3 The Hard WayThey are known as "3 the Hard Way." Eddy Curry, Najeeb Echols and Jason Straight are not only three of the nations best players but are also best friends, and have been ever since seventh grade.
"We've been tight like this forever it seems like," said Whitney Youngs 6'7" swingman, Najeeb Echols. "In seventh grade we all met while playing with Stan White, who was an assistant with the Illinois Warriors."
"I was the first one on the team. I knew we needed a good big man. Then came in Najeeb and I saw that he could handle the ball so good. We bonded real quick!" said Dunbars 511" Jason Straight.
At the Cal Park Rec. Center was where Jason and Najeeb would meet the final piece of their triangle.
"At a tournament we were having, we saw Eddy come in the gym. I thought he was an old man, like 18. When we found out he was our age we asked him to play for us. From then on it was like butta."
"Jason and Najeeb were the best grammar school players that I had ever seen, and Eddy was just very big with a lot of potential," said AAU Coach Stan White.
The crowning achievement of their childhood would have to be the day they played in front of 20,000 people, while in eighth grade.
In a tournament that the Warriors participated in, the two teams that made it to the championship would play at halftime of the Chicago Bulls game. Sure enough, the Warriors made it.
"Everyone was watching us," said Straight. At that time Echols stood a solid 6'4" and Curry was still very large at 6'8. "Then they announced that we were all either graders. Everyone went crazy!"
With that just being a sample of what was to come for these fine young ball players, Najeeb, Jason and Eddy have continued to achieve much success in basketball.
However, not only do they excel on the court, but off it as well.
Najeeb attends Chicago Whitney Young, a college prep and magnet school, stressing the importance of education.
Jason has already achieved the necessary GPA, with a 2.8, and insists that he'll pass the ACT when he takes it June 10.
Thornwood High Schools All-American, Curry, has already achieved the qualifying scores needed for college, yet is working on bettering his previous marks. But is college even the path that Curry will opt for?
"At first we never even knew if Eddy would be going to school," said Straight. There have been heavy rumors that Curry will declare for the NBA Draft right out of high school. "But since he's been talking about it, we've all been talking about it. We all want to take our visits together," said Straight.
Right now, they are planning on finishing their hectic summer schedules, including invitational events, the Adidas ABCD, Nike All-American and NBA Player's Camp then will look to take visits afterwards.
Still undecided as to where they will take their visits, Jason likes Marquette, Miami of Florida and Iowa State, with the Cyclones being an early favorite. Najeeb, who's stock has continued to soar this spring, says he's very much wide open. While he has stated previously that he would like to 'get away from home', he know retracts that comment and says whatever is the best situation for him is where he'll go. Therefore, not eliminating in state and Midwest schools.
This summer "3 The Hard Way" will be playing with the aforementioned Stan White, on his Illinois Gold team, previously knows as the Illinois Warriors, in numerous AAU events such as this weekend's Adidas Chicago Classic, the AAU Nationals in Orlando, and the Big Time in Las Vegas.
"They are all just great kids," said Coach White, who lists UCLA, Cal Berkley, Michigan State and Ohio State as leaders for Najeeb and says that Missouri is coming on real hard with Jason.
While it is highly unlikely that these three young men will take the same paths after high school, one thing is for sure. They all have very bright futures ahead of them and a friendship that has stood the test of time.
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