May 18, 2007

Before they were stars: D.J. Strawberry

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Before they were stars

Once upon a time they were just kids.

They weren't yet stooping to get through doorways or hitting jumpers from everywhere. They weren't yet identified as future millionaires.

But they already possessed the type of talent and desire that would allow them eventually to realize their dreams.

As part of its NBA Draft coverage, has ventured to find the stories behind the stories. We have talked to the high school coaches of potential draft picks to ask where these players came from and what separated them from the rest of the crop.

Don't be surprised if you find some common traits in each of these prospects.

D.J. Strawberry, G, Maryland
High school: Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Calif. Coach: Gary McKnight
When is the first time you remember thinking this guy had the potential to play professionally someday?: Toward the end of his senior year. He just got to be very explosive. He showed me he can play the one and not just a two or three. And he could always defend, but he became an even better defender. Gary Williams got a steal in him.

What game sticks out the most in your memory when you look back on his high school career?: I thought the game against Inglewood in the state semifinals. We won the state championship in 2003, his senior year. The semifinal game against Inglewood, he did particularly well. We had (Strawberry) and Wesley Washington, who went on to Oregon State. And we had Harrison Schaen, who went to Princeton. (Strawberry) got into the mid-teens in scoring, he had some steals and was all over the floor.

How often do you keep in touch with him?: Every summer he comes by. What's been a lot of fun is to watch him on TV. His cousin Mike Strawberry played for me. His dad (Darryl Strawberry) is married to the sister of Miles Simon, who played for me. I've kind of had a bit of all the family.

When do you think he will get drafted?: I obviously hope he goes in the first round. I just think with his last name and his ability to perform and play several positions, he's got a chance to go pretty high.

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