Sandwiched between two powerhouse basketball cities in Baltimore and Washington D.C. sits a small county in Maryland that has produced hoops legends.
Prince George’s County is well known to locals. Past names resonate well beyond the DMV: Len Bias and Hawkeye Whitney, Adrian Branch and Kenny Carr, Walt Williams and Thurl Bailey right up to present-day NBA All-Stars like Kevin Durant and Victor Oladipo.
“It’s a place that builds character, that doesn’t allow you to back down from anything,” said Jeff Green, a 12-year NBA veteran who was born and raised in PG County.
Durant and his business manager, Rich Kleiman, partnered with fellow local NBA players Oladipo and Quinn Cook to executive produce a documentary on Showtime called Basketball County: In The Water.
The project features some of the great players, both male and female, that have come from PG County over the years. On a recent episode of the Wizards Talk Podcast, Green, a Georgetown alum and Cheverly, Md. native, explained the reason for creating this documentary to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller.
“Helping people recognize the talent that has come through, that has touched the NBA floor, touched basketball courts,” Green said. “People don’t understand because it’s a small hub. But only people that get recognized are from Chicago, LA, New York. We’re put on the back burner, but people don’t realize how much talent comes from PG County”.
According to the 2010 United States Census, fewer than 900,000 people live in Prince George’s County. That’s about the size of Tulsa, Okla.
Cook grew up in Bowie and played for the famed program at DeMatha before his basketball journey took him to Duke and, eventually, the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. He believes the small population makes for an extremely close basketball community.
“All of us are literally five, 10, 15 minutes tops away from each other. We go to the same churches, same barber shops, we play on the same AAU teams,” Cook said.
To further illustrate this close-knit community, when Cook didn’t get drafted after winning a national championship at Duke in 2015, one of the first people to reach out to him was Green.
“Jeff Green literally checks on me once a month,” Cook said. “He knew I looked up to him because his voice, his words mean something to me”.
Since 2000, this small county has produced 25 NBA players and more than a dozen WNBA players. Each generation of PG County basketball players have a G.O.A.T to look up to.
For Green, it was fellow Northwestern High alum Len Bias.
Cook’s G.O.A.T was someone closer to his own age. In fact, Cook traveled the same path to Duke to play college ball with Nolan Smith, who spent his junior season at PG County's Riverdale Baptist and is only four years older than Cook.
But to really pinpoint the connection players have with one another, Green recalls needing a ride to his high school senior prom. DerMarr Johnson answered the call. The 1999 Parade Magazine high school player of the year, who played one brilliant year at Cincinnati with Kenyon Martin, who was drafted No. 6 overall in 2000 and spent seven years in the NBA, was glad to help Green out.
“It was the first time I ever seen the most expensive car in my life - a Bentley. A four-door Bentley 4.5 Spur,” Green remembered. “He drove me to prom, dropped me off and I was like ‘Damn this is it, dog.’ You see him and it was like he made it and it was possible.”
A simple gesture of a ride to the prom. Maybe any big brother would do it. But to Jeff Green it was a classic case of passing on love and appreciation to those who have hooped in PG County before, during and after the pickup games have ended.
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