B-Easy Does It (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday January 9, 2008 10:15AM; Updated: Thursday January 10, 2008 12:12PM
So effortless is Beasley's game, in fact, that some observers criticize him for playing without effort, calling Beasley the next Derrick Coleman. "I took that as a sign of disrespect," Beasley says. "The only Derrick Coleman I saw was in his last few years with the 76ers. I was like, No, no, no! I don't want to be that. I work. But then I saw [footage of] him in college [at Syracuse], and I'm like, A'ight, cool, the college Derrick Coleman."
Other assessments of Beasley are less ambiguous. "He's a child prodigy," says DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright, who worked directly with Beasley on U.S. youth national teams the past two summers. "It's like somebody took the best parts and sewed them together: his hand-eye coordination, his running speed, his hands. He could palm a manhole cover. He's really a point forward, not much different -- other than in body length -- from Kevin Garnett. They can both guard smaller guys and big guys, step away from the basket and pass and dribble."
What's more, NBA scouts are piqued by Beasley's relentless attack on the glass, his quirky southpaw stroke, his outside shooting (35.3% from three-point range) and his upside; having just turned 19 on Jan. 9, he's younger than any of the nation's other outstanding freshmen, including Memphis point guard Derrick Rose and Indiana guard Eric Gordon (the main rivals who could prevent Beasley from being the No. 1 overall pick in the next NBA draft). Kansas State coach Frank Martin says Beasley could pull down 10 rebounds in an NBA game today, and it's hard to argue after witnessing his recent run of 12 straight double doubles. His versatility was on full display during a 19-point, 11-rebound performance in K-State's 82-75 win over Cal on Dec. 9: Fighting double and triple teams, Beasley scored on inside power moves and feather-soft jump hooks, and he also brought the home crowd to its feet by forcing a steal, racing downcourt and finishing the fast break.
"He's going to have a better [freshman] year than I had, as far as I can tell," says Durant, who averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds at Texas. "I hope he does. He can get 30 and 20 easily, and that's with people double-teaming him."
Durant and Beasley still exchange text messages and phone calls three or four times a week, maintaining the connection from their days at the Rec playing for the Prince Georges Jaguars. "Kevin and I used to do everything together," Beasley says. "We'd dream about the NBA and our names being in lights. We went our separate routes, but now we're kind of coming back together." Grassroots basketball is dominated by shoe-company sponsors hoping to find the Next Big Thing, and when the time came to choose an elite AAU team at age 13, Durant picked the D.C. Blue Devils (a Nike outfit coached by Rob Jackson) while Beasley joined D.C. Assault (an Adidas team run by Curtis Malone). The 39-year-old Malone is a powerful but controversial figure on the talent-rich Washington, D.C., basketball scene. Since Malone founded D.C. Assault in 1995, it has produced dozens of Division I players, including Jeff Green, Keith Bogans and DerMarr Johnson, but he also has poor relations with many high school coaches who view him as a hoops Svengali.
Yet Malone has also won the undying loyalty of his Assault players, including Beasley, who says Malone saved his life. At Kettering Middle School in Upper Marlboro, Md., Beasley's behavior rivaled that of the dysfunctional students portrayed on the HBO series The Wire. He says he hooked classes, antagonized school officials and once even put a dead rat in a teacher's desk drawer. Beasley says he never stole cars or broke into houses as some of his friends did, but he was caught in a shopping mall parking lot slashing tires. Beasley estimates that he and his brother Leroy and sister Mychaela moved every two years with their mother, Fatima Smith, who had a series of jobs, sometimes working two at a time. "My mother was struggling to take care of three kids, and I had no father figure in my life," he says. "I hated the world."