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.
We catch up 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.
For Girls Sports Month, we caught up with South Carolina’s head coach for women’s basketball Dawn Staley’s AAU coach for the Philadelphia Belles Mike Flynn.
Staley’s Gamecocks are the reigning national champions.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Dawn on the court back in her AAU days?
Mike Flynn: Probably winning the first Boo Williams tournament title. We had a great team and we played a team from Georgia and it was a high-scoring, late night game in a packed gym in Hampton, Virginia. We were losing, but it was close and when another one of our stars got her fourth foul I went to Dawn and told her she had to get it done. She did. It was probably one of the best games in that tournament’s history.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Dawn off the court?
MF: Probably when she came to speak at an event in Virginia. She was speaking to kids and young players and it was Dawn and Lisa Leslie. Dawn was very, very quiet on the court; she led by example and she was only feisty in the game setting. This event was when Dawn started to find her voice for the game. I remember telling her how proud I was of her.
JJ: What personality was she on the team?
MF: She was intense, competitive and demanding to win. That’s what made people follow her. She’s always been very likable.
JJ: I know she was legendary coming up in Philly with girls and boys. Do you think she could’ve played on the guys’ side?
MF: No, the physicality of the game would just be too much; not only on offense, but also having to defend.
JJ: What made her so great?
MF: Dawn enabled you, as a coach, to be able to watch everyone else. You didn’t have to say anything to her. She already knew.
JJ: What’s a talent she had that people would be shocked to learn?
MF: She had the unique and quiet ability to jump really high for her size. Dawn was a great jumper if you weren’t watching. That came from playing with the boys growing up.
JJ: Did you see this legendary career coming for her back then?
MF: Let me put it this way; you can tell great players and you hope they grow into great people and coaches. I can’t say that I thought Dawn would be this great coach because she was too quiet. She found her voice and it grew from there. Let me be bold: It’s important that this sport has a great, female, black coach and Dawn is it. Couldn’t ask for a better person than her in that position.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY