Words: AGGREY SAM
Portrait: MIKE DELFIN
I’m not a cocky person at all,” Michael Beasley says, “but I think I’m the number one player in the country.” Anyone who’s seen Beasley play knows the first part of that statement is a damn lie. But the second part, with apologies to a lot of other kids in this issue,
is arguably as real as it gets.
Size? Beasley goes a solid, 6-9, 230. Athleticism?
Fans and foes alike focus on his filthy aerial displays in pregame layup lines, let alone actual games. Jumper? From midrange out to the three-point line, he’s money. Handle? The big fella has shakes and spin moves for days and can pass like a point guard. Defense? When he’s motivated, he can stay in front of a quick guard or hold down the paint with his shot blocking. Inside game? He’s got some of the best post moves in the prep ranks and is ferocious on the boards.
So, while Beasley knows he might not handle like OJ Mayo, get buckets like Eric Gordon, dime like Derrick Rose or board like Kevin Love all the time, when he chooses to focus on any one of those aspects of his game, he’s up there with anyone—with a swagger
unsurpassed by any of them. “Those players are great players, but my attitude is, I’m the best player in the galaxy,” Beasley says. “That’s how I’m gonna carry it every time I come on the floor.”
The talkative and talented lefty has been a household name in the grassroots hoops community since he was in middle school. But even with his insane package of skills, detractors have had plenty of time to nit-pick over the years. One issue they’ve had with Beasley is the myriad schools he’s attended since eighth grade, including IMG Academy in Florida, Riverdale (MD) Baptist and Oak Hill (VA) Academy, who he helped lead to a 40-1 record and the No. 2 national ranking last season on the strength of his 20.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 4.5 bpg.
“I’ve just been trying to find a
home,” Beasley explains. “Every school I’ve been to, they’ve been great, but it’s just the little things.”
Curtis Malone, Beasley’s mentor, vouches for his protégé. “A lot of times, these kids are put in situations where some things just might not fit,” says Malone, founder of AAU powerhouse DC Assault. “We’re trying to make sure he’s being pushed, as a basketball player and as a student-athlete.”
The basketball part of that equation is foremost in Beasley’s mind, and seemingly the biggest reason for his Amare-like prep career.
“Other coaches still look at me like a high-school player—they want me to play center,” Beasley says. “I’m not gonna be a center in the NBA, I’m gonna be a three, so it’s like we have two different mindsets. I wanna do drills and work out the same way NBA players do.”
At his new home—Notre Dame (MA) Prep—that shouldn’t be a problem. The rural college prep school has become a factory for elite prospects, and with bigs like 6-10 Syracuse signee Sean Williams currently on the roster, Beasley should get plenty of work. “Obviously, he’s a very talented kid,” says ND Prep coach Bill Barton. “It’s hard for a lot of people to guard him. He’s really a player without a position.”
Even though Beasley routinely dominates top comp (see: the
2006 FIBA Americas U18 Tournament, adidas Superstar camp and Elite 24 game), his swagger suggests to some that he doesn’t always give 100 percent. “When people say I don’t go hard, I just laugh,” he says. “I’m laid back. That’s just the way I play.”
Nolan Smith, Mike’s longtime teammate with DC Assault and his former teammate at Riverdale
Baptist and Oak Hill, concurs. “People say he’s lazy and he doesn’t play hard all the time, but he’s a kid,” says the Duke-bound Smith. “Everybody’s gonna find something to say about your game.”
Skepticism wasn’t all that hard to find when
Beasley announced his college choice, either.
Last spring, he verbally committed to becoming Bob Huggins’ first big-time catch at Kansas State, a move that sent shockwaves through the recruiting world. On one level, the decision made perfect sense. Beasley had previously pledged to attend Charlotte, where Dalonte Hill was then an assistant coach. Hill, who also came up through the DC Assault program, was hired by new K-State coach Bob Huggins. Not long after, Beasley followed suit. “That commitment comes from Mike and Dalonte being so close,” says Malone. “Nothing can separate those two.”
Recruiting watchers saw a dark side to that conjoined setup, noting the somewhat sleazy appearance of a package deal and pretty much accusing Huggins of outright theft. Still, it’s hard to blame Beasley for either following his mentor or for linking up with Huggins, a proven coach known for his intense style and getting the most out of his players—a combination that seems a natural fit for the ultra-smooth and sometimes lackadaisical Beasley.
“Huggins is one of those guys that’s gonna make him work hard,” says Malone. “If you know anything about Huggins’ players, they all play hard as hell.”
While Manhattan, Kansas, might seem like a dubious location for a top prospect from the DC area, Beasley says that after his official campus
visit in late summer, he was surer than ever. “It’s nothing like DC—there’s a lot of farms and stuff— but it’s more of a city than people think,” reports
Beasley. “People showed me mad love out there.” Beasley seems truly excited about the chance to play for Hugs, who coached DC Assault alums and current pros James White and DerMarr Johnson while at Cincinnati. “Everybody’s dream is to make it to the NBA as quickly as possible,” he emphasizes,
“but I had my heart set on college since I was younger.”
The obvious follow-up is, how long will he stay? “Without a doubt, he’ll be a top college player,” says ND Prep’s Barton. “How long he’s in college for, I don’t know. I think how good he’ll be is dependent on how hard he’s willing to work.”
Malone, who’s had several NBA players come through his AAU program, says Beasley reminds him of a “young Derrick Coleman,” another southpaw. “If he works hard and stays focused, one day he can become an NBA All-Star,” says Malone.
And exactly because of his immense talent, Beasley knows that whether he’s in DC, New England or the Great Plains, he’ll always
face questions about the level of his intensity.
“I don’t pay any attention to it,” he says. “Right now, I’m not a pro. I’m a high-school player, a high-school student. Some people like me, some people hate me, but I’m just gonna be Mike Beasley.”
At this level, that’s more than enough.
This feature appeared in Punks Magazine #2