No. 1, from our 'hood
He's the NBA's next superstar. He'll be the first pick in tonight's draft. He went to a tiny charter school in the South Loop.
06/27/2012 10:00 PM
Tonight, 19-year-old Anthony Davis is expected to be the number one pick in the NBA draft. Davis hails from Englewood just like Derrick Rose, who was the number one pick in the draft four years ago. But unlike Rose who was a well-known and highly publicized player even as an eighth grader and had a well-chronicled high school career at basketball powerhouse Simeon High School, Davis went to a little charter school in the South Loop that doesn’t even have a gym.
Until his senior year in high school, Davis played in obscurity at little Perspectives Charter School, at 1930 S. Archer Ave. just west of State Street. The Rodney Joslin campus that Davis attended has a high school enrollment of about 210 students, and shares space with a middle school in a two-story triangular-shaped building.
As an eighth grader, Davis played on an AAU team coached by former NBA player Sonny Parker, whose son Jabari is considered by many in the country the top player in the class of 2013.
Back then, Davis was just an average-sized guard who didn’t like to mix it up inside.
“A lot of people knew who he was, but he was pretty much known as just the skinny kid with goggles who shot threes,” said Cortez Hale, his high school coach at Perspectives. “A lot of people didn’t see the talent he did possess.”
Perspectives chooses students by lottery, and when Davis tried to enroll for sixth grade his number didn’t come up. But his twin sister’s Antoinette’s did, so Anthony was allowed to enroll at Perspectives because his sister was going there. He started at Perspectives, as most Perspectives students do, as a sixth grader. An older sister also attended the school.
“His parents wanted a good education and a safe environment,” Hale said. “They didn’t care about athletics. That wanted somewhere he could go that has good academics. That’s why they close Perspectives.”
Davis made the varsity as six-foot freshman guard and was the second best player on the team.
By his sophomore year, Davis had grown to be a 6’2” guard and was easily the best player on the team, averaging about 16 points a game. But Perspectives plays in the little regarded Blue Division of the Public League, and Davis had little talent around him. He had stopped playing AAU basketball and worked out at home with his cousins. He was off the recruiting radar.
Davis kept growing. He sprouted up to about 6’8” at the start of his junior season, but his team won only six games against 17 losses.
The team practiced and played its home games at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s gym. Its basketball team was a coop team with another Perspectives campus. Some counseled him to transfer to a high-profile school but Davis and his family were comfortable with the little school with a family atmosphere, so he stayed.
Davis began to attract some attention and he received a college scholarship offer from Cleveland State, but his team finished 8-15 his junior year and he was still a virtual unknown. The Chicago Sun Times reported that it covered 700 high school basketball games that season, but Davis didn’t play in any of them.
But Davis just kept growing. In the spring of his junior he began playing AAU basketball again for the first time since eighth grade. He grew to 6’10” but he retained the ball handling and outside shooting skills that he developed as a perimeter player.
He exploded on the national scene the summer before his senior year of high school. By the end of the summer of 2010 he was considered (by most of those who pay attention to such things) the top prospect in the country. He was soon being recruited by most of the major basketball powerhouse schools in the country.
He narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse and DePaul, and in August of 2010 Davis committed to play college basketball at Kentucky.
This spring Davis led Kentucky to a national championship. He led the Wildcats in scoring, with 14.2 points per game, and rebounding, with 10.4 rebounds per game. He was named the Associated Press College Player of the Year and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament.
Not long after leading Kentucky to the national championship, Davis declared for the NBA draft.
During Davis’s senior year at Perspectives, Hale upgraded the team’s schedule playing in a few national shootouts and scheduling a game with traditional power Whitney Young. While Davis excelled and turned heads with his talent, wins were still hard to come by as Perspectives finished the season 6-19 despite Davis averaging 32 points and 22 rebounds a game. Davis was the only senior on the team.
But Davis’s very presence and example helped improve the players around him.
“The players became more committed after the experiencing the things they experienced playing with Anthony,” Hale said. “They just became a lot better and more dedicated.”
This past season, Perspectives went 10-16 without Davis and playing a weaker schedule. But Perspectives measures success by more than wins and losses. The charter school stresses attending college under a program called College for Certain.
This year 98 percent of the Joslin campus’s class of 2012 will be attending college, school officials say.
College is the expectation for Perspectives students. They take college tours starting in middle school.
The school focuses on ethics and it teaches, and expects its students to follow, 26 principles it calls A Disciplined Life focusing on self-perception, communication and productivity.
“College for Certain and A Disciplined Life is part of everything we do at our school,” said Angela Brooks-Rallins, the principal of the Joslin campus.
Perspectives students have a longer school day, 8:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m., than their counterparts at regular CPS high schools. High school students wear a uniform of a black polo shirt, black pants, black belt and black shoes. Students take a double period of math each day.
All students complete an internship. Students come to Joslin campus from 34 different wards. Admission is by lottery. By law in Illinois, charter schools must be open enrollment schools.
“We don’t look at test scores,” Brooks-Rallins said. “We don’t look at any qualifier. It’s the lottery.”
Perspectives, founded in 1997, now has five different campuses. School officials point to Davis as a shining example of the school’s philosophy that hard work and perseverance pay off. But given the stress on attending and graduating from college at Perspectives, school officials have had to consider how they feel about their most famous alumnus quitting college after one year to turn pro and make millions of dollars.
“Me and him made a deal that no matter what, he’s going to graduate, so he’s going to go back and take summer courses and things like that,” Hale said. “It might not be in four years, but he’s going to graduate from Kentucky.”
Brooks-Rallins feels the same way.
“I feel like he will continue to exhibit perseverance and go back for his degree,” Brooks-Rallins said. “That education does matter to him. I just really hope he stays focused and committed to being a lifelong learner and that he does get a degree.”
Davis has certainly been the best public relations tool Perspectives has ever had.
“It has affected the school a lot,” Brooks-Rallins said. “It’s certainly brought a lot of press to our school. It’s kind of this give and take relationship.
“Anthony’s success has brought our school a lot of attention and our school helped him get his success. I think,” she said. “It’s really made us see our successes too. Through Anthony we’ve seen this ethical young man who’s going to be the number one pick in the draft, and he’s been successful in college. I think it’s great for our kids.”