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Monday, February 7, 2011
Carmelo Anthony in middle school

By Henry Abbott

Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times wrote about Carmelo Anthony a few days ago, and another NBA player became part of the story:
In athletics, Anthony flashed his competitiveness. In baseball, he wanted to pitch, and his football coaches described him as a gifted receiver. But as his basketball talent grew, Anthony gave up other sports.

Eric Skeeters, now an assistant at South Florida, said Anthony developed an unofficial role as the ball boy when he coached at Baltimore’s St. Francis Academy. Skeeters, who coached Anthony’s cousin Tavares Graham, recently went through a handful of photographs and said Anthony popped up in nearly every one.

“I didn’t even realize the kid was around us that much,” Skeeters said.

In seventh grade, Anthony spotted Rasual Butler, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, at a basketball tournament. At the time, Butler was a high school all-American from Philadelphia and five years older than Anthony. Anthony challenged Butler to play one-on-one, and Butler obliged again and again.

“He hated to lose,” Daniel said. “And I’ll tell you what: Rasual Butler had to take him in the paint to beat him.”

ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz asked Rasual Butler about the days when he took on a seventh-grader.

"We were always going to some of the same local camps -- like the Marcucci camp [Atlantic Cape Coast Camp]," remembers Butler. "When there was lunchtime, we didn't go eat. Melo didn't go eat. Guys from back home like Greg Robertson. We'd just not eat. We were like, 'We gotta work and get better.'

"[Anthony] was real good. He was just young. He wasn't as tall yet. He could handle the ball really well. He could shoot it. He had a real good handle. Then he had that growth spurt. The next time I saw him I was like, 'That's Melo?!' He was like 6-8, 220.

"After that, we never had a chance to play one-on-one again. I went on to college, trying to get ready for the league. He was getting ready to go to Syracuse. So we really didn't see each other again until he was practicing for the USA Team."

And as for badgering an older player he looked up to?

"That's how Melo was," remembers Butler. "At that point in time, he kind of looked up to me -- like I look up to him now. The roles have reversed."