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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Towson's Durant plays in shadow of younger brother

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

TOWSON, Md. -- They were just kids, two brothers fighting before school when Kevin Durant hurled a boot across the living room at his older brother.

Tony Durant ducked, and the glass light switch cover on the wall behind him shattered.

Tony Durant
Kevin Durant was surrounded by all the hoopla and hype befitting the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, older brother Tony Durant has quietly reached the Division I level this season.

Kevin, then in the eighth grade, needed $10 to fix it but didn't have the money. Tony, then a sophomore in high school, lent the money to him from his pay at McDonald's.

This past August, Kevin finally paid his big brother back -- with a shiny, black 2007 Dodge Charger.

Now, as Tony Durant drives to basketball practice each day at the 5,000-seat Towson Center, his new car serves as a tangible reminder of just how far his little brother has come so fast, and how much further his own basketball career must go in order to meet him there. The Durant brothers are separated by almost 3,000 miles, and their talent level is of equal distance -- Kevin, a 19-year-old rookie NBA star and the face of the Seattle Sonics, and Tony, a junior college transfer in his first year on scholarship as a forward at Towson.

"It humbles me a lot," Tony, 22, said of his Charger. "I try to work out all the time to try to show people I'm not going to just settle for my brother being in the NBA. I want to also make my own way in life as well."

As brothers, nothing could come between Tony and Kevin Durant -- including the game that in many ways has separated them. As basketball players, their paths couldn't have been more different. Kevin was a one-and-done phenom at Texas who parlayed an incredible freshman season into a Player of the Year award and the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA draft. Tony left in Seat Pleasant, Md., to find his own way at a military academy in Kansas before taking the junior college route to a Division I mid-major.

"They're two brothers, they both play basketball, they're both very good basketball players, but they're just at different levels and there's nothing wrong with that," said Towson coach Pat Kennedy.

While outsiders might deem Kevin the more successful of the two, both are satisfied with where they wound up -- and never lost sight of who's the big brother along the way.

"He was the first person I hugged when my name was called," Kevin said of the NBA draft, something he and Tony had watched every year together since they were kids. "We went through so much together that people don't know about, stuff my mom doesn't even know about. My mom always told us that in the end, we only have me and him, we only have each other. We're sort of like the same person."

They're just not the same player -- and Tony isn't ashamed of that.

"There are a lot of kids who would want to be in my position," he said. "I really see this position as a good position. I enjoy every day to say I'm a Towson Tiger. It's fine with me. I have no problem with putting a jersey on every day and going to work.

"My brother has worked hard to get to where he is, and I worked hard to get to where I am," Tony said. "It's all the same kind of hard work, but he's at a different level than I am, obviously."

At 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, Kevin is about two inches taller and 20 pounds lighter than his older brother. He's averaging 19.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game with Seattle.

Was it hard for him? I think at times it was hard for him. I don't think he was jealous of Kevin or envious, it was just hard hearing everybody speak about Kevin all the time and really not speak about him.

--Wanda Pratt, mother of Tony and Kevin Durant

Tony, a wide-body at 6-7 and 245 pounds, is averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds for the 10-15 Tigers. He had one of his better games -- 18 points and six rebounds -- against George Mason on Feb. 13.

When Tony first arrived there, his teammates wondered what to expect, given his last name.

"It was very interesting," said Towson senior guard C.C. Williams. "The first thing you think is, well, is he like his brother? Maybe, in some cases, I think some people probably did expect a little more being that his brother was playing in the NBA. I play ball, so I kind of know where he was coming from. I didn't expect no more than I expect from anybody else on this team."

Kennedy said he was well aware of the type of player he signed -- good, not great -- because he knew Tony and had studied him. In fact, Kennedy had to bench Tony this season from his starting role in order to send a message about what it takes to play at the Division I level. ("His dad thanked me for doing that," Kennedy said, adding that it "kind of woke him up.")

"He's just at the level where he's a good, solid player," said Kennedy. "He's learning at this level. He's much better now than he was."

And he still has a long way to go to catch up with his baby brother. Tony and Kevin never played on the same team together because Tony is almost three years older. When Tony finished his freshman year at Suitland High School in Forestville, Md., he wanted to leave home and find his own way, so he transferred to St. John's Military School in Salina, Kan.

Kevin Durant
Younger brother Kevin has cast a big shadow over Tony, but the big brother doesn't mind.

It was a difficult transition, in part because Tony had to conform to the discipline and rules of the school while also making the adjustment from city life to a small town. By his senior year, though, he had met expectations in the classroom, moved up the school's military ranks and led the state of Kansas in scoring with 27.7 points per game -- good enough for a spot on the roster at Butler Community College.

While Tony was busy blocking shots at the community college, Kevin was leading Texas and the Big 12 with 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.

But Tony caught Kennedy's attention by leading Butler with 15.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Now Tony is on the cover of the brochure St. John's uses for recruits. His brother, though, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"He handled it like a big brother would handle it," said Wanda Pratt, their mother. "… Was it hard for him? I think at times it was hard for him. I don't think he was jealous of Kevin or envious, it was just hard hearing everybody speak about Kevin all the time and really not speak about him, and he was just as successful in going to school, getting scholarships to college, doing the things he needed to do as a young man. I never saw jealousy or envy or anything like that. I think he just wanted to be recognized for his accomplishments as well."

He has certainly caught some attention since being at Towson.

Tony heard the sing-song chant every time he touched the ball in a home game against Loyola, and every time he stepped to the free-throw line at Drexel.

"You're not Ke-vin! You're not Ke-vin!"

He heard it again last week when one George Mason fan belted it out in the Towson Center: "You're not your brother and you never will be!"

Memo to the Towson Tigers' opposing fans: Tony Durant is well aware of this. And he's quite OK with it.

In fact, he secretly likes being the target of taunts -- even if it's for no other reason than it means he's finally being noticed.

"People are coming to watch me," he said. "That's what I wanted all throughout my life, for people to see what I can do in the gym."

Heather Dinich is a college football and basketball writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at espn.hd@hotmail.com.