Mike Sweetney is not only in the documentary “Basketball County: In the Water” telling the story of Prince George’s County, Maryland’s basketball legacy, but he also is in Kevin Durant’s starting five.
In a Facebook post, Durant once listed Sweetney as the center on his all-Prince George’s County team.
In 2002, during his senior year at Oxon Hill High School, Sweetney was named The Washington Post All-Met player of the year.
Then at Georgetown, he was a finalist for the Naismith College Player of the Year award before being selected ninth overall by the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft.
Despite his basketball resume, Durant’s recognition still surprised Sweetney.
“It’s just amazing to me that somebody that’s a superstar now in this league even watched me when he was growing up,” said Sweetney. “It made me realize the impression I made on other kids just by working hard.”
Hard work in basketball has paid off and opened up a lot of opportunities for boys and girls from Prince George’s County, including Durant, who grew up in Suitland, Maryland.
The appreciation for where he came from has driven Durant through his Thirty Five Ventures to produce “Basketball County: In the Water,” which will debut Friday on Showtime.
When you consider the numbers, Prince George’s County is an amazing hoops hotbed.
Since 2000, the county, with a population around 800,000, has produced 25 NBA players, more than a dozen WNBA players and countless other young men and women that have gone on to play in college.
The list of Prince George’s County basketball success stories would be even longer if you go back further, including Hall-of-Fame player Adrian Dantley.
“When I got to high school, I started to realize ‘Wow we have something going on here,’” Sweetney said.
“We had a lot of guys that were top 20 in the country going to big schools like North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan. I used to argue with guys when I was playing in the NBA who thought New York or California was the mecca for basketball.”
Prince George’s County has also been a launchpad for some of the best in women’s basketball.
Like Sweetney, Rebekkah Brunson went to Oxon Hill School, then Georgetown and then made it to the pros. Not only did Brunson make it, but she also won five WNBA championships and is considered a future Hall-of-Famer.
Brunson grew up in an apartment building behind Sweetney. Along with her brother, Brunson used to play basketball in Sweetney’s backyard, and she more than kept up. In Sweetney’s words, “Rebekkah used to give us fits.”
“Most of those women back then were just as talented as the men,” said Sweetney.
“They have these women AAU teams now that are just as competitive as the men, and they put the same amount of money and time into them. A lot of people take women’s sports seriously, and I am just proud to say I am from PG County.”
There is no sign that Prince George’s County’s basketball pipeline of elite talent is about to be shut off. Just like Durant once looked up to Sweetney, there is a current group of young boys looking up to Durant and young girls who want to be like Brunson.