Malik Beasley walked back into St. Francis High School on Tuesday afternoon, a basketball hero just two years after he left. He got the treatment all basketball heroes get from their former schools – his number was retired.
“It means a lot,” Beasley said. “It shows all the hard work pays off.”
Boy did it.
Beasley’s story began five years earlier.
“When he came here as a freshman, he was 5-10 and 150 pounds,” said St. Francis coach Drew Catlett, who was an assistant when Beasley arrived on campus. “Now he’s playing in the NBA.”
Beasley’s work ethic – and the fact he grew to being 6-foot-5 – took him from a skinny highs school freshman to Florida State for college. A year later, the Nuggets drafted him in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Catlett said. “Always had a great attitude. He just has an unbelievable work ethic. I’ve been coaching 30 years on different levels, I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a kid that works as hard as he does. … From where he was a freshman, if you think about it, in six years he’s playing in the NBA, it’s kind of an incredible journey.”
Beasley smiled when looking back at his high school career.
“You would have never thought I would have been somebody four or five years ago,” Beasley said. “I was just a scrawny little kid just looking to have some fun. I didn’t start working hard until my junior year. My freshman and sophomore year I was still looking to play baseball and football. Then the dream changed.”
“My parents always told me I could be good,” Beasley said. “But then I really figured out that I could be special, and I took it to another level.”
Beasley left St. Francis as the school’s all-time leading scorer and finished in the top three in rebounds. Beasley’s teams won four straight region titles and two state titles. Catlett credits Beasley, along with teammates Kaiser Gates, who now plays at Xavier; and Kobi Simmons, who played at Arizona last season and has declared for the NBA Draft for being the core group that started St. Francis on its way to being a perennial power.
“You still get a lot of calls and things from kids that want to come and play for St. Francis because of the standard of excellence we’ve showed over the last four or five years,” Catlett said. “And the players we have who are college players, McDonald’s All Americans, and obviously Malik in the NBA already.”
Above all things, Catlett said he asks four things of his players.
“We talk about do it with a great attitude, do it with great effort, be a great teammate, and be coachable,” he said. “He’s the best example of that, that we’ve ever had. I’d love to have a whole team full of him.”
And now Beasley’s No. 5 is immortalized.
“He was an infectious type of kid, a great attitude,” Catlett said. “He was well-liked by teachers, administrators, his peers. He just handled himself the right way. We thought it would be a great way to reward him by retiring his jersey.”