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St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball coach Dru Joyce didn’t hold back his feelings ahead of Saturday night’s game against Sierra Canyon.
“I’m getting old, that’s all this means,” Joyce said with a laugh. “It’s surreal, too. I understand the significance.”
Joyce, who coached LeBron James for four years at SVSM from 1999-03, will lead his team against the Trailblazers at 8:30 p.m. (ET) in Columbus, Ohio at Nationwide Arena.
As Joyce yells instruction to his team, he’ll be coaching against James’ 15-year old son, Bronny.
“It’s not just that it’s LeBron’s son, but it will be the first time I coach against any ex-player’s son,” said Joyce, who began coaching at the age of 45.
The game will deliver a spectacle that only seems possible in a dramatic documentary. LeBron James will be in attendance to watch his son take on his alma mater in his home state of Ohio, roughly two-hours from Akron where LeBron grew up. The game will be streamed on ESPN3 and is expected to draw 8 to 10,000 people. The arena holds 19,000 and is home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) November 22, 2019
The highlight videos on social media make Bronny out to be a high-flying guard that dunks each time he gets it and never misses a three. Although Bronny’s athleticism doesn’t disappoint, The thousands that come to watch him seem to expect a small version of LeBron – dominating the game via a triple-double or scoring 30 points. Bronny’s season high is only 10 points, but is playing his role just as well as any varsity freshman in the country, despite the unrelenting cameras and attention.
“(Bronny) reminds me a lot of his dad, when he was a freshman,” Joyce said. “Maverick Carter was the star on the team when LeBron was a freshman here and he never tried to upstage Mav. He accepted his role and deferred to Mav and the upperclassmen.
LeBron has clearly done a great job in speaking to Bronny about that. I applaud Bronny for understanding (the team) is bigger than him.”
Sierra Canyon (7-0) is among one of the best high school teams in the country, boasting Kentucky-bound wing BJ Boston, TCU commit Terren Frank, 5-star sophomore guard Amari Bailey, and not-yet eligible 5-star 2020 recruit Ziaire Williams. Center Harold Yu from China is 7-foo-3.
LeBron’s superstardom in high school didn’t really go national until his sophomore season. Joyce said when LeBron was a freshman, he could be a regular kid. It wasn’t until his sophomore year, and on, the team began to hold press conferences after games because it wasn’t just a couple local reporters wanting to talk to him.
Since Bronny began playing middle school and AAU tournaments in the summer, normalcy has been thrown out the window because of his dad’s celebrity. Yet, he already handles it like a seasoned pro.
Lower seats full in American Airlines Arena (home of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks) for Sierra Canyon’s boys basketball game against Duncanville (TX). pic.twitter.com/HOeLqlS3Uy
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) December 1, 2019
Joyce was candid about how the game got scheduled.
“I asked LeBron to set the game up,” he said. “It would be great to play them every year, keep the story relevant.”
St. Vincent-St. Mary (4-0) is one of the top programs in the state of Ohio led by junior 4-star recruit Malaki Branham and sophomore Sencire Harris. The Fighting Irish won a 2018 state title and finished the runner-up in last year’s state championship.
“We aren’t coming to Columbus to lose,” Joyce said.