The clothes told a story about the 37-year-old man coaching at one corner of the gym: white T-shirt with an NBA logo on the front and black sweatpants with an orange ball between the words AMITYVILLE and BASKETBALL emblazoned high on the upper left thigh.
“You want to stop the ball here,” he told two players not far from the basket before directing a three-on-three drill in this preseason practice late last month.
He is A.J. Price, who used to be one of these kids. He was an Amityville player in the early 2000s, a really good one.
After scoring 1,394 points and winning three straight Long Island championships, two state titles and two Newsday Suffolk Player of the Year awards, Price graduated to UConn in the Big East, then moved on for a six-season run as an NBA point guard and two more seasons in China.
Now he’s living in Baldwin and back at his old high school, beginning a new role. Price is trying to make a difference with another generation of Amityville players as a volunteer assistant under his former coach, Jack Agostino.
“I would like to think just me coming from these same hallways . . . and making it to the highest level of basketball, that I give these kids a newfound sense of hope or a chance, the opportunity,” Price said. “Just to be able to see me, touch me, feel me, hear me every single day.
“I played in the NBA. Let them know their dreams can come true.”
His clothes didn’t tell the whole story. There was much to overcome before Price’s dream came true.
Born in Orange, New Jersey, the son of former Penn and NBA player Tony Price moved to Roosevelt when he was 4 and then to East Massapequa.
He averaged 25.4 points as a junior and 28.5 as a senior before graduating from Amityville in 2004.
His most memorable game came as a sophomore, the time Amityville faced LeBron James and St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, at a tournament in Delaware.
Price missed two free throws with about nine seconds left. James followed with a four-point play for a one-point lead.
Then Price countered by sinking two free throws with about two seconds left for a one-point win.
“He’s one of the best that ever stepped foot in the Amityville building and I would say probably one of the best to ever step foot on Long Island,” Agostino said.
But in October 2004, Price was a Connecticut freshman, and an arteriovenous malformation in his brain caused the scare of a lifetime. The blood vessel issue resulted in a hemorrhage.
Price was in critical condition for a time. He underwent radiosurgery in February 2005.
He missed the season and knew he wasn’t the same player thereafter.
“I was told I wouldn’t play basketball again,” Price said. “Definitely life-threatening. Toughest thing I went through in my life. Made me a man at a very young age. My basketball career changed drastically after that.
“Amongst my friends and family, I always say, ‘You know, there’s only been about 5,000 or so people who have ever played in the NBA. Out of that, I would like to think I’m the only one who’s ever made it after brain surgery.’
“I wasn’t the greatest basketball player that I thought I would be due to unfortunate circumstances, but I had a lot of good qualities still as a person. And I think it’s showing now in terms of me being back here at school, helping these young kids be able to try to achieve their goals.”
There was another big issue ahead. He also missed the next season. UConn had suspended him.
Price and teammate Marcus Williams were arrested in August 2005, accused of attempting to sell four laptops stolen from dorm rooms. Price was charged with three counts of felony larceny and one misdemeanor count of lying to police. He received probation and did community service.
“I embarrassed my family at that time and I vowed that I would never do that again,” Price said. “And I haven’t. You live and you learn from your mistakes.”
He’s willing to talk about his mistake with these Amityville players — if asked.
“I was a kid,” Price said. “I grew. And things happen . . . All I can do is try to tell kids what and what not to do and situations that I went through.”
Now he has his own kids with fiancee Lissa Pichardo, 11-year-old Alissa and 5-year-old Alia. His general message to the players also illustrates his growth.
“It’s just an everyday consistency,” Price said, “being on these guys, get your grades, be respectful, be a good human being.”
He also can tell them about playing three seasons at UConn and becoming an All-American in 2008 as a junior, although he then had another obstacle to overcome after tearing an ACL in the NCAA Tournament that year.
He can talk about Indiana selecting him in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft.
Price played three seasons with the Pacers before having his best season in 2012-13 with Washington. He appeared in 57 games, including 22 starts, and averaged 7.7 points and 3.6 assists.
Minnesota was his home team the following season. In 2014-15, he closed with Indiana, Cleveland and Phoenix.
Price ended up playing 261 regular-season games in his NBA days, including 25 starts, and averaged 5.8 points, 2.2 assists and 15.1 minutes per game.
“After everything I’ve been through, all of the adversity that I faced, to be able to just say I still made it I think was just the biggest accomplishment,” Price said.
After his retirement in 2017, he took it easy, saying he was “enjoying the fruits of my labor.”
Then this past summer, Price started working with the Rising Stars AAU program in Nassau to see if he liked coaching. Price and Agostino also were doing some clinics.
Jason Fraser served as a volunteer assistant for Agostino last season, but the former Amityville All-American moved to Arizona, so Agostino asked Price if he could help out. Price was enjoying the AAU work and jumped at it.
“I really do believe his future is on the high college level or even on the NBA level coaching,” Agostino said. “He’s got so much talent as a coach . . . I really do think he connects so well with kids.”
Agostino thinks Amir Dickerson could be the next big thing at Amityville. The 6-foot sophomore point guard has D-I and NBA dreams.
How much better can it get than having a former NBA point guard as your tutor?
“He has taught me many things, offensive, defensive,” Dickerson said. “He’s taught me how to be a better teammate, be a smarter player . . . He talks to me about having a good attitude.”
He also has made an impression on Dickerson’s senior backcourt partner.
“He’s showed us how to work hard and an NBA work ethic,” Seville Williams said. “ . . . A great mentor, great person, great spirit.”
Price is focused now on these players, not on his future.
“I’m still a newbie,” he said. “I’m still learning. So I’m just trying to soak up everything I can and take this coaching thing day by day.”