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Daemen player’s dedication may get him shot at NBA

Gerald Beverly wakes up each morning still trying to digest the mere possibility. Seven years ago, he was cut from his freshman team in high school. Six years ago, he was nailed to the bench. Five years ago, he played sparingly in lopsided games. Four years ago, when he was a senior, the only college teams interested in him were Brockport, Fredonia State, Clarkson and Hilbert.

So, yeah, he’s having a hard time getting his brain around the idea that scouts from San Antonio and Cleveland – as in the Spurs and Cavaliers – were among the people watching him this season. The Milwaukee Bucks recently expressed interest along with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Miami Heat plan to see him at the Trip Sports Cruzin Classic next month in South Florida.

Go ahead, you try to imagine leaping from Daemen College to the NBA.

“My jaw just dropped when I heard that,” Beverly said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re not serious.’ It was like, ‘Wow.’ I ran home and told my dad and my family the news, and we were all in a buzz about it. Coming from where I started, a lot of people didn’t see that coming. It was really awesome.”

How could anyone see this coming? In less than five years, Beverly transformed from a high school reserve to a pro prospect from a little-known Buffalo school that’s making the transition from NAIA to Division II. He’s been largely overlooked by casual basketball fans while playing for Daemen, a peripheral in Buffalo’s subdued hoops culture.

He showed up on Main Street a skinny 200-pound freshman, but look at him now after he morphed into a 6-foot-8, 230-pound scoring and rebounding machine. He could be the most promising player in the region. It’s astonishing when you see his high-flying act that no Division I schools were interested.

“Not one,” he said. “I’ve been asked that question a lot. Why aren’t you in Division I? What are you doing here? It’s just how it happened. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I love it here.”

Never mind the NBA for a moment. Beverly could draw interest from NFL teams even though he never played a down of football. He’s a freak athlete with size and strength scouts seek in tight ends. Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas were college basketball players who helped redefine the position in the NFL.

Attention: Buffalo Bills.

It’s hard to imagine anyone covering Beverly, who is more agile than most linebackers and bigger than all defensive backs. With his leaping ability and experience boxing out, he could be a beast in the red zone.

Beverly’s evolution in basketball speaks more to his motor than his motor skills. Other players long ago would have surrendered. Kids get cut every year from their freshman teams and conclude basketball isn’t for them. Or they quit after sitting the bench. Or they face reality.

His career was limited to playing pickup ball with his friends, mostly in the driveway, before his sophomore year at Gates-Chili High outside of Rochester. He didn’t play AAU ball until the summer before his senior year. He sprouted to 6-6, but he was raw and inexperienced. His competitive spirit simmered on the bench.

These days, he’s being compared to the likes of Kenneth Faried, a 6-8 power forward and relentless rebounder from Morehead State now playing for the Denver Nuggets. Some see Dennis Rodman, who was working as a janitor in an airport before his career took flight.

“It’s a great story about perseverance, about not giving up,” Daemen coach Mike MacDonald said. “Right now, kids are getting cut from their freshman teams across Western New York and saying, ‘I’m not going to play basketball.’ Here’s a kid who didn’t do that. He stuck with it. Somebody believed in him and gave him a shot.”

The way recruiting works these days, if Division I coaches don’t know your game by the time you’re a high school junior, chances are they never will. Some will devote time and energy to a 7-foot project, but they’re not taking fliers on a 6-6 forward when they can find plenty elsewhere with more experience.

Beverly slipped through recruiting cracks because coaches had no way of knowing he was driven to become a superior athlete.

“We were a little naïve about what this basketball thing was all about,” said his father, Gilbert Beverly, a professor at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT. “What’s that league? AAU. It wasn’t until we got him into AAU that we realized the whole phenomenon. He got a late start. I kick myself now. Had I known how it was done, he would have been further along.”

Beverly was two days from enrolling at Hilbert College when a series of events led him to Daemen.

The Cliff’s Notes version: Daemen wanted Josiah Heath, who joined older brother Jordan at Canisius. Former Daemen coach Don Silveri used that scholarship on Beverly and implored him to improve his skill and strength.

And the kid listened.

Beverly became fanatical in the weight room and worked on his footwork and conditioning. He developed a better left hand, his weak hand, and worked on a perimeter game. His scoring and rebounding increased his sophomore year. He was relentless on defense. By the time he was a junior, he could have started for any Division I team in the area.

“I’ve never seen anybody improve from their freshman year to their junior year as much as he did,” Silveri said. “It really is amazing. He realized how good he could be. I was on him big time. All of a sudden, it just kicked in. He started working out on his own and lifting weights. He just got the bug after his freshman year, and he developed the work ethic that he needed.”

Beverly would be a Big Four star this season. He was terrific in an overtime win over Canisius in a preseason exhibition. He had 20 points, nine rebounds and four blocks while outplaying Josiah Heath. He barely broke a sweat while scoring seven of the first nine points in a 35-point win over Concordia. He had 23 points and nine rebounds the next night in a win over Post University.

Last night at Mercyhurst, he was held to 10 points and 11 rebounds in an overtime loss.

Still developing at age 21, this late bloomer is now considered an infant with pro potential. Imagine, going from playing against the likes of Concordia, Post and St. Thomas in Division II to San Antonio and Tim Duncan and Cleveland and LeBron James in the NBA.

It’s hard to fathom, but it could happen.

“Ever since I heard that I could possibly get there, my perspective about basketball totally changed,” Beverly said. “It’s like, wow, people are considering me to be able to be with these guys. It’s been a total blessing, and I just love it.”


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