Out of the Shadows


Of all the current basketball players who call Prince William County home, the most heavily recruited is Bristow’s Jaaron Greene. For those who don’t know about Greene, he’s a big man who’s easy to perceive as just as big a mystery.

Now 18-years-old, 6-foot-10 and 265 pounds, Greene would have been a 2002 Stonewall Jackson High School graduate if he followed the trouble-free path to a college scholarship. Greene, though, readily admits that he lacked the dedication to academics that would’ve allowed for such a logical transition.

Instead, he floundered with the Raiders and never became a varsity regular. He played for two seasons in public school, primarily with the junior varsity, and then had to sit out a whole year of athletics because of academic difficulties. Greene remains a raw recruit whom experts see as a mid-major Division I prospect, but he’s hoping a season with a personal trainer could bump his stock even more.

“Sometimes I do wish I still went to Stonewall just because I still feel like I have something to prove,” Greene said prior to leaving for the elite adidas ABCD camp, which was held in Teaneck, N.J., from July 8-11.

It’s not that Greene’s completely unknown in local basketball circles; he frequently practices at the Freedom Center with players such as current Stonewall point guard Tyc Snow and former Hylton swingman Curtis Granby. Last summer, in fact, Greene took an alley-oop from next-door neighbor David Kemp and sent home a dunk that broke a backboard in Stonewall’s gym.

“At first they wanted to charge me for it,” Greene said, recalling the brief fear he had of having to raise $4,000. “Everybody was running around, keeping souvenirs from the backboard. I had never even thought about doing that, it just happened.

“It did scare me at first, I didn’t know what to do. Everybody’s running up on me, jumping on me. It was like I had done something to win the championship.”


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But Greene never competed for a Cardinal or Cedar Run district championship at Stonewall. He played two years with the junior varsity, receiving limited varsity time as a sophomore. Then in his third year at Stonewall, his only competition was in open gyms.

Stonewall coach Marcus Lawrence, a self-described basketball junkie, took over the Raider program the same year Greene couldn’t compete. Lawrence, in his previous job as a Woodbridge High School assistant, had been impressed with Greene while watching junior-varsity action, but he’d never get the chance to coach the youngster.

“I’ve known Jaaron since he was in the 10th grade,” Lawrence said. “Since then he’s really slimmed down and he’s playing a lot better in open gym. As a young kid he tended to take it easy playing, now he’s playing with a little more energy.”

He’s just not playing for Stonewall, but in Greene’s case that may not be so bad.


Suffice it to say that Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C., built up a reputation toward the end of the last decade. Anyone who has watched HBO’s “Real Sports” or read “Sole Influence” knows college recruiters had cast a skeptical eye toward a Mount Zion education.

Former coach Joel Hopkins, now coaching Division II Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., was known for persuading players to leave their public schools to head for Durham. In Greene’s case, though, he had little choice. He needed to reclassify academically to take his core classes again, in hopes of qualifying for NCAA eligibility after a fifth year of high school.

So Greene was a junior last year for then first-year Mount Zion coach Antonio Fozard, the 26-year-old son of the school’s father pastor/superintendent.

“I’ve seen the HBO thing [chronicling the wayward prep career of eventual 2002 NBA first-round pick Amare Stoudamire]. That made it so real for me,” Greene said, noting that Fozard sent the video from HBO that questioned Mount Zion’s standards. “That’s when I knew it was a real situation at Mount Zion now. Otherwise, he would have tried to hide that.”

Greene has yet to take his first standardized test for college admission, and he’s still fighting to get his grades up to par. Had he not gone to Mount Zion, he was too far behind to get the necessary combination of grade-point average (between 2.0 and 2.5) and SAT (sliding down from 1,010 to 820, according to GPA). Now he has hopes of becoming eligible after attending Mount Zion for two years.

“I’m very happy for him now that he was able to get out and go to a private school and realize some of the potential he has,” Lawrence said.

Mount Zion’s most famous graduate has been current Orlando Magic star Tracy McGrady. The school is located within a mile of public Durham power Hillside, which has featured the likes of John Lucas and Rodney Rogers over the years.

Mount Zion and Hillside don’t schedule each other, but Mount Zion clearly gives its basketball players a chance to compete against the best Greene and the team will face Virginia power Oak Hill Academy at least twice next season.

“I don’t think recruiters are more suspicious [of Mount Zion]. Let’s put it that way,” recruiting analyst Brick Oettinger said with a wry smile, as he watched the action at ABCD Camp. “I think some still will remain away because of questions about academics. I know now that Hopkins is gone, some people may give their players more of a shot.”

Fozard’s first team went 26-5 and the program clearly wants to stay on the national basketball map. At the ABCD Camp, Fozard was looking for players interested in going to Durham. In many cases, like the Greene family’s, the interest has been mutual.

“I figured if they were going to try to straighten out the program, this may be a good window,” said Tony Greene, Jaaron’s father. “This year will be a lot better for Jaaron, he’ll get plenty of game time and they’ll be relying on him a lot.”

Last season, Greene missed a half-dozen games while he was aiming to get on track academically. He’s expecting to be completely eligible for his senior year after taking an English class this summer in Woodbridge at Bethel Christian School.


Greene’s big break came the summer after his sophomore year when he was playing for the Manassas Bulls’ Amateur Athletic Union team. To this day Greene wears his Bulls’ T-shirt under his game jerseys, so he hasn’t forgotten where his journey to Division I basketball began.

In a game against the Richmond AAU program (the same one that has included Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen), Greene battled in the post against Stoudamire. His opponents were impressed, and now Greene was part of the Squires Richmond’s 10-player group invited to this year’s ABCD Camp.

Greene also went to the camp last year, but he was more of a presence in his second trip. Aside from attending ABCD camp, Greene travels to Richmond each weekend for practice or games. In the 11 days since the camp ended, the Squires already have played in a tournament in West Virginia and they’re scheduled to go to Las Vegas today.

Mount Zion discovered Greene with the Squires, then offered him a full scholarship. While Mount Zion wears Reeboks, the Squires wear adidas shoes and gave Greene the connection to go to Teaneck.

“When we first got Jaaron, he was kind of in limbo. He wasn’t doing anything in the classroom, so we had to help him get out of the woods,” Squires coach Reggie McFarland said. “He had to take a whole year off for academic reasons.”

Snow, the 5-foot-7 Stonewall point guard and a friend of Greene’s since the eighth grade, remembers that period well.

“Jaaron played like three games on the varsity with us my freshman year; he even scored 10 points against Brooke Point,” Snow said. “So I was really hoping he could play that next year. No one knew until the last minute. We would go to Freedom and play every day and then he finally told me his dad had decided it was best if he went to Mount Zion.

“If he would’ve played for Stonewall the last two years, everything would’ve changed. Of course the whole offense would’ve gone through him. I know my assists would’ve gone up and even Sean [Russell] would’ve played better and made more three-pointers. But he was at Mount Zion, so there’s nothing we could’ve done.”

As much heat as Mount Zion has taken, Squires president and founder Tony Squire defends the school and others prep schools, saying, “My personal opinion is that this is a school that’s needed. It’s been around 10 or 12 years, where other prep schools pop up and then go out the window. Sometimes the kids are in public schools and they don’t have the resources and they aren’t surrounded by other kids with the same goals. I can give you story after story where we get kids who don’t even know about the clearinghouse [for NCAA eligibility].”


Greene holds out hope of getting a scholarship offer from a traditional basketball powerhouse such as North Carolina or Georgetown. In fact, both Tar Heel coach Matt Doherty and Hoya coach Craig Esherick witnessed his 10-point, seven-rebound showing on the Wednesday night of the camp. Analysts, though, think he’s not quite a major-conference recruit.

Dave Telep of TheInsidersHoops.com calls him “a dreamer” for having his sights set so high.

Oettinger, from Chapel Hill, N.C.,-based Prep Stars Recruiting Handbook, has a similar assessment. “I’ve seen him play this summer but not a lot at Mount Zion because he didn’t play much there. I think he has some physical ability obviously, but he’s very raw. He hasn’t learned to take advantage in the low post. In fact, sometimes he looks a little bit lost, like ‘What should I do?’

“But he’s aggressive on the boards and he appears to play hard. He can forget [North Carolina or Georgetown], but I think it’s realistic that he’d play in the Colonial. That’s where he has the best chance of playing conceivably the lower level of the Atlantic-10 if he has improvement.”

As Oettinger agreed, a scholarship to a Colonial Athletic Association would be an accomplishment considering how far Greene has come as a prep player. At the ABCD camp this year, Greene had one 14-point game and finished with a player rating of 18.8 (almost in the middle of the 240-player pack, with scores ranging from zero to 35). His team, the Sonics, went 1-4 in bracket play but then won all three of its games in the bronze-medal tournament.

Perhaps more than anyone, Snow knows the player Greene was four years ago. Snow and Greene, 15 inches and 100 pounds apart, have become inseparable and they talk about three times a week even when Greene’s in Durham. “The first time I played against him I was in the eighth grade on the blacktop. One play I drove in and tried to shoot, but Jaaron blocked it to halfcourt. At first I didn’t think he was good because he was so big, but he had like 30 points that game.

“Still, he’s much better now. His work ethic is much better, he’s much stronger and he’s in shape. He’s like a totally different person since he was younger.

Meanwhile, AAU teammate and ABCD roommate Brandon Freeman has also seen changes in Greene’s effectiveness. “Two years ago, he was the same person he is now relaxed, laid-back, easygoing,” said Freeman, who formerly played at Caroline County but is now at Blue Ridge Academy. “But he’s a whole lot better in the post. He used to be real soft; everybody would yell and cuss at him, telling him to shoot.”

This year, Greene hopes to become even better. At Mount Zion, he’ll still have to fight for playing time and for further improvement in the classroom.

“I think it’s worked out real well for Jaaron,” said Tony Greene, who worked as an auditor for United Express until he was laid off following Sept. 11 and the downturn the terrorist attacks created in the airline industry. “It’s given him what he needs. He trains at the Duke football stadium and he played against some UNC players at the beginning of the summer.

“That’s why he hasn’t committed. He wants his senior year to improve what his stock is. Basically, the personal trainer we get for him will put him in high stock because he’s been consistently developing already.”

However his story ends, Greene says he has learned from his mistakes. Just as he wouldn’t make excuses at ABCD camp for having an injured left foot he missed the last game and later was advised by a doctor to rest his foot for a week or so he will no longer point fingers over his three-year stint at Stonewall not panning out.

“At that point, I was in the phase where I was blaming everyone but myself,” he said. “Now I look back and realize it was myself. I figured out I had to get the grades. If I didn’t, it wasn’t the teacher’s fault but it was my fault.”

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