Powerhouse programs prepared Bogans for pros - Part II

Powerhouse programs prepared Bogans for pros - Part II

Newest Buck possesses elite basketball background

by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Few of the league's 450 players can match the basketball  pedigree of Keith Bogans who hails from not one, but two of the country's paramount hoops powerhouses. (NBAE / Getty Images)


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March 5, 2009

From time to time, National Basketball Association players like to exchange banter about the "elite programs" from which they came.

If comparing the hoops successes of alma maters ever truly became a competition, the Milwaukee Bucks just might have the grand champion.

Few, if any, of the league's 450 players can match the pedigree of the newest member of the Bucks, Keith Bogans, who hails from not one, but two of the country's paramount hoops powerhouses.

The 28-year-old Bogans, whom the Bucks acquired Feb. 9 from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Tyronn Lue, is the proud product of DeMatha Catholic High School of Hyattsville, Md., and the University of Kentucky.

Before those opportunities came Bogans' way, though, he had to be discovered.

"I started playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club in Alexandria, Virginia, and later on moved over to Washington, D.C., where there was more competition," Bogans said. "Then I started playing with D.C. Assault, and guys like Dermarr Johnson, Bernard Robinson and others. I would say it was the best AAU team in the area."

Bogans' prodigious exploits at the Boys & Girls Club created a buzz when he was a mere fifth-grader, 11 years of age.

The buzz circulated far and wide over the next few years, and when Bogans was an eighth-grader, Morgan Wootten stopped by the gym one day to see what all the fuss was about.

Wootten had already coached DeMatha to five mythical national high school championships. He would become the first prep coach inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a few years later, and he retired following the 2002 season with 1,274 wins and 192 losses, or an .869 clip.

Known first and foremost as an educator, Wootten sent over 150 of his players on to play college basketball and a dozen into the NBA. More than 20 of his former coaches or players are now coaching on either the high school, collegiate or professional level.

Wootten's proteges include:

- Adrian Branch, who starred at Maryland and is now an analyst for ESPN
- Mike Brey, the head coach at Notre Dame
- James Brown, who starred at Harvard who went on to do play-by-play coverage of college basketball for CBS and is now host of FOX NFL Sunday
- Adrian Dantley, who became an All-American at Notre Dame, scored 23,177 points over 15 NBA seasons and earned enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame
- Danny Ferry, a Duke All-American who played 13 NBA seasons and is now general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers
- Brian Westbrook, an all-pro running back with the Philadelphia Eagles
- Sidney Lowe and Dereck Whittenburg, who guided DeMatha to a No. 1 national ranking and later led North Carolina State to an NCAA championship.

In 2000, Wootten was named Scholastic Coach of the Century.

So when Bogans was informed that Wootten had come to scout him, he knew where he wanted to play his high school basketball.

"At DeMatha, Coach Wootten basically taught me the fundamentals of basketball," Bogans said. "He took a lot of the 'hot-dogging,' as he used to call it, out of my game and just showed me how to just play basic basketball and play tough."

While playing for DeMatha, Bogans' career started going places -- literally.

"We did a lot of traveling," Bogans said. "We played in tournaments all over the place. I remember one time we traveled out to California to play in Anaheim. That was definitely an experience for me."

During his travels, Bogans crossed paths with some players who, like himself, would one day reach the game's ultimate level.

"I remember playing against Tim Thomas (a former Buck) and Rasual Butler (of the New Orleans Hornets)," he said. "Two of my teammates were Joe Forte (who played at North Carolina) and Brian Westbrook, our point guard, who's now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"One game I remember was playing Paterson Catholic of New Jersey. I was a freshman and Tim Thomas was a senior. We played in a tournament in Raleigh, N.C., and I scored like 30 points in that game. I really made a name for myself there."

Bogans and Wootten formed a formidable student/teacher partnership that culminated in a 34-1 record and a No. 3 national ranking for DeMatha's Stags in Bogans' senior year.

Bogans helped Wootten win his 31st Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship, the D.C. city title and the Alhambra Tournament in Cumberland, Md.

Bogans was a consensus prep All-American and was named the nation's premier high school player by Basketball Times. He joined Dantley as the only DeMatha players to earn four varsity letters in basketball.

Even before Bogans earned all of those accolades, he chose his college destination.

Tubby Smith, who had coached the University of Kentucky to the 1998 NCAA championship in his first season as head coach, scouted Bogans at an open gym session the following summer.

Before his senior season began, Bogans made a commitment to that he would attend the University of Kentucky, so his basketball career would continue at another elite program.

In fact, entering the 2008-09 season, Kentucky

was all-time winningest NCAA Division I college hoops program, with 1966 victories (16 up on North Carolina) and just 621 losses.


"Everybody who knows basketball knows that for a long time, DeMatha has had one of the top high school basketball programs in the country," Bogans said. "To play there for Coach Wootten and then go to Kentucky and play for Coach Smith, it was a blessing for me to have the opportunity to play for two programs and two coaches like that.

"I just wanted to make the best of the situation, and it has paid off in the long run. There can't be too many guys around the league who've had the opportunity to play for two coaches like I had."

Bogans quickly came to realize Kentucky fans' obsession with the Wildcats.

"I always say you get treated like you're in the NBA," he said. "The fans there don't really take to NBA basketball. They live and breathe Kentucky basketball. It's amazing.

"I still bump into people who tell me they're Kentucky alums, or they want to take me to dinner. It's a big, big program, and I enjoyed playing there."

Bogans' years in Lexington weren't spent entirely on the red carpet, though; far from it.

Though Bogans broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and went on to start four years, Smith was tough on him.

"Coach Smith basically broke me down and built me back up," he said. "He was a great figure for me to learn from, both on and off the court. I still keep in touch with him to this day. But I think playing  in those two programs put me ahead a lot."

In Bogans' senior year at UK, the 2002-03 Wildcats made  16-0 sweep of the Southeastern Conference, won the SEC Tournament and made an Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament. He was named an All-American after averaging 15.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 steals.

Bogans takes great pride in his heritage at both DeMatha and Kentucky.

"I think playing in those two programs put me ahead a lot," he said.

What's more, Bogans hasn't forgotten the grass roots of his career. He opened a basketball camp at the Alexandria Boys & Girls Club as a way of giving back to his community.

"The first one's for kids ages 9-13, and the other's for ages 13-16.," he said. "I do a full week, totally free, just to go back and give them a camp in the gym that I grew up in, where they can train with an NBA player. To go back there as an NBA player, it means a lot to me just to interact with the kids and let them come in contact with me.'

"I think of how I would have acted when I was young if an NBA player had come into the gym and interacted with me. That never happened. I wanted to give the kids that experience. I started doing it last summer, and I'm going to keep doing it every summer."

Bogans enjoys reconnecting with those players and coaches who helped pave his way to the pros.

"I keep in touch with a lot of my childhood friends that I played basketball with, my coaches," he said. "I haven't been back to my high school in awhile -- I need to get back there, too.

"But my AAU coaches and my Boys Club coaches and friends, I keep in touch with them."

Almost 20 years have passed since Keith Bogans' heyday at the Alexandria Boys & Girls Club.

He has climbed the ladders of two basketball programs of the highest magnitude and reached the pinnacle of the sport.

But he has never put himself above the folks back home.


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