Green's NBA shot It's a long one, but so was Poet succeeding at Loyola

Ken Rosenthal

February 04, 1992|By Ken Rosenthal

His deep blue Minnesota Timberwolves cap symbolizes the NBA dream inside his head, but Kevin Green's professional chances match his body type: Exceedingly slim.

It matters little. Green is certain to become Loyola's second 2,000-point scorer, certain to graduate with a degree in sociology in May.

Neither seemed possible when he left Dunbar High four years ago. Green was a player who received only two scholarship offers, a student who needed two tries to clear 700 on the SATs.

But he became the only Dunbar graduate ever to attend Loyola, an upscale north Baltimore college that isn't a natural fit for inner-city kids.

And when he lost his mother less than two weeks into his freshman year -- the mother who raised eight kids virtually by herself -- it only strengthened his resolve.

If that was his entire story, Kevin Green would be considered a remarkable success. But the NBA is the final, improbable step, and he alone thinks he has a "pretty good chance."

An NBA scout who requested anonymity during Loyola's heartbreaking 66-64 loss to Towson State last night predicted there was "no way" the 6-foot-4, 183-pound guard would be drafted in June.

Even Green's biggest fan, Loyola coach Tom Schneider, conceded, "His physical strength over a 100-game season would be very questionable to them [NBA scouts] right now."

Naturally, Green took a more optimistic view.

"Coming out of high school, maybe some people thought I wouldn't be a good college player, and I proved them wrong," he said.

"Maybe now some people think I can't play in the NBA. Given a chance, I might prove them wrong."

Indeed, maybe it's time people stopped telling this guy no. His backup plan is to attend law school. No one envisioned that four years ago, just as no one envisioned his basketball prowess.

Green led Loyola with 19 points last night and is now 27 short of 2,000. He probably won't break the all-time Loyola record of 2,199 set by Jim Lacy (1945-49). But few expected this much.

His years at Dunbar followed one great era and preceded another. The 1983 and '85 teams won mythical national titles. The current team is ranked No. 1 in the country. Green graduated in '88.

His teams merely won three MSA titles and featured two other Division I players -- Sam Cassell (Florida State) and Lewis Lambert (Cleveland State). Cassell was clearly the focus. Green was only All-Metro second team as a senior.

Dunbar coach Pete Pompey recalled Green as "a heckuva player, a great player, but kind of withdrawn when I first got here [in Green's sophomore year]. His best years were ahead of him. He had great potential. It just needed to come out."

Green's mother, a divorcee, steered her youngest son to Loyola over UMBC. But she died of cancer just as he was starting a difficult curriculum in an unfamiliar environment.

It could have been a devastating blow. "She made me the person I am today," Green said, recalling her strict curfews, her homework demands, even her dismay when her "little baby" went off to Loyola on the other side of town.

But Green said, "It woke me up." It helped that he was close with his seven brothers and sisters, if not his father. And it helped that Loyola provided the type of support that Dunbar's Pompey raves about to this day.

Loyola players attend a two-hour mandatory study hall four times a week and meet with an academic adviser once a week. Such assistance is necessary at a school with a two-year language requirement, but Green still had to do the work himself.

He proved a Dunbar player can succeed in an academic setting. Now he wants to prove an unheralded Baltimore collegian can cut it in the NBA.

His quest is not without precedent.

Coppin State's Larry Stewart is a rookie with the Washington Bullets. And Loyola's Mike Morrison played for Phoenix in 1989-90 (he is now with the Raleigh-Durham Bullfrogs of the Global Basketball League).

Green was selected by The Sporting News College Basketball Yearbook as one of the nation's top 54 seniors. He lacks bulk, but developed from a pure shooter into an all-around player.

The NBA scout said, "He's earned a chance to be denied in actuality and not by somebody's pencil. Someone will offer him the opportunity to go to camp, and that's all you can ask."

Loyola's Schneider said, "I think he can make some money playing this game someplace. He put on 15 pounds in the past year and a half. If he gets in a weight room this spring, he's got a chance."

It's the final, improbable step.

But NBA or not, Kevin Green wins.

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