Brandon Knight’s arrival with Cleveland Cavaliers brings back great memories and a potential for new ones for a former classmate: Hayden Grove

Brandon Knight and Hayden Grove went to school together, making for a bit of a reunion in Cleveland. (

CLEVELAND, Ohio— Brandon Knight sat in the front of the classroom, just a few rows in front of me, during AP Modern World.

He was a better student than he was a basketball player, which you’ll soon find hard to believe.

On this particular morning at Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Mrs. Barbara Zisk—a small, but hilarious woman with a somewhat nasally tone—stood at the front of the class.

“Today,” she said, “we’re deviating from the plan. We’re going to talk about globalization.”

It didn’t seem so far out of the ordinary. Globalization is a big part of the modern world, so it made sense to have a lesson revolving around the topic.

Then, suddenly, things turned in a strange direction.

Mrs. Zisk started on a diatribe about the game of basketball and its global appeal. Sure, the top high school basketball recruit in the country was seated in the front row of her class, but we rarely discussed his feats.

“To help us learn more about the globalization of basketball,” Zisk said, “I’ve brought my friend to talk to you guys.”

Through the door walked Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning.

Dressed in a sharp suit with matching sunglasses, Mourning began rambling about his various ventures in the NBA world.

The entire room was beyond confused.

He then started discussing Brandon’s various accomplishments—accomplishments that included three Florida High School Athletic Association State Championships, 3,515 points in five years as a varsity player and a Gatorade National Player of the Year Award as a junior.

Low and behold, the big man walked over to the cabinet.

As he opened the cabinet, inside was the Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy.

Immediately, a slew of cameras, reporters and family entered the classroom to a round of applause.

Grabbing that trophy, Knight became the third player to win the award twice.

The other two? LeBron James and Greg Oden.

That day, I happened to have my Ohio State sweatshirt with me, as the weather in South Florida was the slightest bit chilly. Though I lived in Florida, I was always proud of my Cleveland and Ohio roots.

That same pride forced me to bet against my classmate when the University of Kentucky faced the Buckeyes in the 2011 Elite Eight. Ohio State lost, thanks to Brandon’s game-winning shot.

My nails, for a day, were painted pink.

As he began his NBA journey in Detroit after one year at Kentucky, I always wondered what it would be like if Brandon ever ended up in Cleveland, a place near and dear to my heart.

Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I think that he’d be with the Cavaliers while I cover the team on a regular basis through social media for a company such as Cleveland.com.

When the news of the trade that sent Brandon to Cleveland broke last Wednesday night, my phone was inundated with calls and texts.

Two kids from a small preparatory school in Ft. Lauderdale would now be reunited in a pretty interesting way. Our five years in school together produced plenty of incredible memories, the large majority of which were thanks to his incredible talent, unrivaled work ethic and humble nature.

Those memories came flooding back, but more overwhelming were thoughts of what could be on the way. Not often, I’m sure, do situations such as ours occur in the NBA, which is a pretty exciting thought.

There are plenty of great stories and perhaps some of those will be told with his help. I hope too that there are a few more memories to be made.

Monday’s game made for a great start.

As he took the floor for the Cavaliers starting in his first game in Cleveland, it didn’t seem real. Here he was, the same corn-rowed kid I watched for years growing up in Florida, now playing in the NBA with Cleveland boldly displayed across his chest.

Admittedly, it was hard not to cheer from press row as he scored nine points against the Knicks. Rooting for him has been a constant since I was a teen. It was harder still because it appears as though he’s finally found a place to flourish and to make the most of an opportunity, as his NBA career has been riddled with unfortunate injuries and timing.

Where this story and situation goes, neither of us will know, but I consider it a major blessing to have a small part in telling it—for us and for those who supported us throughout our time at Pine Crest.

Here’s to the memorable past, the unknown future and the hope that there are plenty more memories to be made.

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