Gabby Green makes it look easy
Gabby Green needed some proof.
The 6-foot-2 guard, who will be a senior at Saint Mary's College High (Berkeley, Calif.) in the fall, is one of the top prospects in the nation. She was named to the U19 national team last month. And she beat out numerous college standouts for one of those 12 coveted roster spots.
But one thing Green has yet to do is dunk, something her mother accomplished when she was in the eighth grade -- or so the legend goes.
Finally, after years of hearing about the alleged dunk, Green demanded proof, and her mother obliged, taking her to Zion Lutheran Middle School in nearby Piedmont, Calif.
And there it was -- all these years later -- the photo of Lisa Malvo still proudly displayed on a wall inside the principal's office.
"My mom is a show-off," Green said with a laugh. "I didn't believe it at first. Even when I saw the picture, I tried to make excuses. 'You are standing on something.' But my mom said, 'Really? You can see my legs.' "
The current principal at Zion Lutheran was Malvo's eighth-grade teacher at that time and had witnessed the leap, confirming that the photo was legitimate.
Malvo, though, said the dunk wasn't quite a dunk.
"I placed the ball in the basket," the 45-year-old Malvo said. "I probably could have dunked -- I don't remember. I just wanted to prove to my coach I could get up that high. That was a big deal.
"But now, when I see that photo, it's just funny because of the short shorts and the long socks."
Malvo, who is 6 feet, said she got offers to play at some lower-level Division I schools but opted instead to just be a regular student at Cal. Gabby's father, Will Green, is 6-4 and played college ball at Cal State-Hayward.
But both parents agree that Gabby -- who has yet to pick a school despite numerous Division I offers -- is something special.
"Gabby is better than we were," Malvo said. "She is better right now than we were at our peaks."
Indeed, no one would dispute that "The Legend of Lisa" has given way to "The Greatness of Gabby."
Green, who is the No. 9 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2014 class, is an outgoing sort who loves humor.
"Sometimes I laugh so much that my stomach hurts," Green said. "I have to tell my friends, 'Please stop!' "
Green grew up idolizing fellow Oakland native Chelsea Gray, a 5-11 All-American point guard who is set to enter her senior year at Duke.
George Quintero, Green's club coach on California Storm's Team Taurasi, also mentored Gray.
But Quintero likens Green to NBA All-Star Kevin Durant because they have similar frames.
"Gabby is nearly 6-3, and her wingspan must be 6-6," Quintero said. "She just doesn't have that nastiness yet. When she gets that, it's game over."
Green loves the Durant comparison.
In fact, even though she grew up rooting for her local NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, her favorite club is now Oklahoma City -- because of Durant.
"People tell me all the time that I'm too skinny and have no muscle," Green said. "But Kevin Durant doesn't have any muscles, and he's pretty great."
Green's lanky frame has conspired against her at times, according to Quintero.
She was cut from the U16 and U17 national tryouts the past two years, and part of the problem, Quintero and Green said, is that her long strides made it seem like she wasn't trying hard -- even though she insists the opposite was true.
People tell me all the time that I’m too skinny and have no muscle. But Kevin Durant doesn’t have any muscles, and he’s pretty great.Gabby Green
"I am going hard; I can't go any harder," said Green, who admits the subject frustrates her. "But I refer back to Kevin Durant because he looks so relaxed and chill even when he is running hard.
"Look, I'm not going to shorten my stride. I take up a lot of ground, and I've tried to explain that to coaches."
They seem convinced now. After all, Green averaged 16.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 steals as a junior at Saint Mary's, leading her high school to a 30-5 record.
She impressed Team USA's coaches last month, making a roster that includes college stars such as Breanna Stewart of Connecticut and Alexis Jones of Duke, among others.
The team will travel halfway around the world to play in the Canary Islands July 12-14 against Spain, Canada and Australia. From there, the Americans are expected to bid for gold at the FIBA U19 World Championship, July 18-28 in Lithuania.
Green, whose only previous international trip was a vacation to France with her mother, is looking forward to learning more about the world through her travels.
"I like going to new places," she said. "It's fun to see how other people live."
By all accounts, that's typical Gabby.
She's more than just an athlete. She has friends from all different sectors of her high school -- she doesn't limit herself to hanging out with fellow basketball players.
Green is looking forward to her senior year and wants to get involved with as many activities as possible.
She said she hopes to have the five colleges she wants to visit figured out by the time she gets home from her basketball trip.
Green plans to talk to her college teammates on Team USA, seeking any advice that might help her decide on a school.
"I'm looking for a family-type vibe," Green said. "I want players and coaches I can talk to about anything. And I want a coach who knows my versatility and knows how to develop me so I can one day play pro ball."