NBA MVP Joel Embiid couldn’t start at Central Florida prep powerhouse
Running off at the typewriter …
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid may have just been awarded the NBA’s MVP, but he wasn’t even good enough to start as a high school player in Central Florida.
Specifically, he wasn’t good enough to start at national private school powerhouse Montverde Academy on the outskirts of Orlando.
“I’m like Dean Smith was with Michael Jordan,” Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle cracked Wednesday. “I’m the only guy who could hold down Joel Embiid.”
Actually, Embiid had only been playing basketball for a year and was a raw 16-year-old from the African nation of Cameroon when he showed up at talent-laden Montverde. Originally, Embiid wanted to play professional soccer or volleyball until he was discovered at a basketball camp by Luc Mbah a Moute, a former NBA player and fellow native of Embiid’s hometown in Cameroon.
When Embiid arrived at Montverde, Boyle knew he would be a star someday but had other more developed senior players in the lineup ahead of him. That’s just how it is at the nation’s most dominant high school program, which currently boasts 14 current NBA players as alumni and has won an unprecedented six Geico national championships at the season-ending tournament involving all of the elite basketball prep schools in the country.
“We could see Joel had great size, great feet and great hands,” Boyle said, “but he was just a little bit raw when he got here. It was his first year in America and he hadn’t played that much basketball, so there was an adjustment period. But he had a great competitive spirit. He worked hard and put in extra time in the gym to improve. Unfortunately, he ended up leaving after that first season.”
Embiid wanted more playing time and transferred to a less-talented (but still formidable) private Christian academy in Gainesville – The Rock school – where he led the Lions to a state championship before signing with Kansas.
Interestingly, if Embiid had stayed at Montverde for his senior season, the team would have been composed of a future No. 1 overall pick (Ben Simmons), a future No. 2 overall pick (DeAngelo Russell) and a future No. 3 overall pick (Embiid).
Boyle often tells the story of when Embiid, who barely spoke English, first arrived at Montverde and made an awkward play at his very first practice. When his more seasoned American teammates began laughing, Boyle told Embiid to go get a drink at a nearby water fountain.
With Embiid out of earshot, Boyle told his team: “Laugh all you want. But in five years, you’re going to be asking to borrow money from him because he’s going to be worth about $50 million.”
Actually, Boyle underestimated Embiid’s value.
The MVP’s four-year, $196 million contract extension is set to kick in next season.
Short stuff: Did you see where English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur was so embarrassed after getting drubbed 6-1 by Newcastle United that they offered ticket refunds to all their fans who traveled to the game? If the Magic had done that after every embarrassing performance over the last decade, the DeVos family wouldn’t own Amway; they’d be selling it door-to-door. … Stat of the week: Golden State’s Kevon Looney became the first player with four 20-plus-rebound games in a postseason since the Magic’s Dwight Howard in 2009. Just goes to show that to hit the boards that hard, you have to be a little bit loony, er, Looney. … True story: Earlier this week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared loneliness as an epidemic in this country. Sounds like he’s been talking to a lot of XFL season-ticket holders. … Tiger Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava announced earlier this week that he is moving to Patrick Cantlay’s bag. You can’t blame him. Tiger just underwent yet another surgery and you wonder when – or if – he’ll play competitively again. …
I just saw where Corporal Sam Hammond of the Royal Marines set a Guinness World Record by running the London Marathon in 4 hours and 56 minutes – with a refrigerator strapped to his back. That’s almost as impressive as the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl – with Trent Dilfer starting at quarterback. … Headline at TheOnion.com after the NFL Draft: “Roger Goodell Excited To See So Much Talented, Inexpensive Labor.” … How cool is it that the Tampa Bay Rays (third-lowest payroll) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (fourth-lowest payroll) have the two of the best records in baseball? Just goes to show that money isn’t everything. Then again, as the late billionaire J. Paul Getty once said, “Money isn’t everything but it sure keeps you in touch with your children.” …
Earlier this week, Ohio gambling regulators halted betting on college baseball games involving the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’ve got a better idea: How about requiring anybody found betting on college baseball to immediately call the Problem Gambling Hotline. … A moment of silence, please, Gordon Lightfoot has just gone to That Big Lake Gitche Gumee In the Sky. … New Colorado head coach Deion Sanders says the NFL should be “ashamed” for not drafting more HBCU players. Um, Coach Prime, didn’t you bolt an HBCU program (Jackson State) for the first Power 5 job that came along (and not even a good one at that) and didn’t you bring many of your best players with you? … After ESPN draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay whiffed so badly on predicting where Kentucky quarterback Will Levis would end up, shouldn’t they exchange their big boards for drawing boards? …
Last word: With Thursday being National Orange Juice Day, this comes from the great Jeff Foxworthy: “You might be a redneck if you’ve ever stared intently at a can of frozen orange juice because it said concentrate.”