My dad, Paul LaVine is a former NFL linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and mom, CJ LaVine, was an athlete in her own right as a softball player and not to mention grew up competing with two brothers. Lets just say the genes were there for me to excel athletically.
By the age of seven, I was going in the direction of being an athlete. At that time baseball was my sport. After my dad retired from professional football he began a career as a professional softball player. And yes... there is such a thing. I remember watching him and my uncle practice all day. I would try to swing like them and perform like them on the field.
Shortly thereafter my sport choice changed dramatically when I saw the movie, “Space Jam.” I became fixated with Michael Jordan. I watched hours of video tape of him desiring to be a skilled basketball player like MJ. I would go outside and try to emulate all types of his dunks. I wanted to do anything and everything I could to be like him and continue to excel in basketball. At that moment, I knew I had found my sport.
I was gifted as a young boy in the game. I had the opportunity to play two and sometimes three years ahead of my age to accelerate my development in the sport. The hard work I put in as a youngster with my dad in the backyard made this all possible. Every day we spent countless hours practicing drills: ball handling, touch shots, deep threes, strength training, as well as quickness and agility training. If there was any area of my game that needed improving, my dad would find a strategy to practice and refine my skills in our backyard. His creativity was genius.
I was fortunate to have a father that had the capability to play the role of trainer AND coach. He taught me how to deal emotionally with the good and bad parts of game situations. He always made me aware of what my attitude looked like while on the court and gave me advise when I needed guidance. He helped me be mentally strong so that I could endure a tough, hard-nosed coach. There was always a reason for everything during my training and if I slipped, my dad would let me know.
My hometown high school was a three year school, so as a freshman I was not allowed to play at the varsity level. When my sophomore year hit, I was definitely ready to show the varsity stage what I was all about. My team was in the lower half of our league so I was thrown into the fire to be a play-maker with no varsity experience. This allowed me to make mistakes and learn. I averaged a league-leading 26 points as a sophomore, which was good enough for 3rd in the state. I put my name on the map and turned a few heads by picking up seven offers from NCAA Division I colleges at the end of this first high school season.
I then had the misfortune of injuring my hip during an AAU summer game while attempting to dunk. An MRI indicated a clean break in my hip joint, which led to me being sidelined for most of my junior AAU season. I was back playing basketball in the fall ready to turn out for my junior season. At this point I was the #1 ranked basketball player in Washington State and landed in the top 50 players in the country. My team improved enough to gain a birth in the state tournament before losing in the first round.
The summer of my senior year, my hard work paid off as I was selected to go to every elite camp during my that summer. I was given incredible opportunities to play among the other top players in the country. I improved my game and showcased my talent nationally. These camps included: Pangos All American Camp, NBPA Camp, Deron Williams Point Guard Skills Academy, Lebron James Skills Academy, Adidas Nation and Reebok Breakout Camp.
After the elite summer camps, I was still considered one of the top 50 basketball players in the country for my class. UCLA selected me to join their squad to start my college career and I accepted. My choice was easy because the UCLA Basketball Program’s reputation helps advance the direction I want to go with basketball. In addition, I have extended family living in the San Bernardino area.
After one year at UCLA, I started my NBA career by being drafted 13th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
I owe much of my success to the hard work and countless hours spent in my backyard with my parents. They supported me and always inspired me to strive for more.