SALT LAKE CITY — Two decades before Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, there was another high school player who went directly to the pros — and to a team in Utah.
The Utah Stars of the old ABA broke with tradition by drafting and then signing Moses Malone out of Petersburg High School in Virginia in 1974.
Malone became the first modern-era player to jump directly from high school to the pros, inspiring two prep players the following year — Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby — to go directly to the NBA (they would be the last for 20 years until Garnett came out in 1995).
After being recruited by more than 200 colleges, Malone had already signed a letter of intent to play for Lefty Driesell at Maryland. However, the Stars, after drafting him in the third round of the ABA Draft, swooped in and signed him on the first day he was supposed to start classes at Maryland.
At the time Malone was a skinny, 6-foot-10 player, weighing barely 200 pounds. He played in Salt Lake City for the Stars for two years, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds and when the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, he landed in Houston, where he became an all-star.
In Houston, where he was coached by Tom Nissalke for a couple of years, he won two MVP trophies and after being traded to Philadelphia, won an NBA championship playing alongside Julius Erving and another MVP award.
In all, Malone played 21 seasons in the pros, more than any other player in history and ended up seventh all-time in points scored with 27,409. He also holds the distinction of never fouling in 1,212 straight games.