BASKETBALL'S HIS game, but before moving to Maryland in 2001, Donte' Greene bounced around the world like a knock-hockey puck. Born on an Air Force base in Germany (his mother, April, worked for the National Security Agency), the Towson Catholic senior has lived in Japan, Guam, Thailand, South Korea, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. He speaks some German and Japanese, yet his English can sound as if he's been channeling Don King: " Mr. Boeheim and I enjoy conversating and whatnot." Mr. Boeheim, of course, is Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who will showcase the 6'10", 220-pound forward's dazzling perimeter game next season. For now Greene is averaging 22.7 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.5 blocks for the 15--3 Owls.
Greene picked up hoops fundamentals from his mother, a former semipro player in England. She was his first coach and once let him draw up the final play of one of younger brother D'Metrique's games. "I freed him up in the corner, and he hit the winning shot," Greene says. "It's the high point of my life."
The low point was when April died of an enlarged heart. Donte' was 13 years old. "I found her in bed and called 911," he recalls. "I was depressed for two years." He and D'Metrique moved from Hanover, Pa., to live with their father, Donald, in inner-city Baltimore. (Their parents divorced when Donte' was six.) That's when the fast-growing Greene began to focus more on basketball and less on baseball, his favorite sport while growing up in Japan. "The basketball transiteration was tough," he says. "I was 6'4" but Ethiopian-marathon-runner skinny, and players in Baltimore were very physical."
The only private school that recruited Greene was Towson Catholic, which another late-bloomer, Carmelo Anthony, had attended for three years. Greene became a starter midway through his freshman season. During the summers he has played on Team Melo, the Anthony-sponsored team that won the AAU under-16 national championship two years ago—with Greene making the all-tournament team. By his junior year he was such a hot college prospect that he changed his text-messaging plan to unlimited. Now he is following Anthony's trail to Syracuse. "Melo and I are friends," reports Greene, "but during the NBA season we don't conversate much."