columbia is below.

Number of Recruits by State from 2003-Present

State Number of Recruits
State Number of Recruits
Texas 970
California 859
Florida 663
Geogia 516
Illinois 515
North Carolina 443
Virginia 423
New York 393
Ohio 359
New Jersey 345
Maryland 323
Michigan 299
Indiana 292
Pennsylvania 289
Tennessee 254
Massachusetts 237
Alabama 214
Louisiana 193
Washington 163
Missouri 159
Arizona 150
Mississippi 147
Connecticut 140
Wisconsin 139
South Carolina 134
Minnesota 133
Kentucky 126
New Hampshire 122
Nevada 117
Oklahoma 114
Utah 108
Iowa 106
Kansas 103
Arkansas 98
Oregon 96
Colorado 93
Maine 78
District Of Columbia 44
West Virginia 44
Nebraska 34
Delaware 24
Wyoming 22
Idaho 18
New Mexico 17
Rhode Island 15
South Dakota 14
Montana 13
Vermont 11
Alaska 9
North Dakota 9
Hawaii 3

How then has recruiting moved over time? To get an initial answer at that question, I used data from the National Federation of State High School Associations on basketball participation rates to estimate the percentage of four star or better recruits per 10,000 high school basketball players for each state. I even put it in gif form in case you need screen saver.

That is the view on the state level. What about the city level? If you had to guess, what city would you guess has produced the most recruits over the last two decades? Chicago? New York? Los Angeles?

All wrong. It’s Houston.

Cities That Have Produced the Most Recruits from 2003-Present

City State Number of Recruits
City State Number of Recruits
Houston TX 156
New York City NY 154
Chicago IL 153
Los Angeles CA 105
Memphis TN 96
Philadelphia PA 91
Indianapolis IN 82
Dallas TX 79
Atlanta GA 71
Detroit MI 69
Cincinnati OH 67
Baltimore MD 64
Phoenix AZ 60
Fort Lauderdale FL 59
Las Vegas NV 59
Seattle WA 58
Charlotte NC 55
Orlando FL 55
San Antonio TX 55
Jacksonville FL 53

If we broke out New York City into the Boroughs only Brooklyn would make the top 20 cities. Certain cities on this list like Memphis, Baltimore, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale produce a large amount of recruits with relatively low population totals. As a general note, we did not age adjust these numbers which we suspect would produce a somewhat different curve.

While cities can produce a lot of D1 talent, certain cities produce far more of the cream of the crop. The following are the cities that produce the most four star or better talent, with another caveat. Because of the proliferation of prep schools that recruit nationally, the original version of this had Mouth of Wilson, VA as the second highest producer of basketball talent in the country. As Mouth of Wilson has a little over 1300 people that fact seems a bit surprising until one realizes that is where Oak Hill Academy is located. To correct for that problem, we simply removed cities that are home to major basketball prep schools. We recognize that we should give back recruits to various cities, but even that presents a problem. For example, is Carmelo Anthony from Baltimore or New York? Since we did not feel well educated enough to adjudicate those kinds of questions and we already reached the caring is creepy level, we’ve excluded all of them for the time being.


City State Number of Recruits
City State Number of Recruits
New York City NY 31
Memphis TN 31
Chicago IL 30
Houston TX 28
Los Angeles CA 28
Indianapolis IN 24
Philadelphia PA 24
Seattle WA 24
Dallas TX 21
Atlanta GA 16
Newark NJ 16
Fort Lauderdale FL 14
Jacksonville FL 14
Orlando FL 13
Baltimore MD 12
Birmingham AL 12
Detroit MI 12
Marietta GA 12
Miami FL 12
Saint Louis MO 12

The best basketball city in the country at a crude level of generality is Memphis, TN. Memphis has produced the most four star or better recruits since 2003. Furthermore, Memphis has dramatically fewer people than any of the other schools in the top 5. Fans of Minnesota will remember that Memphis is Andre Hollins’s hometown.

In our final post of this series, we will look at where top D1 programs recruit and get into a little predictive demography.