This article appears in the December 2004 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
Gerald Green has told the story plenty, but it's worth repeating.
Cut from the Dobie boys' hoop program as a freshman and a sophomore, he was given a third chance to slip into a Longhorn uniform when Dobie varsity head coach Scott Talton insisted his JV roster lose its hairstyle assortment of cornrows, afros and braids.
As Green remembers it, three or four guys quit the team. He went to the barber.
"It was actually a friend of mine who cut it," recalls the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Green, 18, now a fifth-year senior small forward at Gulf Shores Academy who is rated the nation's No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com. "I just said, ‘Rudy, let's get it done.' Did I miss my hair? Yeah. But if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be here now."
Where he is now is remarkable considering that inauspicious start to his scholastic career.
Armed with a new 'do and a second chance, Green bolstered Dobie's depleted JV squad as a sophomore in 2001-02. He made the Dobie varsity as a junior in 2002-03 but then transferred to Gulf Shores and repeated his junior year last season.
Now in his second year at Gulf Shores, he has blossomed into one of the nation's top ballers and a SchoolSports All-American. Green, who averaged 29 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks per game last season, has committed to Oklahoma State, but he's also drawing legitimate NBA Draft interest thanks to an electric game and remarkable gifts as a scorer.
"Right now, I'm leaning toward going to OSU," he says. "I really want to develop. I think I could contribute right away there, but we'll have to see how much more hard work helps me."
Gulf Shores head coach Ken Williams doesn't set any rules about hair on his team. And if he did, odds are he'd waive them if Green wanted cornrows. Or dreads. Or even if the kid wanted to wear a wig.
"Nobody can stop him at this level," says Williams, 45, a former standout guard at Milby and the University of Houston. "He can dunk on you, shoot on you, beat you from the outside, beat you on the inside. The kind of skills he has, well, he's going to be around a long time.
"But what amazes me most is that he's the same kid as he was yesterday," adds Williams, now in his 11th season at the Tigers' helm. "He's got that nonchalance about him. People say he's got a shot to go to the NBA right away and he's like, ‘Yeah, OK, what's next?' If somebody told me I had that kind of talent, I'd be running around the neighborhood jumping over cars."
Williams is fired up about Green for good reason. Exceptionally quick and athletic, Green is also an assassin as a shooter. He is amply gifted at creating his own shot, but he's even more renowned for burying low-percentage stuff in traffic.
In sum, he's one of those guys who can turn a game around just when a defense thinks it's made that all-important stop. And he's also a guy who can keep that game turned around. His mindset might be the most important part of that equation.
"I tell people all the time that it's so important to never give up," says Green, a first team All-District selection as a junior at Dobie when he averaged 13.5 points, six rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game two seasons ago. "It's great to dream. My main goal growing up was to go to the NBA, and I was willing to do anything to make it happen. But that's just a dream. Really, all I wanted to do was play basketball. That's what I didn't want to give up. I never knew it would take me this far."
It's not as if the game dragged Green, kicking and screaming, to a Division I college scholarship and the doorstep of a pro contract. He worked at it. Hours and hours of shooting at the rim at the end of Woodviolet Street in Sagemont.
"A lot of years, man," says Green. "I couldn't sleep. I'd be out until 3 a.m. shooting. I did a lot of things that are finally paying off. I never thought it would take cutting my hair to get it all started."
An equally intriguing story is how Green became such a money shooter in traffic. After all, he didn't even make an organized high school team as a freshman, so how accustomed could he be to aiming and firing with someone in his face?
There certainly wasn't anyone else there on Woodviolet Street in the middle of the night.
"I just imagined I was getting guarded on every practice shot I took," says Green. "I'd be going real hard and make it seem like somebody was holding me and hand-checking me and getting a hand up on my release. And if I missed it, I'd have to make two more of the same before working on something else. If you teach yourself to go real hard like that in a shooting drill, going real hard in a game becomes easy."
Of course, Green's trip toward stardom hasn't been entirely a solo flight. He credits his parents and his three siblings for helping him stay motivated.
"I don't have to worry about getting big-headed because my family just won't let that happen," he says. "My parents make me go to the gym sometimes, man. I'll be dragging a little bit and think about skipping, and my parents will say, ‘No way, you're going.' You gotta learn to love it, and I have because I never get tired of this game."
Of course, none of that explains how it is that a superstar like Green carries himself like just another guy when it's so glaringly obvious he's not. Basically, it's about rolling with the punches. At its core, it has to do with still being the same guy who didn't think twice about cutting his hair just to make the JV.
The one thing Gerald Green doesn't do is take himself too seriously.
"I just play my game — I don't worry about what people say," he says. "There's always going to be someone who loves you and someone who dislikes you. I just don't put a lot of pressure on myself. Because if you try to do too much, you usually don't do enough. I just play the game like it's my last and take it from there."