Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
Each week I’ll chat with a high-profile athlete’s former coach, mentor, family member, etc., and reminisce about their high school playing days; everything from the greatest moment to the wackiest story.
This week I caught up with Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal’s high school coach at Chaminade Prep (St. Louis) Kelvin Lee, now the head coach at Miller Career Academy (St. Louis).
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Bradley on the court?
Kelvin Lee: It was his sophomore year; we were playing one of our rival schools, CBC, at a tournament and Bradley hit a shot from half court to send the game into overtime. He didn’t just throw it, he actually shot it. We ended up winning the game and moved to the title game and we won that too. Tradition has it that seniors go pick up the championship trophy. So one of my seniors turned to me and said, “No, coach let Bradley go get it.” I was like, “What are you guys talking about he’s just a sophomore.” Then he said, “Yeah but he had 52 points!” I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that he’d done that. That’s how efficient he is. It was the quietest 52 points I’ve ever seen. So, of course, I was like, “Yeah Bradley got get that trophy son!”
JJ: When did you know he’d be a pro?
KL: I’d go back to his sixth grade year; he was shooting threes in P.E. class one day, and most sixth graders shoot a set shot, but Bradley had it up above his head stroking it like a man. He was making all of them too. I knew then he was really special. I remember when he was in the fourth grade his mom came to me and told me, “You’re gonna get this one!” I was shocked because his older brothers went to our rival school. But she said, “You’re gonna get this one and he’s gonna be the best of them all.” She was right on the money.
JJ: What’s the most interesting thing you can recall from his recruitment?
KL: Probably the summer going into his sophomore year; we went to team camp at Kansas and no one knew about him. There was a coaches meeting before it started that Bill Self spoke at and after the meeting I walked up to him and told him to remember the name Bradley Beal. He sent his assistant Curtis Townsend over to watch Bradley and he made nine-straight threes. The next game we played Bill Self and his whole staff were there. That night at the coaches social Bill Self came over to me and said, “I’ve gotta have him.” Billy Donovan just did a great job recruiting Bradley.
JJ: What was Bradley like off the court back then?
KL: Really mature. He’s always been like that. Nothing fazes him. He was really unassuming and was all about basketball and church. He didn’t really do anything; his mom wouldn’t let him. His mom ran a really tight ship in a good way.
JJ: Give me an interesting fact about Bradley?
KL: He shot 1,000 shots a day after practice ever since he was in the sixth grade. That’s why he’s such a great shooter.
JJ: How do you see this series with the Pacers playing out?
KL: It will be very interesting. Indiana has the experience factor working for them. If they start to get inconsistent again and start to struggle, I think Washington will beat them. I definitely expect Bradley to continue to thrive. He loves this stage. He’s built for it. I definitely think he’ll eventually be an all star and I could see him being an Olympian.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY