Posted On: 09/16/20 10:37 AM
Born and raised in Bronx, New York, Darrien GradyDarrienGrady5'9" | PGMoorestown Friends | 2023PA learned the game of basketball at some of NYC’s most legendary gyms and playgrounds. Last winter as a freshman starter and leading scorer (24 ppg.) for Moorestown Friends School (NJ) the eductaion he got in the point guard mecca was on full display. Grady notched four games where he scored 32 or more points and posted a 44-point performance against Abington Friends (PA) that was ridiculous. It was one hell of a debut season on the Delaware Valley high school hoops scene.
This summer Grady showed no signs of letting up. Balling for Philly Pride on the pandemic shortened grassroots circuit, Grady was hitting stand still threes from way downtown and reasonable distance treys off pick action. When defenses chased him of the 3-point line, he scored off the dribble in the mid-range or all the way at the tin. Additionally, Grady displayed the ability to find the open teammate and pass out of the double team. As with most elite level point guards, his high basketball IQ was very visible.
Recently I jumped on the phone to catch up with Grady who is set for a big sophomore season — at a NEW school.
Prep Hoops: A lot of fans here in the Philadelphia area may not know about your New York City roots. Give us a little info on you as a young baller in NYC.
Grady: I moved to New Jersey 7 years ago and before that my dad coached me (in Bronx, NY) and we played in all the top summer New York City tournaments. My first tournament was Brother ‘Melo at Red Hook (Tournament put on by Carmelo Anthony at the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn). Even when we first moved out to New Jersey, we went back to ‘Melo and brought some kids up from Jersey. We was playing top level tournaments at Rucker Park too. I remember we played on the stage and they brought out the wood courts. Snoop Dogg’s team was there. It was packed. I used to play for the Gauchos too (Legendary Bronx, NY AAU program NY Gauchos). I used to go there every Saturday for workouts and practice. That was the first team I was ever on.
Prep Hoops: Obviously you had a ridiculous freshman season at Moorestown Friends (NJ). Tell me about last season.
Grady: I knew I was going to have to do a lot to win us games. I knew it was going to take a big effort every night. Kind of like what (Russell) Westbrook had to do with the Thunder. The goal I set for myself was to do whatever it took for us to win games. I knew I was going to get tired, buy my mental goal was to push through fatigue and keeping putting the team on my back. Another goal was to score 20 points (per game) because I thought that was a number that would put us in a good position to win. Once the season started rolling, 20 points wasn’t going to be enough. Some nights I might have to get 30. Other nights I might have to get 40. It wasn’t a point’s thing, it was just doing whatever was needed to help the team win.
Prep Hoops: Are there one or two things that you believe were key to producing such a successful frosh campaign for you?
Grady: Preparation. Last year was the first season I became a big scorer. Previously I played on a lot teams where my role was smaller and I was supposed to play great defense, knock down shots when I was open and be a facilitator. But when I work-out, I always work on my shot and my one-on-one moves. I work on everything. Last year was the first chance I have had to show the skills I work on, but I have had it in me for a while.
Prep Hoops: Let’s revisit your 44-point effort vs Abington Friends. Was that performance a case of being in the zone or was there something you saw and that you took advantage of – what produced that outburst?
Grady: That game was on a Monday or Tuesday after the weekend that Kobe died. I wanted to go out and do something special for Kobe. I wore some shoes with his name on the bottom of the shoes. I didn’t know how many (points) I had because I was just trying to win, but I did something special and after I was like, ‘Kobe was here with me.’
Prep Hoops: When it was all over and you looked back at that game what was that experience like for you?
Grady: It was surreal. It was the first time I scored 40 and right after the game they announced that I set a record for the most points scored in that gym. It was the first record I have broken and I was proud of myself because all of the work I put in was leading up to something big and this was a glimpse of it.
Prep Hoops: Obviously Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the summer hoops schedule. Have you been able to participate in any tournaments or camps this summer?
Grady: I played with Philly Pride in two tournaments. I was going to go to Made Hoops Camp but it got canceled two days before.
Prep Hoops: How did you use the down time during the Covid-19 pandemic hiatus to improve yourself?
Grady: When quarantine first started, I posted a note card on my wall with a special workout routine that I did. Monday through Sunday, I had something each day. I live in an apartment building with 12 floors, so on Monday I would run the stairs a couple times, like 5 times (a day). I would do some pushups and squats. Then Tuesday I would run 2 miles. You get it. I did that for like a month just to stay in shape.
Prep Hoops: In interviewing a number of high school players during this pandemic, I have found that almost all of them are watching film. Are you watching film?
Grady: I like to watch NBA games to see how everything works in the flow instead of just highlights. I feel like watching NBA games (as a whole) helps you translate it to your game. Not just the good. I watch the mistakes as well and try to learn from it.
Prep Hoops: I know you have been working with former Temple / Maine standout Julian Dunkley over in Cherry Hill, NJ. What elements of your game on you concentrating on improving?
Grady: I have been working out with him since I don’t know – since I was really little. In past workouts we focused on shooting and that’s what showed this year (Frosh yr. at MFS) because I felt really confident in my shot. I can shoot from just about anywhere on the court. Now we work on everything – ball handling, strength and conditioning. I remember before quarantine we used to go over to a park and run hills and a 3 mile trail through the woods just to keep our bodies in shape.
Prep Hoops: How would you describe yourself as a baller?
Grady: A do it all point guard. This past season I showed scoring but that’s not all I have. I am a good defender, I see the floor well. I bring good energy. I am a good guy to be around. I am very coachable.
Grady: I know because of my workouts that I am prepared for whatever. I know I am going to hit open shots. I just trust my instincts. I never go into a game thinking ‘ohh I am going to have to do this move to get open’. I just play off my instincts and I know when the time comes I know I will be ready to score.
Prep Hoops: Who has been biggest influence in your young basketball life?
Grady: I’d day my dad. He’s been with me from the start. I have two older brothers who played basketball in college and graduated. So I feel like my dad knows what I have to do to get there and he’s been working with me since I was born. He’s there with me every step of the way.
Prep Hoops: Is there an NBA player that your game / skill set resembles?
Grady: I wouldn’t say just one. I would say a mix of people. My favorite player coming up was Derrick Rose. He’s always in go-mode and attacks the basket. Just always in transition, head down and get to my spots. This might sound cliché but also Curry (Steph). I move well without the ball and when I am open I knock down shots. I don’t force shots. He’s smooth coming off screens and shooting. He uses back screens off the dribble. It’s similar to what I do.
Prep Hoops: What’s it like to play for Philly Pride, one of elite Philly AAU programs?
Grady: It’s great. Coach is always talks about representing the team well and they don’t lose a lot. Same with me. I wasn’t use to losing. We play hard and look to win every time. We are going to be a really strong team.
Prep Hoops: How do you handle the spotlight that comes with being one of the top rising 10th graders in the Delaware Valley?
Grady: It’s no big deal really. I don’t have a big head or anything. I just go out there, play hard and do my best every time. I don’t go around talking about it. It shows when I am on the court.
Prep Hoops: When you play at a camp or tournament, can you feel that everyone is gunning for you?
Grady: Yes, but I look past it because I know if I play a good team or match up with a good player, I am going right back at them. I don’t really look at names, I just look at how you play on the court. The best player on the other team in that game, I want to go at him.
Prep Hoops: You recently decided to leave Moorestown Friends (NJ) and transfer to Shipley School (Lower Merion, PA). What went into that decision?
Grady: Moorestown Friends was a great experience. I wanted to find another school with high academic standards like MFS, Shipley has that and very competitive basketball as well. Plus the coaches said they had other high level players coming in. It just seems like a win-win – high academics and a good program that has produced D-I players.
Prep Hoops: What are your expectations for next year at Shipley?
Grady: I expect to win a lot. My goal is to go to the Friends League championship. Because I want to beat Westtown and get a ‘chip. That’s the goal. Even if it’s not this year, before we graduate. We have talent and if we jell together we will be alright.
Prep Hoops: Let’s wrap this up with a couple off-the-court questions. First, if you had to stay in the NBA bubble down in Orlando, what are 3 things you must take with you?
Grady: Xbox definitely so I can play 2K and watch Netflix. My laptop and my pull up bar. I do pushups and pulls ups on that thing everywhere.
Prep Hoops: Tik Tok or Instagram?
Grady: I’d say Instagram because I think Tik Tok might get banned. I do both a lot though.
Prep Hoops: What is your favorite basketball related follow on social media?
Grady: Probably dunk on Instagram (@dunk). They post funny basketball stuff that puts a smile on your face.
Thanks to Darrien for his time and best of luck this coming season at Shipley.