Doing the little things, UNC's Green makes his dad, teammates proud
Danny Green's been a consistent glue guy thoughout his four years at UNC
Much of his encouragement comes from dad, Danny Sr.
As close as he is with his teammates, they fear his pet snake
Tyler Hansbrough's free throw was uncharacteristically short. As the ball bounced back into the key, his North Carolina teammate Danny Green, though boxed out by LSU's Tasmin Mitchell, to whom Green gave an inch and 20 sturdy pounds, leapt above the crowded lane. His left arm entangled with Mitchell, Green used his available right hand to punch out the loose ball some 25 feet to an open Wayne Ellington beyond the three-point line. Ellington dribbled once and sank the three. By the time the ball fell through the net to give UNC its first lead of the second-round NCAA tournament game, Green had already circled from the lane to the left corner, to the top of the key and then down to the right block, putting himself in position in case of another miss.
During the next television timeout, Green's father, Danny Sr., thumbed out a text message, "U see the tap out of the missed free throw that's a 5pt turnaround and the small things I'm talking about."
Green, a 6-6 wing player, is just as apt to direct a loose ball to an open teammate as he is to spring someone with a hard screen or to hit the big shot himself. He's the team's resident stat-stuffer, contributing across the scoresheet, depending on what UNC needs on a given night, which is reflected by his single-game career highs: 26 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, seven blocks and six steals. Green was the sixth man for three years, leading all Tar Heel bench players in scoring each season. Given a starting role as a senior, he has produced in every category, averaging 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.3 blocks and 41.5 percent shooting on threes.
With seven minutes to play and UNC leading LSU by four, Green squared for an open three to the left of the key. A miss. But Ellington chased down the long rebound in the right corner, and kicked the ball back to Green, still standing in the same spot, still open. Green unloaded again. A hit. UNC took a seven-point lead and never looked back en route to an 84-70 win. The cell phone buzzed. Another text message from Danny Sr., this one reading, "That was a back breaker three and took a lot of guts to shoot."
After all, Danny Sr. had missed two seasons of watching his son play in person. He returned with the fervor of a convert. As Danny defended LSU's top scorer, Marcus Thornton, in front of the UNC bench, his father leaned forward from the fourth row. Cupping his hands to his face, Danny Sr. shouted encouragement -- and probably some advice -- to his son.
An hour before tipoff, as Danny Sr., clad head-to-toe in Carolina apparel, entered Greensboro Coliseum, an usher recognized him as the father of the beloved senior, warmly extended a hand and said how much he's enjoyed watching Danny play the last four years. It's a sentiment Danny Sr. has heard a lot recently, about how Danny signs his autograph for every child who asks and how well liked he is by everyone at Carolina. "This is nice," says Danny Sr, gesturing toward the UNC and LSU players warming up on the court, "and it's on TV, but it's not what I care about. It's the little things."
Basketball had always come naturally to Danny. By the time he was four, he could shoot and dribble with both hands when playing on the plastic hoop from Toys R Us. Even when he went swimming in the family's backyard pool, he'd pull the basket to the side of the pool and shoot from the water. Growing up, Danny had one waking passion: basketball. "He'd just play basketball and sleep," says Danny's brother, Rashad. "I think that's how he grew those extra inches. He'd hibernate. All of a sudden, he was 6-6." When he was 11, his mother left his father, Danny, Rashad and baby Devonte on their own. Almost every night, the three older Greens would play basketball, either in the backyard or in the gym at the Town Annex.
Danny's hoops talent was obvious at an early age. Before transferring to St. Mary's, he played varsity as a ninth grader at his dad's alma mater, North Babylon High, and led the team in scoring. At the Five Star Camp in 2004, he sprained his right wrist on the first day. Rather than pull out, he played left-handed the rest of the week and still made the all-star team. As a senior, he averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocks and was named a McDonald's All-American.
Like many coaching fathers, Danny Sr., who previously was an elementary school P.E. teacher and an assistant coach for the North Babylon High girls team, hasn't always shared his high praise with his son. "I'm probably the worst critic of my kids," he says. Danny says that's no longer the case. "He was way harsher in the past," he says. "Now it's more constructive. It's laid out in a more positive way, that I should look for this or look for that."
But for all the pointed suggestions Danny Sr. imparts to his sons -- Danny's brother Rashad, 20, is a redshirt sophomore at San Francisco and Devonte, 12, plays AAU ball -- he is, at his core, a proud father, prone to sending unprompted praise for his sons to anyone willing to listen. "If everyone went away for even six months," says Danny Sr., "they'd really appreciate the little things."
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