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 we’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 we caught up with Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving’s high school coach at St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) Kevin Boyle, now the head coach at Montverde (Montverde, Fla.).
Irving won his first NBA title in June and helped Team USA win Olympic gold in Rio.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Kyrie on the court in high school?
Kevin Boyle: Just that he really loved to play basketball. I know that sounds crazy but I would say 60-70 percent of the kids that I know that are good are not gym rats like you would think. Kyrie was in there all the time and he had self motivation. He was just so good at reading and reacting to ball screens; like do I split it, do I bounce around it, do I reject it. He made such quick reads. It was fun to watch.
JJ: When did you know he’d be not just a pro, but a potentially legendary pro?
KB: When Kyrie played his first game with us we played against St. Benedict’s Prep at Rutgers and they had a loaded team. We beat them by 30 and after the game I said that he’d be the best guard to ever come out of New Jersey. Some people got upset about that, but we see what happened. I could just tell. He had a rare combination of skills. I knew he was special.
JJ: What set him apart back then?
KB: I think it was his ability to use his left and right hand equally dominantly. That’s just something that not a lot of kids can do at that age and it really helped him be even that much more dominant.
JJ: Best off-the-court memory of Kyrie?
KB: Well, this one is still kinda on the court, but we were at an Invitational camp and he and his teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were outside just playing one-on-one. All of the kids were crowding around and the camp attracts players but not great players so they were all wide-eyed. It was a 5-on-5 game that turned into a one-on-one against those two. I can’t remember who won that.
JJ: What was Kyrie’s personality on the team?
KB: He’s always been a really great kid. He was the really confident kid, but not arrogant. He’s got great confidence and belief in his game. He always knew he was good enough and he always played and carried himself that way.
JJ: Are you shocked with what Kyrie’s been able to accomplish already?
KB: No, he just had it. Ya know, he’s a guy that has everything in him to be successful and it’s all coming together for him. I still don’t think we’ve seen his best. I think he’ll continue to get better and I think he’ll be a winner. He’s a special player.
Here’s how Kyrie Irving got it done in high school.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY