Arguably the scariest thing about Harold Draper III, particularly for those who must face him on the basketball court in the coming years, is that this kid’s best days are well ahead of him.
At just 10 years of age, Draper — nicknamed “HD3” — a vibrant, speed point guard on the Memphis-area AAU circuit, has become a fixture amongst those who have monitored closely his immense skills in recent years.
Armed with what many AAU coaches say is a basketball IQ similar to that of a varsity athlete, it would hard pressed to tell that Draper III — because of his draw-dropping skills on the hardwood — is a year away from entering the middle school ranks.
“He has become very much more aware of how defense creates offense,” said Andrea Dandridge, arguably Draper III’s most devoted fan. “Defensively, he has improved tremendously.”
Not only has his defensive mechanics become nearly equally efficient as his offensive skillset, but whenever Draper III suits us for the Memphis Tigers 4.0 Boys/Gentlemen of Memphis Tigers 11-and-under AAU squad, those with whom he plays alongside routinely benefits mightily from his on-court presence.
In a nutshell, as Draper goes, so goes his teammates, a rather favorable trend that customarily brings 4.0Boys/Gentlemen of Memphis Tigers coach Brandon Johnson to smiles from the sidelines.
“Harold is a kid that relies on fundamentals,” Johnson told MemphiSport on Tuesday. “He is a leader on and off the court and is an honor student athlete.”
Indeed he is.
Not only is Draper III — the cousin and mentee of former University of Memphis senior guard Trey Draper who boasts lofty aspirations of someday playing for the perennial power Tigers — efficient on the court, but he has proven to be just as effective in the classroom at Memphis’ Double Tree Montessori and Technology School.
Check out HD3 on YouTube: http://youtu.be/TzjSyTun6js
Just recently, Draper III was recently honored with the Presidential Award For Academic Excellence, a prestigious accolade that is given to the student that produces the highest grade average.
To his credit, Draper III’s reputation is such that he not only dishes out eye-catching A’s (assists) on the court, but he’s doing the same even when he isn’t in the gymnasium.
In other words, Draper III is a straight-A student.
“Harold holds his priorities dear to him…Christ, class, court,” Dandridge said. “He knows that his abilities are a blessing, so he honors God in everything that he does. He is aware that he is a student athlete and that there is nothing more important than an education. He surrounds himself with people that he can foster positive relationships with, who will encourage and inspire him. He knows that the opportunity that he has to play is a privilege. So he never takes it for granted when his feet hits the hardwood.”
Come this weekend, the kid who has made a name for himself in gyms throughout this basketball-crazed Bluff City will once again be afforded the golden opportunity to put his skills on display.
Only this time it will be on a much-larger stage.
That’s when the 4.0 Boys/Gentlemen of Memphis Tigers will travel to New Orleans to partake in the always popular PrimeTime Super 60 Basketball Tournament this weekend. This three-day event will showcase over 600 premier teams from around the nation, something about which isn’t new to Draper III, who is accustomed to performing on the big stage.
Even if it’s in the Big Easy.
Last week, Draper III engineered the Tigers to the Southeastern AAU State Championship.
“I think that I am a little faster and my shots have gotten better,” said Draper III, assessing his progress within the past year. “On the court, my team is special. Everybody is talented. It is special (group of athletes) because we are more than teammates; we are brothers and friends. I’m better because they make me better.”
For someone who many say boasts the immense skills, maturity, and talent to emerge as a local big name point guard much like Memphians Andre Turner, Elliot Perry, and Joe Jackson, among others, Draper doesn’t shy away from the notion that his priorities must remain intact as he continues to make his presence felt.
On and off the court.
“I’ll make my parents proud by keeping my priorities in order…Christ, class, court,” Draper III said. “I’ll make my coach proud by staying humble, being a gentlemen, and earning my keeps.”
Which, after all, is the scariest thing about the young HD3.
That’s because his best playing days are well ahead of him.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.