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This feature story is from the November 2006 issue of the Pack Pride Magazine. Written by James Henderson, the article focuses on NC State junior guard Gavin Grant. To learn more about the publication and how to subscribe, click on the link below ...

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    Bronx Bomber
    There Are Two Things That Gavin Grant Really Loves: Basketball And The Bronx

    Pack Pride Magazine
    November 2006
    WORDS: James Henderson
    PHOTOS: Jason Cole, Pack Pride

    T
    hat those two things, along with his family, are the loves of his life is fitting, since one brought him the other.

    Grant wasn't born with either of those things. He was born in Jamaica and spent his younger years playing another sport: soccer. He came to the United States in the third grade, but didn't start playing basketball until several years later.

    "I didn't have time for basketball back then," remembers Grant. "I was too busy going to school and taking speech classes to get rid of my accent. Plus, my mother wasn't really into sports, so I didn't play anything."

    Grant's accent after he moved to the United States was something that affected him greatly as a child.

    "Whenever I tried to read out loud, I would have a bad stuttering problem. The other kids made fun of me, and it really bothered me. I got to where I really didn't talk to anybody. I couldn't really hold a conversation without stuttering. When I tried to change the words and say them correctly in English, I couldn't do it. I definitely felt different from the other kids, and I just wanted to go home. I was miserable."

    The young Grant said he didn't have any friends during those first years in New York, and because he lived in a bad neighborhood, he couldn't really go outside and make friends. So, he just spent his days in his apartment by himself.

    One day, when Grant was about 12 years old, soon after his family had moved to a better neighborhood in the Bronx, he went to the basketball court downstairs at his new building.



    "I was weak. I couldn't dribble the ball. My friend tried to show me, and I just couldn't get it. I used to work on dribbling all the time."

    "It was the middle of spring, but I had on the biggest winter coat," Grant laughs. "It had toothpaste on it, and they were making fun of me. But they were playing basketball and because I was so tall, they picked me first."

    Grant says that when he first tried to play, he couldn't even get the ball up to the rim on a lay-up, so he had to shoot underhanded.

    "I was weak. I couldn't dribble the ball. My friend tried to show me, and I just couldn't get it. I used to work on dribbling all the time."

    He was so bad, he recalls, that his ability (or lack thereof) caused him to get a new nickname.

    "Everyone back home knows me as Shane. That's what everybody called me growing up. So when I started trying to play basketball, the kids started calling me ‘Sh... Shane.' That made me want to practice more. I wanted to show them that I could play just like them. Once I learned to dribble and get to the basket, I went from the worst to the best. I picked it up really fast. I was working... you know how college kids work on their games all the time? I was doing that when I was 12. I didn't have that many friends still and once it hit 7 o'clock I had to go upstairs, so after school I went straight to the park. They would play manhunt and tag, but I would always play basketball."

    At the time, Grant was attending public school in the Bronx, but he had a friend who attended St. Raymond's, a private school.



    "My first game, I was so bad I had like five turnovers."

    "They had a basketball team, so I worked it out that I was a manager," he says. "I kept the book for their games. The coach wanted me to play, so I ended up going to school there."

    "My first game, I was so bad I had like five turnovers. I was so nervous - I felt like everybody was staring at me. But I kept playing, and I got really good. The next year, I scored 1,000 points. I didn't think I was good enough to go to the high school."

    Grant says that in the realm of New York City basketball, he was a "no one." "There were kids who were known in the city," he adds. "There are teams like the New York Gauchos who are known throughout the country. I didn't feel like I could compete with that."

    But Grant did more than compete, he excelled. He ended up averaging 25 points as a freshman.

    "At that point, I was so into basketball. I had learned a lot. I used to like the Knicks and watched them all the time. People around my neighborhood still knew me as ‘Shane.' They would say, ‘I thought you went to St. Raymond's? Some dude named Gavin is scoring all their points.'"



    "If I was to make it to the pros and make a lot of money, I would want an apartment in my neighborhood. I don't even like living in houses. I need people around me."

    Grant still loves going home to the Bronx.

    "It's pretty tough, but it's home," he says. "I know everyone. When I go home, I play all the little kids in the park one-on-one, I just line them up and play."

    Like most collegiate ball players, Grant hopes to make it the the NBA in the not-so-distant future. But once he makes it and starts bringing in that hefty paycheck, he doesn't want to buy a big house in the suburbs.

    "I want to live in my neighborhood," he laughs. "If I was to make it to the pros and make a lot of money, I would want an apartment in my neighborhood. I don't even like living in houses. I need people around me. At home, there are people everywhere, any time of the day or night. If you get bored, you just walk outside. There is always somebody to talk to."

    Although he has NBA ambitions, Grant is focused on the year ahead.

    "I'm definitely excited about this year," he says. "I think it will be a lot different for me and whole program. I want to be on a team that gets up and down and plays defense hard and wants to win. I'm a co-captain now. Coach Lowe told me he sees me as a leader and that people look up to me. So I'm trying to lead my example - working out on my own, conditioning really hard, getting to study hall early. When the season starts, I just want to win."


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