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Monday, November 2, 2009
Flashback: Kevin Durant

By Sam Alipour
Special to ESPN RISE Magazine

Kevin Durant- high school
Kevin Durant averaged a double-double in his senior year at Montrose Christian.

In Maryland, along the D.C. border, there exists an NBA breeding ground known among locals as PG. Kevin Durant, who came up repping Prince George's County in AAU ball with Michael Beasley and Tywon Lawson, had a nomadic prep career nonetheless: two years at National Christian (Fort Washington, Md.), one year away from home at hoop powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) and then back home for his senior year at Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). Durant averaged 23.6 points and 10.2 rebounds at Montrose -- and got some much-desired home cooking -- before heading off to Texas for a year of college. Durant's singular focus meant he didn't apply for a driver's license until just before the 2007 NBA Draft, in which he was selected No. 2. Now in this third pro year, Oklahoma City's 6-foot-9 forward remains as driven as ever. But at least he's driving now.

ESPN RISE: Why did you leave National Christian for Oak Hill, and why leave again for Montrose?
Durant: I went to Oak Hill because I wanted to get that exposure and also work on my academics, but it was far away from home. It was tough being away from my family. I was 15 when I got there. I'd committed to Texas that summer, and I wanted to be close to my family before I went away again to play in Texas. It was just a gut feeling. It wasn't that hard switching schools twice, being the new kid. I wasn't thinking like that.

ESPN RISE: Oak Hill is a pretty unique school with a major reputation. How was that experience?
Durant: It's in the middle of nowhere, first off. It's right dead-center in a bunch of woods. But it was great exposure. We played on ESPN three times, went to the biggest tournaments in the country, had the best coaches and got to play with the best players. It's good for your game. Like I said, it's in the middle of nowhere, so all you can do is play basketball and go to school.

ESPN RISE: On a typical night after a game, was it pizza with teammates, hit up a party or go home with mom?
Durant: In high school, I couldn't do nothing but go home with my mom. That was the only option I had. First of all, I never had a driver's license, so driving wasn't happening. I couldn't go out with friends, no pizza, nothing. I wasn't at all focused on partying or girls.

ESPN RISE: Did you play anything besides basketball?
Durant: That's all I played growing up. Actually, you know what? At Oak Hill I played baseball for about three games -- first base. And I was bad. Really bad. It just wasn't for me. I wanted to try something new for once, but it wasn't for me at all. Seriously, I think I struck out every time I went to bat.

ESPN RISE: What advice would you give young athletes who hope to reach that level?
Durant: Easiest thing, and it sounds cliché: Always work hard, believe in yourself and remember that you can't go through this on your own. You have to have teammates, coaches and parents you believe in and who believe in you. Because it's hard. As you get older, players get better and you start to even out. That's what the separates the good level from the great level.

Kevin Durant
Durant is averaging 22 point this season for the Thunder.

ESPN RISE: Prince George's County has become a hoops hotbed, with guys like Sam Young and Tywon Lawson joining Beasley and yourself in The League this year. What's in the drinking water over there?
Durant: All of us hang together, and all we do is play basketball, so when one of us goes to the gym, we all want to go to the gym. We rub off on each other. It's a big revolving door in that area -- guys are doing the same thing, getting taught by the same people and we all want to be great. We root for each other all the time, like when Mike (Beasley) was in the playoffs last season. Even though I was kinda jealous he made it to the playoffs before I did, I rooted for him big time.

ESPN RISE: Being a high school kid on TV, did you get any breaks from your teachers? Or more love from the ladies, maybe?
Durant: Not at all from the ladies. And not from the teachers, either. It was a lot more strict than that at Oak Hill. They didn't care if I played basketball. We didn't get any breaks. But that got me prepared for college.

ESPN RISE: Give me one regret from high school.
Durant: I almost had a triple-double, but I missed a rebound. I was being a good teammate and I let someone else get it. (Laughs) That would've been my one and only triple-double, so I regret that. I did get a quadruple-double, though.

ESPN RISE: Wait, why are you sweating a triple-double when you got a quadruple-double?
Durant: Hey, I had a double-double and a quadruple-double, so why not get a triple-double? (Laughs) But other than that triple-double, everything was perfect. I loved high school. I miss playing against my friends and just being a kid again. I even miss going to class every day, being a student. Who wouldn't want to go back and be a kid again? But at some point, it's time to grow up.

ESPN RISE: When did you realize you had the potential to become a pro?
Durant: I didn't know I'd be in the NBA until I got drafted. (Laughs) You know, until it's set in stone, it hasn't happened. That's the way I think. I never said to myself, "I'm going to college for one year, and then I'm going to the NBA." I wasn't about to rush it to or tell myself unrealistic things.

ESPN RISE: What's the best movie or TV show about high school?
Durant: That's tough. The movie has to be "He Got Game." That's about a high school player, so that's not really cheating. As for TV, I have to go back to my younger days: "Lizzie McGuire." I used to watch that every day. Hilary Duff was great. But I didn't have a crush on her or nothing. I was too young to know what a crush was.

Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears regularly in ESPN The Magazine and occasionally on Page 2. You can reach him at sam.alipour@gmail.com.