LeBron James put Akron, Ohio on the map, and the exposure he gained as a prep hoops phenom elevated his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, to national prominence.
Even before the 17-year-old "Chosen One" graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in his SVSM uniform, the Fighting Irish had a strong reputation in the Midwest for athletic success—not on the hardwood, but on the gridiron.
Before James, SVSM was predominantly a football powerhouse in Ohio, having collected five state titles before he enrolled.
In fact, James played two years for the Fighting Irish football team, earning All-Ohio honors as a sophomore wide receiver before giving up football to concentrate on basketball.
Of course, James also won three Ohio state basketball titles, helping to establish SVSM as one of the premier prep hoops programs in the Midwest. But his legacy has had a lasting impact on the Fighting Irish football team, which, according to Coach Dan Boarman, is taking aim at a third consecutive state title in 2014.
"LeBron is a product of this environment," Boarman say, referring to the blue-collar work ethic of Akron and Northeast Ohio. "LeBron understands that you don't get anything for free. Nothing is given."
James may represent the city of Akron, but the core values instilled in him by his city and school still define him as a player and the person he is today.
See how other elite high school football teams prepare for Friday Night at Preparation Nation.
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