Gerald Green Has Arrived
It was a sign that Gerald Green had arrived.
After going through the motions for a couple early possessions in the ABCD All Star game, the crowd was now live. Green had just put down three hard dunks, and yes, the crowd was live.
Who was making noise in the crowd is a different story.
Of course the college coaches were conversing about what they were seeing. There was a little jealousy, but more regret in their tone as several noted how Green was off the board and reigning Final Four finisher Oklahoma State will get his services a year from now.
The rest of the crowd included fans, the ones letting out the familiar sounds that Green says he heard some last year at ABCD. Then there were the writers and scouts, raving about the work Green was doing all week and how if he kept up this for the rest of the game, then he would easily be elevated to the top of the class.
But these types of responses happen to what it seems is every kid who can dunk, any kid that has a good tournament or camp, any kid with high D-I offers these days.
So does the second-guessing of an 18-year old.
He doesn’t play defense. He’s too one-dimensional. Where’s the consistent effort? He needs to bring it every night.
That’s from the evaluators and scouts, though. The players out there competing against one another are more times than not big uppin’ each other in interviews and showing their respect for each others’ games.
They’re not saying: “All he do is dunk,” after three consecutive jams. Not: “He takes so many shots,” after knocking down his next two jumpers. And when he finally misses, god forbid it’s “Man, he was on a run right there.” Instead, it’s: “Stick to Dunkin!”
That’s it right there. When you’re catching the hate from the players that are sitting in the crowd and not in the game –those that aren’t anywhere close to leading the camp in scoring and being named MVP of the Seniors All Star Game - basically, you’ve arrived.
“Gerald put himself in the top of the class. He played against his peers, Tasmin (Mitchell) and Brandon (Rush), and he’s as good as any of them,” Grassroots basketball ambassador and ABCD coordinator Sonny Vaccaro said. “Coming out and being an MVP against those guys, now he can be national name whereas he was a regional name before.”
Natural ability can only take someone so far, and for the summer’s fastest rising star, that’s not confusing. Green has come to realize that and much more about the game he displays a growing dominance in.
In its post-summer rankings, Rivals recruiting service ranked him No. 1 in his class.
Rivals’ recruiting director Tim Watts said, “When we told him he was No. 1, he said he was in the gym hitting the weights and trying to put on 15 pounds. His work ethic is going to take him places.”
Morning workouts with Texas-bred and former NBA player and coach John Lucas Sr. certainly helped the growth this summer as well.
Before them, Green was still one of those on a deep list of senior talent in Texas that included the likes of his future OSU teammates Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris, his current teammate and UNLV commit Jovan Adams, and future UT Longhorns C.J. Miles and A.J. Abrams.
Now, Green is one of the top pro prospects in his class, in the company of South Kent (CT) Prep’s 6’11” Andray Blatche, South Gwinnett (GA) guard Louis Williams, Mount Zion (NC) swingman Brandon Rush and Julian Wright of Homewood-Flossmoor (IL).
“He is arguably the top pro prospect in this year’s class. Nobody considering the jump has a more complete game than he does right now,” Rivals’ Watts says.
Hoopmasters’ Van Coleman says, "He was, without a doubt, the fastest rising prospect in the Class of 2005 this summer, solidifying a top 10 spot in the national rankings! No one has a better combination of athleticism, perimeter ball skills and ability to knock down the outside jumper or pull-up J in the class of 2005 than Gerald Green."
Growing into a prototypical, offensive three-man at 6’8” and around 200 pounds, Green plays long. He says he hears the comparisons to Tayshaun Prince because of his length, but he likes how Tracy McGrady takes control of games and says he tries to do the same in T-Mac’s image.
Last season at Gulf Shores Academy (TX), Green averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks during a 39-2 season.
He says he’s getting out and running the floor more now. In the half-court, after his trademark clutching/pounding of the ball into his hands before putting the ball on the floor, Green uses an explosive first step to the basket that almost guarantees a score either around or above the rim. The composure with the ball on the perimeter stems from knowing he can kill you by going by you or by simply rising up over you with the J. Spotting up off the dribble, catching and shooting, and creating his own shot are all areas of Green’s game that he sees improvement showing in.
“I got to give it to my Dad. He really showed me how to shoot the ball and he worked with me when I was young. But then I lost it and my coaches really worked with me on it. My AAU coaches and high school coaches, they had me doing drills every damn practice, they kill you.”
All those attributes were on display at ABCD, and make no mistake; there was a motive behind the crime.
“When I came up last year, nobody gave me the ball. I had the little ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ from dunks, but nobody really saw me.”
He said then that he’d come back and do it this year, and on the last night of pool play games, Green shut it down.
It was Green’s “Nets” team versus Tasmin Mitchell’s “Lakers” team. Mitchell had been the No. 1 player in the country for most of this season, and the two’s match-up last year as juniors at camp had nowhere near the buzz around it as it did this year.
In fact, Green had been waiting for not only ABCD itself, but for this very game, regardless of Mitchell’s ranking he says.
“Tasmin’s a great player. When we played here last year, I ripped the drawstring on my shorts. So I had one arm on him and one arm holding my shorts up. I didn’t do anything that game. I said I had to get him back for that. When I asked who the Lakers had in the morning, I got excited.”
For story’s sake, it never came out that Green was the winner of the match-up, and rightfully so.
Tasmin wasn’t guarding him when things hit the fan, however, the work Green did that game didn’t need for Tasmin to be on him for it to be nothing less than electric.
Green ran the floor like he said he had been concentrating on doing. That translated into three consecutive dunks in the open court that had the place in an uproar.
Two-handed, one-handed, and another off a lob - with four games happening on four different courts, the attention just shifted to court three.
The crowd expected the battle between juniors Derrick Caracter and Greg Oden for top of 2006 honors to be the showcase on this very court. They didn’t expect Gerald Green to do what he had just done the game before the main event.
Green’s feelings on the new attention that was ahead of him following ABCD was mixed at the time.
“I would love to have that, I ain’t gonna lie. But sometimes I feel sorry for people like O.J. (Mayo) and Greg (Oden),” Green says.
Even though he considers the magnifying glass already on underclassmen Mayo, a sophomore guard from Ohio with composure ahead of his years, and Oden, a 7’0” beast considered the next great prospect to play center, Green comes back honest with his view of it.
“They’re young though, I’m fit to be a senior. I’d love to have it.”
“I’d probably get tired of it though.”
His personality on the court also casually wavers. He’ll remain calm after scoring four possessions in a row, and then other times he’ll scream after dunks or talk with the referees and opposing players throughout the run.
On the sidelines, he walks reserved, without a care in the world and just happy to be here, along for the ride that started for him at age five.
“I used to like Little League but no one else really did. So then, I started playing and I was the shortest person. I played the point, and then I grew some in sixth grade, and then some more in ninth grade. I started playing serious in 10th.”
That year, Green was attending Dobie. His freshman year he didn’t play. His sophomore year, a friend of his on the team died and some guys on the team got hurt. He got his chance and ended up being first team all-district. But then he and his coach had differences, so he transferred to Gulf Shores Academy. With the help of Gulf Shores head coach Ken “Juice” Williams, everything began to change for him.
“My first game at my new school I scored like 30. My new coach said ‘you’ve never played basketball?’ I said ‘Nah, I always play in the park though, I used to play a lot.’ He was like ‘Man you’re special.”
That appreciation he got early in high school stuck with him and had an affect on him making his college decision.
Green played for Houston Elite under coach Rick Nelson during this past summer’s AAU season. Nelson took him under his wing after branching out from John Eurey’s Houston Superstars program, where he previously coached and for who Green had played.
But before the road trips and the blow-up at ABCD, Green ended his recruitment and avoided the chaos that would have developed after his marquee summer.
“Some college coaches came when I was at Dobie, Baylor even came. They weren’t really recruiting me hard. Then when I went to Gulf Shores it got heavy, and when I started playing AAU, it got real heavy.”
Schools like Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma were all pursuing.
One of his first visits was to Oklahoma State, and it wound up being his last. He says the main reason he verballed was because of the way he was appreciated, much like he has been by his coaches Nelson and Williams.
“When I went down there the players treated me like I was family already and I ain’t even made no commitment. So I said I had to go to this school, man. Why should I wait to sign with any other school from another district? I wasn’t even going there to commit - I was just going to see it. But God is good, He just put in my eyes and told me this is the school I need to be at.”
If he does suit up in a Cowboy uniform, flashbacks of now Boston Celtics’ rookie Tony Allen are practically unavoidable. Both have a lot of flash to their game, but Green says it’s the work ethic the two have that he hopes draws any resemblance.
“The coaches said he couldn’t play any defense to motivate him. Now he’s one of the best defensive players on the court. He worked real hard at it and I admire him for that.”
Whether or not Green arrives at OSU is not set in stone, but he recently stated he’s leaning more towards going to school.
Come the January match-up between Gulf Shores and Rush’s Mount Zion, the McDonald’s game, the end of season All-American Teams, who knows.
However, Nelson says one thing is for sure and that is the work has paid off.
“Everyday he gets up and prays, thanks God for his basketball ability. The six o’clock in the mornings, the fussin’ that I do, the lectures he gets from his dad and I…everything he’s got he deserves. He’s a humble kid too, and I’m proud of him.”
All that work is just part of the routine to Green. As he and Nelson both said, he’s going to follow his heart. He has a good support system and a good head on his shoulders, evident by his feelings for what he plans on doing for his profession. The pride in how he’s perceived is apparent, and if things stay on pace, the perception will turn into a reputation.
Consummate worker, positive attitude, entertaining game, and professional.
It’s in the woodwork, but consider it almost a developed script with the lead role being undoubtedly held down.
“I try and show people a little bit of everything so people won’t say I can just shoot or I can just jump. I don’t like that because I work real hard at trying to get better everyday.
I mean, why would you work so much at something you don’t want to do? I love the game so I consider it doing something I just want to do.”