Durant reached his breaking point once with Brown’s military-like demands, while executing a drill at the age of thirteen where he was required to stand for an hour, frozen in the proper shooting form. He’d finally had enough and stormed out. Two hours later, he was back. KD often took naps at the center. Other kids made fun of him because he ostracized himself in the cocoon of the game, always carrying a ball that often left the dirty remnants of his pursuits stained on his white t-shirts. But he could care less.
“Basketball became my priority,” Durant told The San Antonio Express News. “I didn’t let anything get in the way of that.” As member of the P.G. Jaguars, Durant, along with Beasely and former UNC-Charlotte power forward Chris Braswell, collected numerous AAU national championships. He also spent some time with the D.C. Blue Devils AAU program, playing alongside another talented neighbor, a jet quick, diminutive point guard named Ty Lawson.
Between his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Durant grew six inches, sprouting to 6′7″. After ripping through his first two seasons at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Maryland, he arrived at the esteemed Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. During his first action at Oak Hill, the summer before his junior year, the 15-year-old Durant was matched up against 18-year-old Josh Smith, a few months shy of Smith’s selection by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the NBA draft. “Kevin didn’t back down at all,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith told the San Antonio Express News. “He held his own.”
Durant averaged 20 points and nine rebounds as a junior at Oak Hill and then returned to Maryland to play his final prep season at Montrose Christian. Smith was not shy about stating that Durant would one day be better than Rod Strickland, Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony and all of the other prep school greats who’d worn the Oak Hill uniform.
As a senior at Montrose in 2006, Durant took MVP honors at the prestigious McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American games. But it was at the University of Texas where his legend began to formally coalesce. He scored 37 points four separate times, blazed for 30 points or more on twenty occasions, and became the FIRST FRESHMAN EVER to win the coveted Naismith and Wooden Awards.
After his signature college performance, a 37-point, 23-rebound masterpiece against Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech team, Durant was not satisfied as he sat at his locker after the victory. “I can play better,” he told the media. The king of enthusiastic and bombastic hyperbole, Dick Vitale, described him as, “…the most prolific offensive skilled big perimeter player ever.” And Durant makes a compelling case, every time he steps foot on the court, to validate those ballyhooed remarks.
Now, more than 30 years later, we can fully appreciate what an anomaly Bird and Magic were at such precocious young ages. Because it has taken that long for us to get such a salivating matchup of the world’s two best young players. With both vying for current and future NBA supremacy, the next ten years or so is stretched before them like a plush red carpet, with its welcoming invitation sucking them into the pantheon of promise fulfilled and legendary greatness.
The Heat, with James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, versus The Thunder, with Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook, is a matchup that promises, due to the astonishing skill and unearthly athleticism on both rosters, to make us stutter and stammer like the champ in Harlem Nights.
Other than the magnificent James, there is no greater young prospect in the game today with the combo of length, desire, work ethic and an insatiable appetite for greatness – all of which marinate with a smooth, devastating offensive weaponry – than the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Wayne Durant.
We are currently eyeballing the ascension of one of the greatest talents the game has ever, or will ever, witness. And the truly exhilarating part is that we’re really at the precipice of his professional breakthrough.
Growing up in Suitland, Maryland, situated in Washington D.C.’s outskirts of Prince George’s County, Durant’s early passion for the game led him to the doorstep of the Seat Pleasant Activity Center.
Sensing his innate drive, Taras “Stink” Brown, who served as the resident basketball guru at Seat Pleasant, became committed to Durant’s development, along with others who exhibited a willingness and aptitude for his boot camp-like program.
Durant worked his way through an endless maze of drills over the years – sprints, crabwalks, defensive step slides, every assortment of ball handling, passing, rebounding and shooting drill imaginable.
Outside of the physical repetitiveness designed to burn the fundamentals and mechanics into his muscle memory, an advanced academics component consisting of video breakdown and required reading was also part of the curriculum.
“Between the ages of 10 and 16, Kevin put in eight-hour days during the summer,” Brown told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl in 2007. “Some days I wouldn’t pick up a basketball,” Durant told Wahl. “He’d put 60 minutes on the clock and say I had to do defensive drills the whole time.” There were also written assignments such as composing, 500 times, ‘Stink’s’ six successive elements of a jump shot – “Square Up, Eyes on the Basket, Jump Hard, Step Back Quickly, Loft the Ball and Follow Through.”
And then, there was the quadriceps-burning, 75-foot incline of Hunt’s Hill and the ensuing backwards jog to the bottom. The drill was completed after 25 up-and-down sequences.
“The average kid wouldn’t do it,” Brown told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. “I’ve had kids run it with him. They get to the top and keep on going. Not Kevin. Kevin always kept coming back.”
Part 1 of 3 part article from Alejandro