Syracuse recruit Roddy Gayle Jr.’s journey shaped by his late cousin

first_imgThere was a problem, though. Gayle kept passing the ball, contradicting his father’s idea of raising a scorer. After Gayle joined WeR1 for AAU in sixth grade, his dad gave him a weight vest for conditioning — another “trial and error” experiment. Gayle began to dunk, but almost never in games. It was a mental thing, his father said. To dunk more, Davis approached Gayle with a bet, offering Gayle $100 for each dunk he made.At an Atlantic City tournament in April 2017, Gayle rose up for a slam. Then, he did it a second time. And a third. By the end of that game, Gayle had dunked five times.“Nah, we can’t do the ($100 bills) no more. We gonna go back to the 20,” Gayle Sr. recalled Davis saying afterwards.Months later, in the winter of 2018, Davis came down with pneumonia. One day, on Feb. 1, 2018, Gayle Sr. visited Davis at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. He showed his cousin clips from Gayle’s previous game. But that was the last visit Gayle Sr. would make.“It really took a toll on me because I never got to say goodbye,” Gayle said.Gayle was on Niagara Falls High School’s varsity roster in eighth grade but later chose to attend Lewiston-Porter for high school. His father didn’t agree with the Niagara Falls coach’s philosophy, and Davis had recommended Matt Bradshaw, the Lancers’ head coach.Bradshaw knew about Gayle and saw him play in person when Lewiston-Porter faced the Wolverines in the 2018 Niagara Frontier League championship. Even with Niagara Falls up 25 points, Bradshaw said Gayle dove for loose balls, which piqued the coach’s interest. Photo courtesy of Roddy Gayle Sr.Two years later, Gayle’s family packed into the Depew High School bleachers on Jan. 3 holding Fatheads of Gayle’s face and homemade signs. Even as a sophomore, Gayle was just 11 points shy of 1,000 for his career.In the first half, Gayle was fouled and sent to the free throw line, where he stared down the hoop. He bounced the ball three times, shot and pointed up after the milestone point sunk through — a tribute to Davis that has become part of his routine.“Whenever I make a free throw, I point up to the sky, and I’m like ‘I want you to look over me and watch me,’” Gayle said. The next home game, Gayle was recognized by the Lancers in a 25-point win against North Tonawanda. Holding a basketball recognizing his 1,000th point and grinning, he was surrounded by green banners, one of them honoring the league and section championship that Gayle led Lewiston-Porter to last season. Davis’ recommendation was paying off. In that same gym, Gayle continues to hone his form on the shooting machines. If a college coach wanders inside, he makes sure to bring teammates and friends to the workouts so they can get the same exposure as he does. And just outside, there’s a trophy case with one retired number, No. 54 for the 1970s graduate and former NBA player Jim Johnstone.If Gayle stays another two years and doesn’t leave for prep school, his No. 24 would be the second number retired, Bradshaw said. He would make sure of it. Comments Latoya Page-Gayle looked at her husband to do something. In the back seat of their blue Ford Expedition, then-eighth grader Rodriguez “Roddy” Gayle Jr. had tears pouring down his face. This 25-minute trip from North Tonawanda (New York) High School was much quieter than the usual car rides home from basketball games where Gayle’s father would critique his performances. Back at their Niagara Falls, New York home, Gayle stood in the living room with his parents, still upset. The day before, Feb. 1, 2018, Rodriguez Gayle Sr.’s cousin, Eric Davis, died of cardiac arrest at 41 because his heart wasn’t strong enough for pneumonia medication.“I just let him cry,” Gayle Sr. said. “He needed it.”Gayle remembers one thing from the conversation with his parents: to play for Davis, his biggest fan. Since Davis’ death, that’s exactly what he’s done. Gayle, now a sophomore at Lewiston-Porter High School, used the fundamentals Davis helped instill in him and in 2019 led the Lancers to their first sectional title in more than 40 years. And during that time, he emerged as a four-star shooting guard and a top-50 player in the 2022 class, receiving scholarship offers from high-major programs such as Syracuse.“(Eric) saw Roddy was going to be something,” Gayle Sr. said. “Man, I wish he could see it (now).” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFrom the time Gayle was four years old and started shooting on a regulation-size basketball hoop, his father wanted him to become a pure scorer, one that averaged 40 or 50 points per game. He practiced with his son “backwards,” teaching Gayle how to shoot before he could even handle the ball. With no prior experience as a basketball trainer, Gayle Sr. turned to YouTube videos and Davis — who coached his own son on a local AAU team. They started with one- and two-dribble pull-up drills, eventually working toward 3-pointers when Gayle got older. Along the way, they mixed in dribbling. “You in the oven, you not done yet,” Gayle Sr. and Davis would say. “Everything he was doing was starting to come to life, but you still not done, you still not cooked,” Gayle Sr. recalled.Eventually, Gayle Sr. started an AAU program with a friend of his to keep Niagara Falls kids off the streets, he said. Gayle and his teammates practiced five days a week at the Harry F. Abate and Niagara Street elementary school gyms, working alongside current Division I recruits like Willie Lightfoot and Jalen Bradberry, four-star and two-star prep school players, respectively. In fourth grade, they won the Boo Williams Tournament in Virginia, running “every other kid out the gym,” Gayle Sr. said. Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on April 4, 2020 at 12:26 pm Contact Christopher: [email protected] | @chrisscargslast_img

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