Wizards

DeMatha HS coach tells stories of Victor Oladipo and Jerian Grant ahead of Wizards-Pacers

Wizards

DeMatha High School head coach Mike Jones can still remember the conversations between Victor Oladipo and Jerian Grant when they were underclassmen, some of those discussions which were in passing, that they didn't even know he heard.

Long before they became NBA first round picks, the two were best friends. They would sit in the locker room in Hyattsville, MD and marvel over what it would be like to someday make it to the league.

"They used to talk about playing in the NBA, they used to talk about making it. They used to talk about playing against each other," Jones told NBC Sports Washington.

On Monday at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington Plus, Grant and Oladipo's teams will square off in the NBA's campus in Orlando. Grant now plays for his hometown Wizards, the team his father also played for, while Oladipo is in his third year with the Indiana Pacers.

"To be able to see their dreams come true, it's incredibly rewarding because I know they did everything they were supposed to do to make that happen," Jones said.

As Jones can attest, both Grant and Oladipo did not take the path many first round picks did. Both arrived at DeMatha without any hype. They had to start out on the freshman team and work their way up to varsity. And they did it the hard way.

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They would show up early in the morning before school to work out at what is known as the 'Breakfast Club.' The rules are simple. You show up dressed and ready to go by six in the morning or else you aren't allowed in the gym.

Grant would travel from 30 minutes away and Oladipo from 45 minutes out. Grant would set his alarm and walk into his mother's room and bounce on the bed to wake her up. 

"He woke his mom up, he woke his ride up to take him to the gym. It wasn't the other way around. That's love for the game," Jones said.

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Once they arrived at school, the gym would be opened by David Adkins, who is now an assistant coach for the Wizards and will be sitting on the bench on Monday. Adkins cut his teeth in the high school ranks, but now leads an expansive player development program for an NBA team.

Those early morning workouts helped Grant and Oladipo rise through DeMatha's vaunted basketball system, which has produced many stars at all levels of the game. Monday's NBA slate also features other alums from the school like Jerami Grant of the Nuggets, Jerian's brother, and Quinn Cook of the Lakers.

But just having the talent and going to DeMatha isn't enough to make it to the sport's highest level. It takes a level of determination not everyone has.

Grant and Oladipo each went the extra mile to go from unheralded high school players to big-time college stars to NBA first round picks. They have become testimonials for Jones to cite to the young players he coaches today.

"It makes it easier for someone to listen to you, but let's be honest, kids are funny. You can say the No. 1 pick in the draft [Markelle Fultz] didn't play varsity until he was a junior, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft [Oladipo] didn't start on varsity until his senior year," Jones said. 

"I can throw those stories out to an eighth grader and he's looking at me like 'yeah, that's cool but I'm ready to play varsity today.' It probably doesn't help as much on the front end, but during the process it helps because when a young man doesn't have immediate success, we can point to those guys."

For those who are willing to put in the time, Grant and Oladipo represent shining examples of what hard work can lead to. Jones believes their success is validation for his program and also the basketball talent in the D.C. area as a whole.

But Jones knows that for this particular duo it also represents something on a more personal level.

"Just their friendship, their partnerhood, their bond together; I've never seen anything like it," Jones said. "I'm so proud to have been able to watch them up close."

 

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