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.
We caught up with DeAndre Ayton’s high school coach at Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix) Kyle Weaver, who now serves as director and coach at Bella Vista College Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.).
Ayton was picked No. 1 overall by the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of DeAndre on the court?
Kyle Weaver: We were playing in Kentucky and we were up seven late in the game and the ball was going out of bounds by the opponents’ bench and he dove for the loose ball into their bench. I mean we’re gonna win the game, but he’s still playing hard like that. That’s just him. The funny thing is that the knock on him was that he doesn’t always play hard, but he did things like that all the time.
JJ: What’s your best memory of DeAndre off the court?
KW: Probably just seeing him grow. When he first got to us he was very shy and quiet and had been used by many people. Just to see the kid smiling and happy and not having to worry about being taken advantage of was great to see.
JJ: Did Phoenix make the right decision picking DeAndre at No. 1?
KW: Absolutely. He’s easily the most competitive player that I’ve ever coached. He really hates to lose. Not an “I’m gonna cry” hates to lose, he just doesn’t lose. That’s his mentality. Whether it’s playing against a teammate in a pickup game or playing Fortnite he’s gonna win. The second reason is that he’s really unselfish. People say they’ll do whatever it takes to win, but DeAndre actually means it. He could’ve averaged 40 points a game at Arizona if he wanted to press the issue like some other guys did, but he’s a team guy and he likes to make the smart plays. He’s like LeBron James where if a teammate has a better shot, he’s gonna pass it to him for the better shot. It’s not about him. He’s an awesome teammate.
JJ: Give me your NBA player comparison for DeAndre.
KW: I think it would be Joel Embiid. I know a lot of people say Embiid is a better shot blocker, but DeAndre played out on the wing most of the time. Embiid was right around the rim the whole time so of course he’ll block more shots. DeAndre was on the wing guarding 6-6 and 6-7 guys. I think DeAndre is more skilled than Embiid at the same point right now.
JJ: Is DeAndre Ayton the 2019 Rookie of the Year?
MF: Yes. He will be. Of course the game is all about stats, but he’s a guy who will pass off to Devin Booker if that’s what’s best for the team, but he’s such a talent he’s gonna put up numbers.
JJ: Give me a fun fact about DeAndre.
KW: He’s hilarious. The guy’s a comedian. Just really funny and loves to make people laugh. He’s also a homebody; very laid back.
JJ: Are the Phoenix Suns going to make the playoffs next season?
KW: I think so. I think the No. 7 or No. 8 spot is doable. I think they could make it as high as No. 6. They’re building that three-headed monster with a young group of talented guys like Devin Booker and Josh Jackson and now DeAndre. The Suns are definitely a team that’s gonna make a lot of noise in the future now.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY