Matured A.J. Price shoots for another NBA season
A.J. Price carried his 2-year-old daughter Alissa into the Amityville High School gymnasium, where he starred a decade ago, before his basketball clinic last week.
Price, a salt-and-pepper haired 27-year-old who totaled 44 points as a backup shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, has done a lot of maturing since his days at Connecticut.
Price, then a redshirt freshman, was arrested in connection with the theft of laptops from dorm rooms. A year before that, he suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm.
"Those things helped me grow up at a much earlier age, and become a man before I really wanted to," Price said at the clinic he hosted through his Paying The Price Foundation.
He said his documented history is a part of his life that he can't ignore. But he is focused on moving forward and being a good father.
"I already felt I was mature, but it makes you grow up faster even more so when you have kids," Price said. "You understand that there's much more to life and it's about somebody else now, it's not about you anymore. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Price is optimistic that he will continue his career in the NBA. The five-year veteran plans to attend a professional training camp and earn a roster spot, a route he's taken in previous years. He hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing overseas.
Amityville coach Jack Agostino, Price's mentor through three straight Long Island and a pair of state titles from 2002-04, helps run the annual three-day clinic, now in its second year. He believes the Washington Wizards are a target destination for Price. The former two-time Newsday player of the year appeared in 57 games (22 starts) for the Wizards in 2012-13. Both were career highs, as were Price's 22.4 minutes, 7.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. In five NBA seasons with the Pacers, Wizards and Timberwolves, Price averaged 15.3 minutes, 5.9 points and 2.2 assists per game.
"He's a veteran point guard," said Agostino, entering his 28th year at the helm of the varsity team. "He's got a good basketball IQ and can play in clutch situations. I would think he would have to go to a contender where he can really shine. I think that's where he's leaning."
Price's father, Tony, who spent a year in the NBA after leading the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania to the NCAA Final Four in 1979, has faith that his son will find a home with a pro team, whether or not it's in America. The stakes are a little higher for A.J. with a daughter and a new home in Baldwin. But Tony isn't worried.
"When he was in high school and college, I didn't sleep well at night," Tony said. "Now, I sleep very good. I don't wake up and wonder what my son's up to. I think he's grown up. He understands his responsibility to himself, his family, community and the Price name. We're proud people and I think he's doing well by the Price name."