Kevin Durant: The making of an All-Star

By Darnell Mayberry, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: April 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm •  Published: January 29, 2010

Du
rant walked out, retreating to grandma’s house. Barbara Davis played the role of peacemaker, then told her grandson he needed to go back. Durant complied, walking back to the gym to meet Brown and pick up where he left off.

Durant’s dedication led to swift development and spots on decorated AAU teams.

He teamed with Miami’s Michael Beasley while playing for the PG Jaguars and later played alongside Denver’s Ty Lawson with the D.C. Blue Devils.

But one of Durant’s toughest challenges was conquering older brother Tony, who had a burly build and a mind-boggling left-handed game.

"He pushed me and fought me and made it tough for me every day,” Durant said. "Every time I played against him, he would just frustrate me and make me mad.”

Until one day, when Durant was about 17, he settled the score for good during a pick-up game down at the rec. Tony caught Kevin’s crossover attempt and streaked the length of the court for a layup. Of course, he let little brother hear about it. But then Kevin tried another crossover and it led to an emphatic dunk. A dunk so hard Durant hurt his arm but conquered his closest competition.

"That would elevate my game,” Durant said. "Every time I played against him I just wanted to destroy him. That’s how he made me feel and that’s what got me better.”

Growing up on and off the court
Durant spent his first two years of high school at National Christian Academy, a private school in Fort Washington, Md. Coach Trevor Brown moved Durant to varsity just five games into his freshman season. He would lead the team in scoring as a sophomore while playing both guard and forward positions and center.

National Christian went 27-3 during Durant’s sophomore season, the best record in school history. College letters start coming in.

Following his sophomore season, Durant caught the eye of Texas assistant coach Russ Springmann at an invitational tournament in Delaware called the "War at the Shore.” Springmann followed Durant’s path from then on and later sold Texas coach Rick Barnes on Durant.

As a junior, Durant transferred to Oak Hill Academy, a private school in Mouth of Wilson, Va., with a storied history as a basketball factory. There, Durant teamed with Lawson, Eric Devendorf, who later starred at Syracuse, and Jamont Gordon, who went on to Mississippi State. Durant started every game, leading the Warriors to a 34-2 record. Durant averaged 19.6 points and 8.8 rebounds.

Legend has it that before Durant played a game for the Warriors, Oak Hill coach Stephen Smith put Durant in a workout against Josh Smith, then a high-flying senior who now stars for Atlanta. Durant, at only 15, held his own.

The next season, though, Durant’s stardom took off at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md. It’s where he became the nation’s No. 2 prospect and commanded the attention of every major school in the country.

Montrose, a tiny school off the Randolph Road with a maroon rubber court inside a compact gymnasium that holds 700, was a structured school that helped refine Durant. Coach Stu Vetter, however, will tell you that Durant didn’t need much help. Well, with most things.

Durant didn’t own a sportscoat until he arrived at Montrose. Vetter mandates that his players wear a coat and tie on signing day, and Durant couldn’t come up with one that fit his long arms.

"Now when I see him dressed on the cover of magazines I’m thinking, ‘Man, he’s come a long way,’” Vetter said.

Durant averaged 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds as a senior. But more than his basketball development, Montrose helped Durant kick up his work ethic a notch. Vetter put Durant on a strict program just to gain admission into Montrose. He had to take summer classes and maintain an acceptable grade-point average.

Once there, Vetter put Durant on an academic program in which he worked closely with former coach Josh Hutchinson and a development program with former assistant David Adkins. With Adkins, Durant did cone and chair drills to improve vision and agility, and with strength coach Alan Stein, Durant tried his best to bulk up.

"Everything we asked him to do he did and excelled at it,” Vetter said.

Down to earth
At just 21, Durant has now matured into a well-trained veteran. It’s often difficult to determine which part of Durant is more impressive, the player or the person.

"It’s just been fun watching him grow the way he continues to grow,” Texas’ Barnes said. "He’s a special individual.”

Barnes relayed a story about Durant that he says epitomizes his character. While Durant was in summer school in Austin last year, he spent a late night in the gym. To the surprise of freshman walk-on Dean Melchionni, a Pittsburgh native who didn’t know anyone, Durant was shooting at a basket with friends when the newcomer walked in. Stunned, Melchionni didn’t know what to do. He walked the other way.

"And all of a sudden Kevin walked toward him and said, ‘Aren’t you the new walk-on?’ ” Barnes said. "He said, ‘I am.’ And Kevin said, ‘Well I’m Kevin Durant. Welcome to the Texas family. Come on down here and shoot with us.’”

That same graciousness has carried over into Durant’s professional life.

During pregame locker room access, Durant patiently removes his headphones — an unspoken signal used by NBA players to tell reporters to bug off — and satisfies any and all inquires. He reaches out to fans at home and on the road and takes pride in signing autographs before games and using Twitter to send unsuspecting fans tickets.

"He has the purest heart that I’ve ever seen in any person,” said Pratt. "I don’t say that because he’s my son. I say that because that’s how I genuinely feel about him. He is just a sweet, sweet human being.

"I’ve always told him that this didn’t have to be you. It could have been somebody else. It could have been somebody else that coach Brown said is special and I’m going to put time in and help him. But it happened to be you so you need to be grateful and thankful.”


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