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But, once again, the improbable happened that summer.Russell played in an NCAA-sanctioned summer league in Los Angeles called the Say No Classic.
Russ wasn’t intimidated by Wright; he was there to compete.That summer, Westbrook’s dad, Russell Sr, would work with him for hours doing push-ups, pull-ups and leg exercises in a sandbox in the courtyard of their apartment.A career pickup baller, Big Russ would take Little Russ to shoot after practice in the sweaty gymnasiums of Hollywood’s shadow.He averaged over 30 points per game and had some unreal dunks.“His work paid off that summer in terms of transitioning into a better college player,” Afflalo says, “and then from there, obviously, you can see the talent to play at the NBA level.” The talent was evident at that point, but Russ didn’t get to completely showcase it during his second season.Westbrook, a scrawny 5-9 guard with size 14 shoes, was physically behind his best friend but understood how to play and was a big competitor. Some high school upperclassmen, a lot of college players, some older guys who played in college and overseas.
Both had fiery demeanors, although Russ was the calmer of the two. “Me and my assistant coach would always go up to play and we would put Khelcey and Russ on our team,” Morris says.
He didn’t dunk until a growth spurt shot him up to 6-2 his senior year. Obviously shooting threes,” says Westbrook when asked to describe his pre-dunking game. He pounded his chest when he began to throw it down.
“I was a much better shooter when I was in high school. What Russ lacked in size, he made up for in swagger and confidence.
UCLA had been to the National Championship game the previous season and was led by First-Team All-Pac-10 shooting guard Arron Afflalo. He was a hard worker and listener.” UCLA made it back to the Final Four that season, and Russ scored in all five NCAA Tournament games but never played more than eight minutes.
The two were roommates a lot on the road, and as a freshman, Russ would soak in knowledge from his junior teammate. He finished the season with underwhelming averages of 3.4 assists, 0.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists.
“And on most days we would definitely hold our own and get our fair share of wins.” Russ was a quiet kid who let his game do the talking.