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B-Easy Does It

Living up to his nickname, fun-loving Kansas State forward Michael Beasley is coolly tearing through his freshman season and putting his boisterous past behind him

Posted: Wednesday January 9, 2008 10:15AM; Updated: Thursday January 10, 2008 12:12PM
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Kansas State's Michael Beasley.
Kansas State's Michael Beasley.
Greg Nelson/SI
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The Seat Pleasant (Md.) Activity Center, a low-slung brick building just northeast of Washington, D.C., doesn't look all that special. It sits on a block littered with empty beer bottles and shares the neighborhood with bail-bond offices and run-down restaurants. Not long ago, two gunshot victims staggered to the front door, bleeding and desperate for help after a robbery gone bad. The 30-year-old gym at the Rec, as everyone calls it, has two side-by-side courts surrounded by six basketball goals (only two with glass backboards), the original scoreboard and four small rows of bleachers.

But inside is someone remarkable: Taras (Stink) Brown, the Rec's 43-year-old coach, a neighborhood treasure, with wire-rim glasses and a passion for teaching hoops fundamentals. One day last summer Stink cleared out the left side of the Rec's small glass trophy case and filled it with mementos commemorating the rise of his first star pupil, Kevin Durant: a pair of his size-18 shoes, the Sports Illustrated and other magazine covers he appeared on as a Texas freshman last season and the Seattle SuperSonics cap he wore at the NBA draft in June. The minishrine is the first thing a visitor sees upon entering the Rec, the first thing Michael Beasley saw on Christmas Eve, when he stopped by to hug Brown, the man he calls "my first coach, who taught me the game."

"You got my side ready yet?" asked Beasley, another Rec alum, nodding toward the right half of the trophy case.

"It's waiting on you," came Stink's reply. "Just keep working."

In a country where one in 10,000 high school players makes it to the NBA, what are the odds that Durant and Beasley, two 11-year-olds on the same Rec team, would both go on to become MVPs of the McDonald's High School All-American game? Would both sign with Big 12 schools? Would both put up such remarkable scoring and rebounding numbers, that Beasley, a 6' 9" forward at Kansas State, may well join Durant as the only freshmen ever to be named national player of the year?

Stink ponders the odds. Shakes his head. Grins. "One in a million?" he guesses.

Stink's probably being conservative. He knows as well as anyone that Beasley's story isn't so simple, knows that before Beasley could proudly wear his Kevin Durant Sonics jersey around the K-State campus, before two childhood pals could reunite at the pinnacle of global basketball, they had to go their separate ways.

*****

Be easy. In the neighborhoods where Beasley grew up, along the corridor between Washington and Baltimore, the expression means Be cool. Relax. Have fun. B-Easy is Beasley's nickname, not to mention his all-purpose mission statement. B-Easy's carefree attitude draws raves from his D.C.-area buddies like Durant (who says Beasley "brightens everyone up"), Duke's Nolan Smith ("he'll ride the handicapped [carts] around the grocery store") and North Carolina's Ty Lawson ("his room was full of SpongeBob stuff"). B-Easy explains Beasley's M.O. as a real-life Bart Simpson, whose childish pranks were the main reason he attended seven schools in five states from grades eight through 12. And B-Easy also describes his playing style, a breathtaking efficiency that generates extreme stats -- at week's end he was the only player in the country who ranked in the top 10 in points (fifth, 24.2 per game) and rebounds (first, 13.5) -- with minimal wasted movement.

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