Each NBA Draft is filled with young men looking to take their game to the biggest stage, while finally being paid to play the game.
St. John’s senior guard Phil Greene IV’s dreams are no different. Like most kids from Chicago, the South Side native had to grow up quickly on unforgiving streets, where life can change within a bounce of Spalding to pavement.
Greene has already undergone workouts with the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers, while the Brooklyn Nets and others are working to bring him in for a look.
His road up to this point is long on perseverance and belief. What better person to tell you about that journey than Greene himself…
I come to work every day and grind. I don’t cause any problems and I feel I can bring a lot to a team. Defensively, I normally guard the best guards. On the offensive end, I can score, as well as create, so my teammates can get their looks.
I’m a scrapper, shooter and basically an all-around ball player who would do anything that it takes to win. I’m a team player, a leader and someone who goes out there each and every night and gives it his all.
I’m from the South Side of Chicago, raised on 116th and Vincennes. That is a real rough neighborhood, lots of violence everywhere and every day. They actually call it “The Jungle.” It was like either you play ball or you join a gang. I was actually good enough where the neighborhood would keep you away from that. It’s like, “Oh no. You play ball. This is not what you’re supposed to be doing. You need to stick to ball so you can get out and help the neighborhood out.”
I lost of a couple of friends. I lost my best friend my sophomore year of high school. Michael Haynes, he used to play ball. He was going to play at the University of Iona before he got shot and killed right across the street from my house. That one hurt me a lot because he was like my big brother. We did everything together. He was just in the neighborhood and trying to help someone out.
That’s why I work hard every day, just to get my mom and family out of that.
Every single day, I think about that all the time and it pushes me. Just making something better of my life. Every time I go back, everyone is doing the same thing. Somebody has to help change that and I want to be the one to help change that.
When I was younger, my mom used to make me come in when the streetlights came on. I had to keep a close circle to stay away from getting in trouble. Basketball was my getaway. I used to go to the park all the time and play from sun up to sun down, even when there was snow on the ground. As a little boy, my pops helped me out a lot by getting me into the sport. I used to watch ESPN Classics all the time and I learned a lot from watching the old-timers play.
I went to four different high schools: George Washington my freshmen year, Christian Fenger Academy my sophomore year. My third year I went to Percy L. Julian and my senior year, I went to IMG Academy in Florida.
I transferred from George Washington because there were race riots in the school. It wasn’t a safe environment for me. The reason I transferred from Fenger was Julian was a better learning environment from Fenger. I went to IMG because Coach Loren Jackson got the job and I knew the experience there would better prepare me for college with just being in the best facilities with some of the best trainers. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Coach Jackson helped me out with everything. He saw talent in me when no one else did. He always told me that I had something special. He had a track record of sending players to college and he was a great person to learn under because he would teach you the game.
Those experience made me tougher and I met a lot of new friends in each spot that I went to. Even with me not staying long, I was able to build relationships with a lot of different people from a lot of areas. It just helped broaden my horizons.
I choose St. John’s University because I wanted to be in a big city, play in Madison Square Garden and it was a loaded recruiting class. I think we had the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation that year. It was a lot of things that factored into me picking St. John’s. I think it was a great decision.
We had to rebuild a program that wasn’t winning before we got here. We built the program each and every year. My senior year, we were ranked 15th in the nation and we were on a roll. We made the NCAA Tournament and I had a great career in my four years: 1,000-point scorer, fifth all-time in three-pointers made.
I think it was a great decision to learn from Coach Steve Lavin. He helped me out a lot and was like a father figure to me. I would do anything for him because I know he would do the same for me. I love the school. Now I’m getting my degree, and getting ready to close this chapter and getting ready for the next one.
One of the most memorable games in my career came this year against Georgetown at the Garden. It was Senior Night and the game was on CBS. It was a big-time game. A rivalry game. We hate Georgetown and with it being our last game at Madison Square Garden, having family there and the atmosphere, it was one we had to win. We wanted to go out as seniors on top and I wanted to play very well, just because we don’t like Georgetown and they had just beat us earlier in the year.
That was a big game for me. I think I had 26 points and 7 rebounds. My whole family was watching and I just felt so good getting the satisfaction from the fans and knowing that we beat Georgetown in our last game in Madison Square Garden.
What makes me feel I’m ready for the next level is having played against a lot of players who play professionally. Even players that I played with that went to the league and then they come back during the summer and play; I’m right there with them. When you play against the best in the sport and you can hold your own, you think that you can do exactly what they’re doing, or you can do it even better.
I think I can play any style of basketball. Here, at St. John’s, we played a lot of up-tempo, up and down, try and get a lot of turnovers, push it in transition because we were really fast. We played three guards. So it was basically like three point guards at one time. We all complimented one another and Coach Lavin let us play basketball. He let us play free and play our game. As long as we made the right decisions, he didn’t have a problem with it.
I like to watch Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry and Jarrett Jack. I watch all those crafty guys. I take a lot of moves from Jamal Crawford also. I love the way he plays because he plays off of reaction. He just reads the defender and makes his move.
I think I can fit in any system. Whatever is needed and asked of me as a player, I know I can do it.