LAS VEGAS, July 19, 2008 -- Before the Rockets’ summer league game against the Nuggets on Friday, Houston rookie Donté Greene was engaged in a playful game of one-on-one with a ball boy that couldn’t have been more than 13-years old.

The 6-11, 226-pound manchild is only 20-years old himself and looked just as joyful to be playing with the kid as the kid was to be mixing it up with a legitimate professional basketball player.

When the game started and Greene was matched up with five-year NBA veteran Dahntay Jones, Donté took on the role of the ball boy while Dahntay looked delighted to be carving up Greene and the Rockets’ defense like the guy who cuts the roast beef under the heat lamp in a Vegas buffet line.

Jones, with 246 regular season games under his belt, as opposed to Greene’s three summer league appearances, scored 29 points including a game-winning layup in overtime to lift Denver to the 105-104 victory.

Greene held his own, scoring 19 points, but also had four turnovers with Jones harassing him and shot just 2-for-8 from beyond the arc.

“I learned a lot,” Greene said of the Jones matchup. “I definitely struggled at times with him using the veteran moves on me, but I learned a lot and got him a couple times.”

By “got him a couple times” Greene is referring to the occasions when he was able to put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop for a layup with Jones draped all over him.

Other than that, Greene’s game looked like a SportsCenter highlight package – all dunks and threes.

The crowd-pleasing plays that Greene makes are all well and good, but Syracuse assistant coach Rob Murphy (who recruited Greene to the Orange) knows that it will be the little things that will earn him playing time next season.

“Watching the Rockets over the last two or three years, it’s a lot of Yao [Ming] and Tracy [McGrady],” Murphy said. “So the way he has to get on the floor is to rebound, run the floor, get easy baskets and most importantly, play good defense – that’s both on-ball defense and help side – so, he’s working hard at that right now.”

Greene echoed Murphy’s assessment, although the rookie who dropped 40 points on 12-for-20 shooting in his summer league debut looked at his role with the team from more of an offensive perspective.

“I just feel like I can contribute to the team by just hitting open shots,” Greene said. “On the team you got Yao and T-Mac who will definitely be facing a lot of double teams so there’s going to be a lot of open shots for me. I also want to try to get into the lane and create for them at the same time. I just want to go out there as a young fella’ and just learn.”

Just like how when the national threat level rises and the corresponding color code goes from orange to red, Greene hopes to raise his game to new heights as he’s traded in his Syracuse tangerine threads for the ruby gear that the Rockets wear.

Greene’s 40-point game wasn’t just two points off of Marcus Banks’ Las Vegas summer league record, it was a statement that the 27 teams who passed on him before the Grizzlies took him at No. 28 made a big mistake.

“You have to come out here with the confidence to prove everybody wrong,” Greene said. “I did that. I definitely had a lot of fun [doing it].”

Through three games, Greene is averaging 25.3 points on .442 shooting from the field and .385 from deep to go with 4.3 rebounds per game. The Rockets are 2-1.

“On Draft day, I was kind of shocked that he didn’t get drafted until No. 28, then he [was traded] to Houston and that was one of the teams that we talked about previous to the Draft.,” Murphy said. “Although [the Rockets] were drafting late, I asked him how would he feel if he dropped down and he said it doesn’t matter, as long as he’s in a great situation and he feels he’s in a great situation [in Houston].

“The Rockets were one of the few teams, if not the only team, to come to campus and actually talk to Coach Boeheim and the coaching staff and our trainers and just talk to people in the area about him as a person, on and off the court. So, they really did their background and their homework and they really were a team that wanted him, so it just worked out well.”

Houston’s starting lineup will likely be Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady in the backcourt, Shane Battier and Luis Scola at the forwards and Yao Ming at center. That will leave Greene competing with sharpshooter Steve Novak and bangers Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey for backup minutes at the three and the four spots.

When asked for a comparable NBA player to Greene, Murphy cites Orlando forward Rashard Lewis.

“I think he’ll develop a little more on the post than Rashard has, [Lewis plays] more on the perimeter,” Murphy said. “I think Donté has a little better ball skills. But [Donté] can become an All-Star if he really puts it all together. That’s a pretty good comparison in Rashard Lewis because their games kind of mirror each other.”

While his potential is palpable and leads to allusions to All-Stars like Lewis, Greene is keeping his agenda nice and simple with two games left in Las Vegas.

“Play hard, man,” Greene said. “That’s all you can do. Play hard, work hard and definitely listen and learn.”