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.
Today I caught up with No. 1 NBA Draft pick Ben Simmons’ high school coach at Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) Kevin Boyle.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Ben on the court in high school?
Kevin Boyle: It was at The Garden in his third year in the national championship game. He got poked in the eye then came back in and had a big steal and a big dunk on the other end to finalize the win against Oak Hill. That was memorable.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Ben away from the court?
KB: I think it’s how he grew up between his first two years and his last year when he started putting a lot more work in on his own. At first he was a really good player and, like most kids who are really good, he worked out during practice and with a trainer, but I saw more self-motivation in the last year. I know he feels a lot of pressure, and I think that’s a good thing. He’s got the work ethic and I’m confident he’ll do really well because of that.
JJ: Biggest knock was his shooting ability; are you confident that he’ll be fine there?
KB: Yeah, I’m confident he’ll be a solid to good shooter in the NBA. LeBron shot good enough at times and I think he’s got a better stroke than LeBron off the touch.
JJ: Did you see this, No. 1 overall pick, coming for Ben from the beginning?
KB: I can’t say that; I thought he’d be a really good player, but No. 1 pick is different. I couldn’t predict that. I thought he’d be a first round player or a lottery guy for sure, but to say I knew he’d be No. 1, I can’t say that.
JJ: What’s something fans would be surprised to know about Ben?
KB: When he’s in the post he always uses his right hand. People always talk about how great his right hand is in the post, but that’s the more dominant hand that he uses in the post. It’s kinda funny.
JJ: Is Ben the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year?
KB: I would say 100 percent. He’s gonna be the Rookie of the Year and I’ll be surprised if he’s not.
Here’s how Simmons got it done in HS.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY