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 Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner’s high school coach at Nimitz (Houston), Debbie Jackson.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Brittney on the court in high school?
Debbie Jackson: That’s tough; I’d say her first dunk in high school at Northbrook was a really memorable moment because it was the first during a game. Nobody was really expecting it at all, but the opportunity came and she did it. The whole gym just kinda stopped for a sec like, “My gosh, what did we just see?” Then it hit everybody and they all stood up and started clapping. The other one was the semifinals of the state tournament when she dunked. It was the first dunk ever at the girls’ state tournament. Both were pretty memorable!
JJ: What’s your best memory of Brittney off the court?
DJ: Well, she’s got a great sense of humor! I remember one time during her senior year she was wearing a men’s 17 shoe and she held the shoe up to her face and it was so much bigger than her face. That’s when everyone started calling her Bigfoot. She never minded making fun of herself or her teammates; all in good fun.
JJ: What’s the craziest story you can recall from her recruitment?
DJ: After word got out that she was dunking the ball we had 15 college coaches in the gym watching practice the next day. She’d do it and all of them would whip out their phones saying, “It’s true! She can dunk.” It was pretty funny.
JJ: What would people be shocked to know about Brittney?
DJ: In junior high, she played soccer not basketball. Most people don’t know that. She played basketball for the first time as a freshman in high school. The soccer coach was always trying to get her to come out and play goalie, but she never did it.
JJ: When it’s all said and done will Brittney Griner go down as the WNBA’s GOAT?
DJ: I really think Brittney will go down as the greatest women’s basketball player ever. She changes the game. There’s not a big person that has her capabilities. She’s just unique to the game. Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi and players like that are spectacular talents, but Brittney brings something different and unique to the game. I think she brought a lot of men to the women’s game because of what she can do. She’s rare and I really think she’ll go down as the best.
Check out how Griner got it done in high school.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY