Every day for as long as Tyrone Massenburg can remember, Wanda Pratt would roll up on Addison Road and drop off her son at the Seat Pleasant Activity Center.
That gangly boy would head right to the gym, grab a ball and loft arcing jumper after arcing jumper until Pratt returned to pick him up again.
This is Kevin Durant the boy.
He grew a love for basketball in that Seat Pleasant gym which would grow into an obsession, a lifestyle.
“He was just always — he loved basketball,” said Massenburg, who coaches at Frederick Douglass High School. “He never minds doing the extra work. There were guys there that helped younger kids and Kevin latched on to one of our guys [nicknamed Stink] that worked out there.”
Wherever Stink went, Durant followed. If he shot jumpers, Durant shot jumpers. If he did ball handling, Durant did ball handling. Soon, Durant wasn't just a gangly boy in a rec center gym, he was a budding talent with a real knack for the game of basketball.
“Every time I went down to the rec he was either there or shooting the basketball,” Massenburg said. “He was doing things that the average kid who liked basketball wouldn't do.”
Charles Craig, an AAU coach with the PG Jaguars, noticed the boy from Seat Pleasant who had uncommon range and a particular affinity for getting to the hoop. Durant joined the Jaguars and played alongside future Kansas State University standout Michael Beasley. Together they won multiple AAU titles.
Durant played his final AAU season with the D.C. Blue Devils alongside future NBA guard Ty Lawson of Clinton. He started his high school career at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington before moving on to basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Va.). He finished high school at Montrose Christian in Rockville under the tutelage of coach Stu Vetter.
By his senior year in 2006 Durant had grown to 6-foot-9 and his wingspan resembled more of a pterodactyl than a high schooler. There is a picture on Montrose Christian's website of Durant making the 'T' in Montrose with his now 7-foot-5 wingspan. With big man size, point guard ball-handling skills and the predacious instincts of a power forward, Durant led Montrose Christian in scoring and steals and earned a spot on the McDonald's All-American team.
This is Kevin Durant the wunderkind.
“We knew right away he was in a category all in his own,” said Vetter, who has coached more than 100 Division I players. “He combines the talents of a superstar and the work ethic — Kevin is one of those players with the talent and the work ethic.”
At 6 a.m. every day before school he would arrive at the Montrose Christian gym with future University of Maryland star Greivis Vasquez and guard Taishi Ito. The trio would shoot jumpers for half an hour before classes, until it was time for weightlifting and practice.
“At Montrose one thing we pride ourselves in is the work ethic of all of our players,” Vetter said. “I would have loved to have him in his younger years because obviously he was very talented before we got him but you could see constant daily improvement. You can still see it today. He has that wow factor.”
University of Texas coach Rick Barnes wanted Durant in a program to prepare him for Longhorn basketball. Barnes knew of the long line of talented former Montrose athletes and steered Durant in Vetter's direction. When Durant arrived for his freshman season in a Texas uniform in 2007, he was more than ready.
Durant joined a team that included four freshman starters. He started all 35 games, averaging just less than 26 points per game. He had 30 games of 20 points or more and became the first freshman to win the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy and the Associated Press Player of the Year. He also went on to be crowned with the Naismith and John R. Wooden awards.
No. 35The number 35 was never much coveted for young basketball players before the Durant era. Most aspiring hoopsters would opt for Michael Jordan's No. 23 or Shaquille O'Neal's No. 34 or maybe Kobe Bryant's No. 8.
This is the Kevin Durant who will never be too big for home.
Durant idolized Charles Craig, his old AAU coach with the PG Jaguars. He was his first basketball coach, was supposed to be by his side when he signed his letter of intent to play for Texas and should have been there when the Seattle Supersonics called his name as the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft.
But on April 30, 2005, two years before Durant signed with the Sonics, Craig died at the age of 35, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds.
Ever since Durant's freshman year at Texas, he has worn the number 35 to honor his old mentor.
“He's a humble kid,” Massenburg said. “He doesn't walk around all flashy. He's a special kid.”
Durant has an uncanny ability to stay grounded in a game where superstars tend to be considered deities. He plays the game with a childish wonder and never passes up opportunities to offer a helping hand to the community that built him.
In 2009 he donated $25,000 to the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, once his home away from home. The money was used to renovate a room dubbed “Durant's Den” that includes a vinyl floor which replicates a basketball court, two 55-inch LCD flat screen TVs, a projection screen, an Xbox 360 and a Playstation 3. He's also participated multiple times in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament sponsored by the Community Kinship Coalition, a Seat Pleasant nonprofit organization that does community outreach.
This, as Massenburg would say, “is just Kevin being Kevin.”