by Aggrey Sam / @CSNBullsInsider
In the current issue of the magazine, you’ll see a piece on Rockets PG Patrick Beverley in which he tells his own story. It’s fitting because his strong preseason proved he’ll be an important piece for Houston over the course of 2013-14, especially as people who just knew him previously as “dude who ended Russell Westbrook’s season” realize that he can actually play.
But even people who were familiar with his game from the middle of last season, when the Rockets signed him from a Euroleague team in Russia—and even for those who knew of him from his days at Arkansas—may not fully comprehend his journey. I can safely say I have a better understanding of it than most, and not just because I live in Chicago now.
Back when I was living in Philly and just finding my niche writing for the PUNKS section of the magazine, one of my assignments (ironically for the last issue of the special summer issue of PUNKS, if I recall correctly) was writing a recap of a tournament sponsored by AND1, featuring HS teams from around the nation. It was a little different than most summer events because it had actual school teams, not AAU programs, and it coincided with some camps, so I can’t say that the best of the best were in attendance.
But there was some talent: a top-ranked St. Benedict’s team with fringe NBA players Lance Thomas and Samardo Samuels, a Dallas team with future NFL WR Michael Crabtree (he could hoop, too) and the eventual winner, Artesia, which had a southpaw sophomore wing named James Harden, who actually caught my eye because of his defense and wasn’t the Cali team’s top offensive option or most highly-touted player.
Another squad in the tourney, which was held at Philly’s La Salle University (AND1 was based in the city’s suburbs), was Marshall HS out of Chicago, and being that Hoop Dreams is my favorite movie of all-time, I was excited to see them play. One of the youngest teams in the event (a few of the underclassmen developed into D1 players in time), they got blown out in both of their games, but I couldn’t take my eyes off their skinny rising-senior guard who played every possession like it was his last, guarding opponents full-court and finishing with 39 and 38 points in the two defeats, one of which was to Harden’s Artesia squad.
This was the year when Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson were the big names in Philly’s senior class and McDonald’s All-American Game locks, so my logic was that if those guys were top-10 prospects, even upon first glance, Beverley had to be a top-25 kid, at least top-50 in the nation. The other assembled media and scouts, all of whom had more experience than me, scoffed and basically said I needed to watch more basketball and get out of Philly to see more events.
After Patrick’s last game, I introduced myself to him to grab a quick quote for my story, but also to see where his recruiting stood. He told me his biggest offer was Toledo and that he’d likely commit there, which he eventually did, but this was when I was in the mode of trying to get local kids looks from colleges, so I pledged to keep in touch and get the word out about him.
He didn’t play on the AAU circuit—instead he played on the short-lived MTV show Nike Battlegrounds,which might have been a fun experience, but didn’t help his recruiting stock—but went on to have one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory in Chicago, averaging close to 40 PPG and leading Marshall “Downstate,” just like Arthur Agee’s team. I held up my end of the bargain, but he didn’t need my help, ended up at Arkansas and the rest is history, or is now, for those who didn’t know his story.
I won’t go on and on, as you can read his own words about his journey, but since moving here and working in my current position, we’ve crossed paths at the NBA Summer League in Vegas and at pro-am games in the city, and of all the kids I saw as young players that made it to the League, there’s not one I feel more blessed to have seen than Pat Beverley, as a lot of my friends can attest to over the years, as much as I’ve said he should be ranked higher, get high-major offers, be on an NBA roster, etc. And the fact that he moved his mom, Lisa, to Houston (where she owns a nail salon) a few years ago makes it even better.
Since there was a word count for the magazine story, here’s the extended version of our Q&A. Enjoy:
ON GROWING UP IN CHICAGO:
I’m from out West, Kildare and Hirsch, born and raised. Chicago people, we call that K-Town. As you probably know, not one of the best of neighborhoods. I played at was Kedvale Park. I didn’t play AAU at all. Summers, I played with [former Westinghouse High School and University of Illinois-Chicago stars] Ced Banks, Martell Bailey and all those guys.
ON MAKING A NAME:
I didn’t play my first two years of high school. I started playing my junior and senior year, and it’s ironic that we’re talking about this because when we were playing in Philly—I don’t know if you remember this—but James Harden was at that tournament, too. Me and him, we still talk about that. But that was kind of my breakout point. We used to do summer tournaments when I was in high school. My coming-out party was Philly. I didn’t really have a household name yet because I was in the dust of Sherron Collins, Jon Scheyer, DRose, all those type of guys.
ON MARSHALL HS:
Marshall was a powerhouse for women’s basketball, Cappie Pondexter and all of them. Our coach, Lamont Bryant, came to Marshall my sophomore year, but I didn’t play. So I came in my junior and I played. We started getting on the map and a lot of people started talking about us more.
ON HIS HS COACH:
Anybody that’s close to me, anybody that’s been knowing me since high school, everybody knew that Coach Bryant was like my father and I lived with him for some time, throughout high school and he was the backbone. He was like my father.
ON MTV BATTLEGROUNDS:
That was a street thing, Chicago vs. New York. We played outside, Nike sponsored it. LeBron, that was my first time meeting ‘Bron and that was crazy. I had a great experience with that. I was the youngest kid on the team, started in that game, played well, so it was fun.
ON BLOWING UP AS A SENIOR:
After my junior year, I started lifting weights. We lost to Sherron’s team four times the year before, so I came in wanting to prove myself and it happened so fast. Started out [scoring] 30, 35 and we beat DRose in a Christmas tournament, and that was right after they beat Oak Hill, so we beat them, a nationally ranked team. That kind of put us on the radar. We started winning games. We didn’t lose games for months and we were ranked 12th in the nation, and all that stuff, so I guess that’s when we people starting look at us like, ‘Who is this team?’
ON MARSHALL’S SUCCESS:
I had never been Downstate. I just always used to watch when I was younger. Westinghouse, who won states with Chris Head. I used to watch them on TV and say, ‘Man, that must be a nice feeling,’ so us going Downstate, winning that first game, beating a team that hadn’t lost a game the whole season and then playing DRose, coming up short to them. But it was just a great overall experience.
ON CHICAGO’S PUBLIC LEAGUE:
We’d be doing the national anthem and fights would break out. It was just all kinds of stuff. It’s kind of similar to a lower version of the NBA playoffs. It was that competitive. People want to win every night and a lot of people don’t know, within that small radius in Chicago, 10 or 11 miles, Derrick Rose. Another two or three miles, there’s Sherron. That many pros coming out of a city like that, it’s kind of crazy. Then, being able to play each other all the time. Osiris [Eldridge] and Jerome Randle, some guys like that—JaVale McGee—you’re playing against those guys every night and you grow up, and those guys are pros.
You know first I committed to Toledo after my junior year because that was the biggest school that was recruiting me. I felt comfortable with that team and I visited down there a couple times. For me, it’s always been about proving myself. That’s how it is now. I always want to play against the best competition and I always want to prove myself. I de-committed from them and I went into my senior year, and big schools started calling and was really interested. It was Arkansas and Michigan, [and] UCLA was in the mix.
ON GOING TO ARKANSAS:
Going into that summer, I didn’t leave, I didn’t go back and forth between Chicago and Arkansas. I got down there early, before anybody else, hit the weights, got stronger, stayed in the gym every night. This was before classes even started. I just wanted to, again, prove myself, so I was in practice with guys who were seniors, planning that I was going to get [SEC] freshman of the year. Don’t get it mixed up—it wasn’t being cocky. I’m just a big fan of speaking things into existence. I went to sleep on it, won that Freshman of the Year. I was grinding, but I was very fortunate.