When Cortez Hale signed on to be the head basketball coach of Perspectives Charter Schools, Anthony Davis wasn’t yet a household name.
In fact, Davis was coming off a freshman high school season in which he played mostly rotation minutes on a senior-laden squad. A guard, Davis stood around 6-foot-2 or 6-3, in Hale’s estimation.
Hale recently joined NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss Davis’ rise to stardom, what it was like coaching him as a high schooler and the Los Angeles Lakers’ run to the 2020 NBA Finals.
“Anthony, his thing was just ‘Coach, I shoot 3s, that’s all I do,’” Hale told Johnson of his first interactions with Davis. “And I’m like, no, you’ve got to learn how to do everything. You gotta learn how to pass, you gotta learn how to take it to the rim, things of that nature."
By his junior year, Davis had shot up to 6-7, his senior year 6-10. That growth-spurt is well-documented, and added a completely different dimension and confidence to Davis’ game. Big-man size with guard skills, a frightening blend.
Soon, Davis was the No. 1 high school player in the country starring at a school unheralded in the decorated landscape of Chicago basketball — known more for its academics than athletics, and without a basketball gym of its own in which to practice. Hale recounted many long treks shuttling players in a school bus from Perspectives’ three campuses to IIT, a local college where the team practiced and played.
“It was a great moment for the school, but it was a very shocking moment for everybody else in our division because of the fact that we weren’t playing the powerhouses like the Simeons or the Whitney Youngs like that,” Hale told Johnson on the podcast. “So they might have heard of Anthony Davis, but they didn’t know what the big ordeal was, but then when you get to the games and you see the press people there and the reporters, you seeing the camera crews, other teams and smaller schools were like ‘What is going on?’ They were starstruck as well.”
While Davis certainly could have transferred up to one of those powerhouse schools, he stayed at Perspectives all four years. Hale said Davis even pulled him and an assistant coach aside at one point during his rise and said, straight out: “I started with you guys, I want to finish with you guys.” To Hale, that served as a testament to Davis’ loyalty and humility, which Hale added hasn’t changed at any level of his success.
“No, not really,” Hale said when asked if anything Davis has accomplished surprised him. “I’ve seen the work that he put in on a daily basis from him being a 15-year-old kid to where he is now. I’ve seen the work and I’ve seen the determination that he had where he was always trying to be better. Even when he had the No. 1 (high school player in the country) spot, he was like, ‘Someone else is coming for me, I’m not there yet. I still have a lot of things to accomplish that I want to do.’
“Even when he hit the shot agains the Nuggets, I was like, he’s made for these moments. He’s used to these big-time moments."
Listen to the full show, which includes in-depth reflections on Davis’ high school career, how his game has evolved and a never-before-told Davis story, here, via the embedded player above or wherever you get your podcasts.
Bulls Talk Podcast