In the playgrounds of Cincinnati there are no secrets. If a kid is dominant it is going to be news in the city, and that was the case for Behanan when he was still in junior high. Playing for an AAU team that won three consecutive national titles with him, Behanan received scholarship offers from Xavier and Cincinnati before he ever played a varsity game. Ohio State would follow suit less than a month into his season.
For Behanan however it wasn't an easy path even getting to high school. He decided to skip the eighth grade, going directly from seventh to ninth, and that led to even steeper expectations and detractors that were ready to bring him down.
"What went into that was that I was just so anxious to move up and play against the best competition," said Behanan of moving from the seventh grade directly to high school. "As a seventh grader we had to play up all the time since we didn't have competition. I was kind of worried about moving up to high school, but I wasn't scared. I just knew I had to work hard and prove all the haters wrong who were saying I couldn't handle it."
As fate would have it, the freshman at Aiken High School's first game would be against city rival Taft. Taft and Aiken kids usually come from the same neighborhoods, so everyone was looking forward to Behanan's first varsity game.
With a standing room only crowd looking on, Behanan didn't play the first quarter as his coach wanted him to see what the atmosphere was like, but then he got in the game and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
"It was kind of scary for real when coach called my name," said Behanan of that first varsity game. "When I got in I got used to it. I knew half the kids on the other team because we were all from the same neighborhood, but it was a packed gym and a tough environment. I wasn't ready for all of that right away. I had to get used to that."
The rest of the season was much of the same. Behanan dominated, and even had a 40 point effort against Dayton Dunbar. All the while he was playing under the watchful eye of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin.
Cronin and Behanan developed a strong bond, and shortly after his freshman school year, Behanan issued an early verbal to the Bearcats.
"I love my hometown. I really do," said Behanan of why he committed. "I just wanted to represent for them at that time. I didn't know all of the stuff that I know now as far as colleges and the opportunities that I would have. I de-committed to explore all of my options, and now I know a lot more than I did when I was young and committed to Cincinnati."
Coming out of the summer expectations were high for Behanan, but quite honestly he didn't have as good a season as a sophomore. He added weight from his freshman season and didn't have the same intensity to his game.
"A lot of people were saying I was playing good, but that I wasn't playing to my full potential," Behanan remembered. "My sophomore year I was pretty bad, I am not going to lie."
After that season Behanan and his mother, Heaven Warren, made the tough to decision to move from Cincinnati to Bowling Green, Kentucky. By his own admission, Behanan wasn't exactly thrilled with moving from his hometown, but he now knows it was the best thing that could have happened.
"Now that I look at it was the best thing for me. It got me more focused than I ever would have been in Cincinnati," said Behanan of the move. "I had to separate from my friends I was hanging out with in Cincinnati. I was hanging out with some of the wrong people. (Former high school coach) Leon (Ellison) was great for me and is a great person, but when I wasn't with him I knew who I would be with."
Once down in Bowling Green, Behanan decided to get a new start in his recruitment as well. He de-committed from Cincinnati, and opened up the process. At first schools were just gauging interest in Behanan and evaluating him, but then NBA Camp happened.
"My junior year I worked harder, lost some weight, and then things changed again at NBA Camp," said Behanan. "The reason why people were talking about me was because I was named one of the hardest workers down there. It was fun getting named MVP and everything, and just having everyone talking about me as a top player."
Within a month of NBA Camp, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and others all offered. Also Cincinnati once again was in the mix to land him, but still Behanan wanted something new and incidentally saw the perfect place halfway between his new home and his old home.
"The biggest thing was Coach (Rick) Pitino being a Hall of Fame Coach," said Behanan of why he chose Louisville. "He is known for getting players into the NBA, and hopefully he can make me one of those players as well. I was also comfortable with the city, it is close to Cincinnati, and I just was right for their system."
Now a Louisville Cardinal and a McDonald's All-American, a lot has changed for Behanan since he was a wide eyed seventh grader making college coaches take notice. Even though his path to stardom isn't nearly what he imagined, Behanan says he would have it no other way.
"I wouldn't change anything, I really wouldn't," said Behanan. "I worked for everything that I got. Looking back on it I never thought I would be a McDonald's All-American. I know my name will always be mentioned with the best, so it has been great. I wouldn't change anything."