"Your candle burned out long before...your legend ever did"
I am quite sure Elton John wasn't a high school basketball fan, and I am also quite sure that when he wrote the song "Candle in the Wind" he wasn't really talking about sports in general. However, the phrase from the song can be compared to sports. There are many young players that grow up surrounded by the hype being thrown around about their talent and abilities.
If the state of Ohio would ever put together a list of the greatest high school basketball players, there would be a general consensus that it would consist of LeBron James, Jerry Lucas, Clark Kellogg, and maybe Jimmy Jackson. However, for every James, Lucas, Kellogg and Jackson, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of other players that had the ability, but never quite lived up to what they were "hyped" to do. Before the explosion of the internet, before the rapid growth of ranking services, and before the rise of AAU, there was one Ohio player that COULD have put his name in lights next to those other great players.
The kid from Columbus was the next big thing in the mid to late 1990's. So good and so young. Weaver was the top ranked player in his class in sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade and as a freshman. The top ranked player in the country. Ahead of such other players as Lamar Odom, Tracy McGrady, and Ron Artest. When Weaver was in the seventh grade, Ohio State assigned one of their assistant coaches to follow him at every one of his games. He was LeBron before LeBron.
Think of a left handed Derrick Rose with a better jump shot
In his article for the Newark Advocate titled "Ohio seeks a 5th Star" writer Larry Phillips writes about Weaver being mentioned with the greats of Ohio basketball:
Estaban Weaver is the best high school freshman I’ve seen. Yes, better than James. I saw the 6-3 Weaver play in a scrimmage at Lexington High School before his first varsity game (he already was rated the top freshman in the nation), and until he shot a free throw I couldn’t tell if he was right- or left-handed.
Weaver is Ohio’s version of New York City playground legend Earl Manigault, said to be a peer of Lew Alcindor in Big Apple lore.
Weaver started his high school career at Bishop Hartley, started as a freshman, averaged 25 points a game, and was named first team All-Ohio. After a sophomore season where he quit the team mid-season,and after averaging 26 points a game, again being named first team All-Ohio, Weaver transferred to Maine Central Institute, where he was promptly kicked off the team. He then enrolled at Columbus Independence, where he would form a dynamic duo with Independence star Kenny Gregory.
To see a feature on the tandem, click here
How good was Kenny Gregory? He went on to win Ohio's Mr. Basketball award his senior season, and played for the University of Kansas for four years.
And Estaban Weaver was better
It was about this time, the problems that plagued Weaver in his "tour" through high schools began to resurface. The same problems that many players of that age and talent level run into: Ego and Immaturity
The "bad" Estaban Weaver stories are legendary....One story from the start of his senior year was when Kansas visited an Independence practice. They were there to see Kenny Gregory. After finding out that they were there to see his teammate, Weaver promptly just walked out of practice. After being taken out of a game for a sub, Weaver simply went back to the locker room, got dressed, and watched the rest of the game from the stands. He had a reputation (rightly earned) as a loose cannon and an unwillingness to be coached. This led to his dismissal from the Independence team for his senior season. Worst of all, in his mind, the colleges and recruiters stopped calling.
Not being able to graduate with his class due to poor grades, and Division I colleges scared away, Weaver's only route was junior college. He went to Tallahassee Junior College, where his troubles followed him.
When Estaban was right socially he was an incredible player, but when he wasn't right socially he was among the most hard I have ever had to cope with. He isn't a terrible human being .There is a great deal of goodness in his heart.....Tallahassee Junior College Coach Mike Gillespie
He transferred to Central State University, an NAIA school, after sitting out a year. He did average 19 points a game in his lone season at the school.
Unfortunately, he made another regrettable decision: He made himself eligible for the 2001 NBA Draft, and to no one's surprise, he went undrafted.
It was at this point, that Estaban Weaver fell off the face of the earth.
There would be times where he would resurface, and it only made the legend of Estaban Weaver grow
In 2005, Weaver would play in the Worthington Summer League, where former and current Ohio State basketball players would play. Terrance Dials, Tony Stockman, Sylvester Mayes, JeKel Foster, Ron Lewis, J.J. Sullinger and Scoonie Penn would all play in the league that summer
And Weaver would lead the league in scoring, once putting up 54 points in a game against a team of those Ohio State players
After another 2 year hiatus, Weaver played for the Marysville Meteors of the International Basketball League. At 29 years old, he led the league in scoring at 34 points a game.
Estaban Weaver's journey through high school and college basketball should serve as a cautionary tale for any athlete that has the spotlight on them at a young age
The Estaban Weaver story does have somewhat of a happy ending. In Weaver's current position, he tutors and guides young players, telling them about his journey, and the pitfalls that could come with hanging around with the wrong crowd.
Unfortunately, the best players don't always become household names
Estaban Weaver was The Best That Never Was