It isn't class of 2014 standout Khadeem Lattin's decision to transfer schools for the second time in less than a year that makes his situation different than a host of other prep superstars. It's where he's transferring.
Lattin, a 6-9 forward out of Houston who is rated as the No. 21 junior in the country by ESPN, announced today that he has enrolled at the Canarias Basketball Academy...in Spain. The move makes Lattin the first top 25 high schooler ever to emigrate to a foreign country to develop his talents.
Since the institution of the rule requiring players entering the NBA draft to be 19-years-old or have completed their freshman year of college in 2006, two high-profile recruits have opted to head overseas to play professionally before declaring for the draft.
After graduating from Oak Hill Academy in 2008, Brandon Jennings made national news in July by announcing that he had signed with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian Lega A. Jennings had been all set to play his college ball at Arizona. He posted modest numbers during his one season in Europe, but was still selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the tenth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He has averaged nearly 16 points per game over two seasons in the league.
San Diego big man Jeremy Tyler took things a step further in 2009 when he announced that he was skipping his senior year of high school to play professionally abroad. He had signed with Louisville during his junior season.
Tyler struggled mightily to adjust to life overseas, and his many issues while playing for a professional team in Israel were highlighted by a piece in The New York Times. He ultimately quit the team after ten games and returned home to the States. In 2010, he signed with a professional team in Japan where he adjusted to life slightly better. He was selected by Charlotte with the 39th pick in last June's NBA Draft, but was quickly traded to Golden State.
What makes Lattin's situation unique, of course, is that he isn't leaving the country so he can get paid to play the game. In an era where the top high school players in the country flock to the same locations every summer so they can be seen by as many coaches and scouts as possible, Lattin is leaving the country entirely.
The Canaris Basketball Academy has established a solid reputation in recent years, and to date hasn't had any eligibility issues with the NCAA. Several CBA products have signed with Division-I schools, and the Academy has formed a notable relationship with Seton Hall, which boasts three graduates (Patrik Auda, Aaron Geramipoor and Haralds Karlis) on its current roster. In 2011, coaches from over 50 NCAA Division 1 college, including every ACC school outside of Duke and North Carolina, visited the Academy.
Still, CBA has never had a player as highly-touted as Lattin enroll. The move calls into question issues like how the national scouting services will handle the situation, and whether or not the NCAA starts paying a bit more attention to overseas institutions.
And it isn't like Lattin doesn't have strong American roots. His mother, Monica Lamb, is a former WNBA player (Houston Comets) and member of the U.S. National Team. He's also the grandson of Dave Lattin, the starting center for the famous Texas Western team that beat Kentucky to capture the 1966 national championship.
As it stands, CBA is the only foreign basketball academy that is consistently churning out Division-I talent. That could all change if Lattin's story turns out to be one of immense success.