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Originally published May 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 28, 2007 at 9:30 AM

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Kevin Durant: The kid who could be King

The boy had a dream not unlike the dreams of many adolescents. Kevin Durant was 11, maybe 12 when he told his mother he wanted to be a basketball...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Durant by the numbers


Ht.: 6-10. Wt: 225

Position: Small forward

Born: Sept. 29, 1988

Hometown: Suitland, Md. (Montrose Christian High School)

College: Texas

Notable: Won a slew of honors (Naismith Award, Wooden Award) in his only year with the Longhorns, including becoming the first freshman to be named Associated Press player of the year. Averaged 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. ... Named to the U.S. national team Wednesday.

LAS VEGAS — The boy had a dream not unlike the dreams of many adolescents.

Kevin Durant was 11, maybe 12 when he told his mother he wanted to be a basketball player. The brief conversation changed their lives. From that point, basketball became a way of life for them.

Wanda Pratt, Durant's mother, worked at a post office in Suitland, Md., but her real job was raising two boys and supporting a hoop dream that has led Durant to the doorstep of the NBA. The work ethic she taught him could drive him to the Sonics, who are likely to make him No. 2 pick in next month's NBA draft.

"I don't know if she thought I was serious or not, but she said, 'All right, if that's what you want, then you've got to work hard and commit to it," Durant said, stretching his spindly 6-foot-10 frame on the couch of his hotel room. "My mother taught me to always be strong and always work hard. She's been working hard her whole life for me and my brother. I'm a lot like her in that I work hard for what I want. She taught me that."

Durant stuffs a duffel bag with clothes and prepares for a flight to Vancouver, B.C., where he'll meet with executives from EA Sports. The Texas forward, who was the first freshman to be the consensus college player of the year, will appear on the cover of the "March Madness 2008" video game, and is spending two days in Canada while programmers recreate his game.

During a six-hour layover in Las Vegas, Durant accepted an invitation to compete with the U.S. national basketball team and posed for photos with Ohio State's Greg Oden, who also accepted an invitation, and Team USA general manager Jerry Colangelo.

Durant by the numbers


Ht.: 6-10. Wt: 225

Position: Small forward

Born: Sept. 29, 1988

Hometown: Suitland, Md. (Montrose Christian High School)

College: Texas

Notable: Won a slew of honors (Naismith Award, Wooden Award) in his only year with the Longhorns, including becoming the first freshman to be named Associated Press player of the year. Averaged 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. ... Named to the U.S. national team Wednesday.

After interviews with Las Vegas media and ESPN and a national teleconference, Durant had a few minutes to gather his belongings and unwind before meeting his father downstairs.

Periodically he stared out the window of the room on the 54th floor to admire a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevadas. Four months shy of his 19th birthday, Durant is still unaccustomed to such luxuries. He'd rather be in a gym somewhere working on his game.

"I know that the hard work got me here," Durant said. "And the day I stop working hard, this can all go away."

That's his mother talking. Or maybe it's Taras Brown, the man he calls his godfather and who's credited with guiding the young boy with a basketball dream into becoming a likely top-two pick in the June 28 NBA draft.

Durant isn't sure anymore which voice he hears louder inside his head.

His mother introduced him to Brown. Durant was 9, and Brown coached a local AAU team that practiced at the nearby Seat Pleasant Activity Center. After a year or two of one-on-one instruction, Brown determined that the boy had real talent.

Soon after, Durant had the life-changing conversation with his mother, and she refused to let him quit on his dream, even when Brown's training reached what many might believe to be maniacal levels.

"We spent long hours in the gym," Durant said. "From 9 to 5, it was like a job to me. I was always in the gym. People would look at me crazy because I spent so much time there. But that's what it was about. I'm glad I did it.

"I would do 100 laps. Crab walks. Duck walks. Run hills and everything. Anything he could think of, we did. It was brutal, but I fought through it every day. I never quit. I told myself to never be a quitter. That was my mentality."

Durant's passion became an obsession.

"If people knew what he did and what he's done, it's amazing," said Wayne Pratt, Durant's father. "You're talking about going to school, coming back from school, getting your homework done, running maybe a mile from your grandmother's house to the gym, working out at the gym and then calling your grandmother to bring your dinner to the gym. And that's an 11- or 12-year-old kid. That's dedication."

Durant lived like a basketball recluse, rarely playing video games or hanging out with friends.

"Honestly, I don't know how I did all of those things when I was younger," he said. "I just wanted to be great."

Brown forbade Durant from playing pickup games or scrimmaging. He stressed conditioning and an array of shooting, dribbling, passing and defensive drills. Every day was boot camp. Brown taught Durant three basic moves — a pull-up jump shot, a two-dribble jumper and a baseline drive — that formed the foundation of Durant's repertoire.

He made the boy write basketball essays, diagram the mechanics to jump shots and told him to memorize a quote that has shaped his life: Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.

"I had to write until I remembered it," Durant said.

With the exception of his junior year of high school at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, they met every day until Durant left for Texas.

If not for the NBA's one-year eligibility rule, Durant might have played his rookie year in Toronto last season. Instead, he led the Longhorns to a 25-10 record and played Big 12 opponents like PlayStation.

The conference had never seen anyone like the versatile forward, who averaged 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 40.4 percent on three-pointers. He scored 30 or more in 11 games and surpassed the 20-point mark in 30 of his 35 games.

"You kind of catch yourself in awe," said Texas Tech assistant coach Pat Knight, son of head coach Bob Knight, whose team watched Durant drop 37 on them. "He's going to be the closest thing from a talent standpoint to Michael Jordan. You don't like to say those things about a kid because that puts a huge amount of pressure on them, but that's how I feel."

Durant's talents have led to a debate about who should be the No. 1 pick. Two sources within the Portland Trail Blazers' organization said the team is strongly considering selecting Durant with the No. 1 pick in the draft next month, even though many analysts believe Oden should go first.

If he slips past Portland, he'll land in Seattle, which has the second pick.

"I promise you this much: Whoever takes Kevin, they haven't seen the best that he can do," Wayne Pratt said. "You haven't seen anything yet. He's prepared almost his entire life for this and he's only going to get better."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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