By Brad Fauber
Erick Green made a bit of local history on Thursday night when he was selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz (who then traded his draft rights to the Denver Nuggets). But Green's rise to the NBA is special for a far bigger reason than the simple fact that he was raised in the Shenandoah Valley, an area that many of us have called home for many years.
Green seemingly came out of nowhere, rising from a player with little NBA Draft relevancy to potential first round prospect in a year's time. He has shown the true power of hard work, determination and perseverance, and that with the right mindset, even the most ambitious of goals suddenly seem attainable.
Green's story seems like the same old cliché that we've heard many times before, the one that preaches the importance of hard work. It's an expression that you hear time and time again, but maybe that is because it is spot-on accurate. And Green is a prime example.
When asked if he had ever thought while growing up that he would one day be invited to the NBA Draft combine, have the opportunity to participate in individual workouts for 15 NBA teams and eventually hear his name called on draft night, Green said, "To be honest, no, not at all."
So how was Green able to reach his lofty childhood dream of one day reaching the NBA?
"I just continue to work every day just like my father always told me. Just work every day and hard work pays off," Green says.
Green's effort both on the basketball court and in the weight room during his senior year at Virginia Tech has been well documented, and Green said he practically lived in the gym during the 2012-13 college basketball season.
A look into his four-year career with the Hokies shows just how much Green has grown on the basketball court since his freshman season in 2009-10.
After being lightly recruited following a stellar high school career that included state championships at both Millbrook (2008) and Paul VI Catholic High (2009), Green averaged a meager 2.6 points per game his freshman season at Virginia Tech in limited action, as he found himself stuck behind former Hokie point guard Malcolm Delaney.
During his sophomore season, Green saw a major increase in playing time, and he responded by dropping 11.6 points per game. In his junior year, Green's first season as the Hokies' uncontested starter at point guard, he again increased his offensive output, as he averaged 15.6 points per game.
But Green wasn't satisfied.
Knowing he would have to step up and be the leader for an inexperienced Hokies team that was welcoming in new head coach James Johnson in Green's senior season, Green took his basketball workouts to an entirely different level.
Green focused on his conditioning, kept a strict eye on his diet and even met Johnson's challenge of making 20,000 jump shots in the offseason prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.
"I was living in the gym, just taking basketball more serious, taking care of my body, eating better. It was big. I think that's why everything happened this year, because of that success in the gym, all the shots I put up, all the extra running I did," Green said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The results of Green's unrelenting work ethic were quite noticeable, as Green became the first player from a power conference in 19 years to lead the nation in scoring, averaging 25 points per game despite being the central focus of opposing defenses.
His ability to score drew the eyes of many NBA scouts, and by the end of the season, Green, who was named the ACC's Player of the Year, was viewed as one of the best scoring guards available in the draft.
However, Green's work still wasn't done, as he had to convince an NBA team to give him a chance at the professional level, and Green worked nonstop since mid-May by attending the NBA Draft combine in Chicago and visiting with 15 different teams from all over the U.S.
All of that hard work paid off for Green on Thursday night when his name was called in the second round of the draft, and you could see the sense of relief wash over him as his goal was realized.
But as he talked shortly after being selected about the opportunity that awaits him in Denver, it became clear that Green isn't going to settle just yet. Green wants to make a name for himself, and he realizes his hardest work has yet to come as he must fight for a spot on Denver's roster.
After everything that Green has put into the sport, it's hard to imagine him being denied that chance.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org