How do you follow KD's size-18 steps from the hardwood to the boardroom? These prep stars are off to a fast startThe dream has to start somewhere. For today's budding moguls, the path to the pros is paved with both enticing new opportunities (Build your brand! Broaden your platform!) and scary potential land mines (social media missteps, overuse injuries). Six prodigies from Kevin Durant's AAU program in Washington, D.C., explain, in their own words, how they plan to stay the course-on and off the court (and Instagram). -As told to Jordan Schultz
Louis J. Hutchinson
Position: Guard | Age: 14 | Freshman | Maret School
I don't pay too much attention to the recruiting talk. I'm just trying to get better every day. In addition to basketball, I'm also interested in music-singing, producing, making beats. I play trumpet too. So maybe I'll become a jazz musician. My goal is just to reach the peak of my abilities.
Position: Guard | Age: 17 | Senior | Oxon Hill High School
I've committed to play at Howard University. I didn't want my mom to have to pay for school, so every chance I get, I'm working on my craft so I can keep my scholarship. But I don't put too much pressure on myself: If I tighten up, I don't play as well. I like to watch women's college basketball so I can pick up different things, because I'm gonna be there next year. And I like to watch men's hoops for entertainment. My dream isn't to be a pro basketball player someday-it's to become a pediatric surgeon. Our Team Durant motto is "We Move Different." To me, that means no matter what other programs are doing, we stand out.
Position: Guard | Age: 16 | Junior | St. John's College High School I don't have social media, so I don't feel that pull to look at my phone. People screenshot my highlights and send them to me. It's cool, but to me it's more about showing people what you can do and what you're about. I don't really feel pressure to get a scholarship. I'm just out there hooping, having fun. If the NBA doesn't work out-and I know that getting to the NBA is a long shot-I could be a photographer: I have a camera and an eye for good pictures. Or a sports analyst, because I love sports and I don't get too nervous when I'm talking.
When it comes to advice, I'll listen to what everybody says; I don't tune anybody out. But I stick to my roots. I listen closest to family and coaches, the people who were there when I started. Basketball has helped teach me who to hang around with. It also helps with life decisions wherever you go: knowing yourself, what you're proud of, what you want to get into and what to stay away from.
Position: Guard | Age: 16 | Junior | St. Andrew's Episcopal School
For me, academics have always been attached to the athletics, because my parents instilled in me at a young age that college is a must in our household-they said the basketball is eventually going to stop bouncing and education would get me where I wanted to go. It will open other doors for me, the same way basketball does. Basketball is a great tool, but at some point it's done. We're doing things with Team Durant that other programs aren't doing. When I'm not playing or watching basketball, I'm either working out, doing schoolwork or getting rest. When we're on the road, we turn our phones in on Friday and get them back on Sunday. It's not that bad, though. We're not goofing around, and we get work done. We're out trying to win games and achieve a goal together.
Position: Forward | Age: 18 | Senior | Eleanor Roosevelt High School
My dad got a D2 scholarship for basketball. Since fourth grade, he's been taking me through the process. He'd preach, "I've been down this road. I know how to get you where you wanna go." And my mom instilled the academic side of it in me. They showed me the hard work necessary in each. I've committed to play at Maryland Eastern Shore. But I don't want to go pro in basketball. I want to be a geneticist. I've heard it's really hard to be a student-athlete in college. So I want to be able to say, "It's manageable. You can do it." That's the legacy I want to leave: that you can do both in college.
Position: Forward | Age: 14 | 8th Grade | Julius West Middle School
My first goal is to find the right high school. My second is to help my teammates, and then see if I can get a scholarship. Going to college is like getting paid, because you get your education taken care of. Even if I get hurt or don't make it to the NBA, I'll still have that. I don't think too much about my brand yet. I use Instagram to post pictures I like and show my personality-I'm really interested in music and like making beats with GarageBand. LeBron is my favorite NBA player because he does what he needs to on the court and gives back to the community off the court. That opened my eyes. If you make the NBA, you can do things like build schools and give kids safe spaces.
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's March issue. Subscribe today!