Back in 1990s in North Babylon, N.Y., perhaps the two greatest high school players the town ever spawned lived right around the corner from each other –Danny Green and Bria Hartley.
Green was five years older than Hartley and ended up playing the majority of his high school career at St. Mary’s High after playing at North Babylon as a freshman. He ended up as a McDonald’s All-American who played at North Carolina. He was close friends with Hartley’s brother, Eugene.
Hartley played her entire high school career at North Babylon and became a WBCA All-American before choosing UConn, where she was a All-American as a sophomore and part of a national championship team last season. This was after she played a youth league run by Green’s father who later was an assistant coach at North Babylon.
And that is why Hartley has a special interest in the NBA Finals this season. Her good friend and neighbor, Danny Green, is one of the big reasons the San Antonio Spurs are even the defending champion Miami Heat heading to Game 5.
“We all grew up playing basketball through the intramural programs in town,” Hartley said Friday. “I remember Danny and his father always being around the neighborhood. When he’d come from school [North Carolina] he was definitely a family friend that we all would take the time to visit.”
Green and Hartley are still close friends. They regularly text. They follow each other on Twitter. They share an athletic trainer. She spoke at his summer basketball camp last year, the one held at their old middle school.
We definitely close friends. We don’t talk every day but we shoot texts to each other before big games, wishing each other luck,” she said. “He came to see us play once when we [UConn] were at Pittsburgh when I was a freshman.”
And Hartley wears No. 14 at UConn for a special reason.
“I don’t even remember what number I wore when I was younger; it might have been 32 or something,” she said. “It was just whatever number was available. When we I started playing in high school, I got to decide what I wanted to wear. I always liked wearing numbers with 1 in them. But I loved watching Danny play so much, especially when he started playing at North Carolina, that I took his No. 14 [which he wore in college] and I’ve stuck with it. I don’t even think he knows it.”
He likely will soon.
Green wears No. 4 in San Antonio because Gary Neal had seniority for No. 14.
Hartley takes another step to matching Green’s status a pro player in 10 days when she leaves for training camp with the World University Games team in Colorado Springs. They team leaves for Russia on July 1.
“Danny played overseas for a while after the Cavaliers cut him and I know he struggled to try and find a place where he could succeed [in the NBA],” Hartley said. “But he finally got the Spurs and you can tell by watching them play that they like him a lot.”
And Hartley is intent on bouncing back after an injury-filled junior season.
“I am feeling good, back to full strength,” she said. “My ankle [which was injured last summer playing for USA Basketball’s 3x3 team] is not bothering me at all, but it wasn’t until the NCAA Tournament that it started to feel that way.
“It [the season] was rough, but it happens and you learn your lessons because of it. I’m hoping to definitely make an impact and help the USA win the gold medal.”