Lakers May Trade Up to get Gerald Green

June 27, 2005
HOUSTON In a strip mall on South Post Oak road, directly across the street from an unkempt stretch of undeveloped land, sits Gulf Shores Academy. It is neither on the gulf nor on the shore; a Google hit of the two words will give you more information than you need to know about Hurricane Arlene.

   It is a one-story collection of classrooms and offices and, these days, getting more than its share of recognition, and not for its educational programs for at-risk kids.

        The reason: its most famous alum, Gerald Green, who graduated last month. He will go from graduate to millionaire in the space of five weeks, leaving the confines of the Texas school for the high-octane life of the National Basketball Association. He will, in fact, be a historical marker of sorts the first high schooler selected in the last NBA draft allowing high schoolers to be selected.

   Green leads a list of a handful of high school players who will be drafted tomorrow night. Starting next season, an individual has to be out of high school for one year to be eligible for the NBA draft. Green will likely be joined by Martell Webster, a Seattle-area prep star; Monta Ellis from Jackson, Miss.; Andray Blatche of South Kent Prep in Connecticut; New Jersey's Andrew Bynum, and possibly one or two others. There also will be a handful of foreign teenagers selected, ranging from Russian Yaroslav Korolev to Lithuania's Martynas Andriuskevicius.

   This high school class is not judged by NBA personnel people to be as deep as last year's, from which eight prepsters were taken in the first 19 picks, the Celtics' Al Jefferson among them. But there is little doubt that Green, a 6-foot-8-inch, out-of-the-gym leaper, is the cream of this crop. He could go as high as No. 3 the Lakers, who own pick No. 10, lust after him and are trying to trade up and should fall no lower than eighth even under even the most bizarre draft night scenarios.

   "He's a phenomenal athlete," said Celtics general manager Chris Wallace. "He is going to be a very good scorer in the NBA."

   Green has spent the last couple of weeks crisscrossing the country, working out for teams picking high in the draft. (He also worked out for the Lakers, which only intensified rumors that there was a deal in the works.) In one 72-hour stretch, he worked out for the Jazz, the Trail Blazers, and the Raptors. He also has worked out for the Hornets, Knicks, and Bobcats, and the reaction appears to be universal: Wow!

   "He's by far the best athlete we've had in here," said Charlotte Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "And he's an athlete with skills." New Orleans coach Byron Scott, gushed, "athleticism-wise, he's off the charts." Celtics personnel director Leo Papile said, simply, "He's one of those young super men, able to leap tall buildings."

   Green's ascension to premier prepster in 2005 (at least among the graduating) took some time. A year ago, he was barely on the screen, despite having put up pretty strong numbers (28.8 points, 13 rebounds) in his first year at Gulf Shores. He had moved to the academy school, repeating his junior year. Prior to that, he attended Dobie High School, where he had been cut twice from the high school team. Until arriving at Dobie, he had never played in any sort of organized basketball, usually a staple among blue-chippers by that point.

   "With someone like LeBron [James]," Papile said, "you started tracking them in the first grade. This kid wasn't like that."

   Says Green: "I got cut from the team my sophomore year. I got cut again my junior year, but they took me back on the team. I started playing when I was 5 or 6, but it was mostly with my dad, or in the streets. Or in the parks. We didn't have the money to do the YMCA or anything like that."

   He got noticed at Gulf Shores and at the shoe-sponsored summer camps in 2004. At the Reebok ABCD Camp, he collected MVP honors. He also was playing AAU ball by then for the Houston Elite. Then he went back to Gulf Shores as a fifth-year high schooler (he'll turn 20 Jan. 26) and averaged 33 points a game. He was a McDonald's All-Star Game MVP, winning the event's Slam Dunk title as well, and had a stellar performance in the Roundball Classic.

   He committed to Oklahoma State and was torn about making the decision to turn pro because of a deep affection for Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton. But the NBA was too irresistible, especially since commissioner David Stern was vowing to keep NBA scouts and personnel men out of high school gyms by imposing an age limit.

   Actually, keeping NBA bird dogs out of Gulf Shores would not have been an issue. The school has no gym. Oftentimes, a nearby church served as the practice site.

   "We practiced in a lot of different places," Green said. "It'd be a different one all the time. And we didn't have any home games. Every game we played was a road game."

   Green is one of four children of Gerald Sr. and Brenda Green. Dad is a retired Houston firefighter who played baseball at Texas Southern. Mom is a teacher's aide. The parents have worked hard to keep their celebrity son grounded; Green pere said Green fils was mowing the lawn the day before they made the trip to Chicago for predraft camp interviews and measurements.

   Once workouts started, raves soon followed. But there was some mild controversy in the decision by Green's agent, Andrew Vye of Kauffman Sports Management, to insist that Green work out alone. Portland, in fact, told Green not to show up if he insisted on going solo. Green stayed away until the Blazers changed their minds. Portland's personnel director, Kevin Pritchard, likened Green to Reggie Lewis.

   Vye provided DVDs to any team which requested more highlights and added, "Any team that had been paying attention to Gerald had seen him play and practice 15 to 25 times. We felt the workout process wasn't so much about the workout as it was about getting to know Gerald as a human being. And we felt that he'd be far superior to anyone he'd work out against."

   Green's game has been compared to that of Tracy McGrady, himself a high schooler who went directly to the NBA and developed into an All-Star. Wallace sees Green more along the lines of another Houston area prep-to-pro player.

   "He's more in the Rashard Lewis mode," Wallace said. "Gerald is more explosive and quick than Tracy was. But Tracy was more gifted at that age and had more of an upside. [Green] is not Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or TMac. But he's very, very intriguing."

   For Green, the intrigue will soon come to a conclusion. Some time tomorrow night, probably well within the first 30 minutes, Stern will call his name and he will emerge from the green room, shake the commissioner's hand, and begin the next chapter of his life.

   "It's still hard for me to believe," Green said. "I've always played basketball because I loved the game. Now, I'm going to the NBA. It really is a dream come true."

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