25 years after forming a team with LeBron James in Akron, Keith Dambrot and Dru Joyce III reunite on the sidelines
It’s been more than 20 years since the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s boys high school basketball team made headlines with future NBA superstar LeBron James.
Now, commentator Terry Pluto says former coach Keith Dambrot and former player Dru Joyce III are reuniting as coaches.
Passed over for one job, landing another
Dru Joyce III has spent the past three years as an assistant coach at Cleveland State University under Dennis Gates. Joyce applied for the head coach job when Gates departed earlier this year but didn't get it.
Then, another opportunity came along. Keith Dambrot, the coach of the men's basketball team at Duquesne, offered Joyce to join him as his associate coach this month.
A 25-year relationship
Pluto says their relationship goes back 25 years, when Dambrot was the head coach at Akron St. Vincent-St Mary and Joyce was called "Little Dru," since his dad was Dru Joyce II.
Dambrot was holding clinics for young players at the Akron Jewish Community Center.
"Dru Joyce II brought his son, Dru Joyce III. And they brought a kid named Willie McGee and a kid named Sian Cotton .... And this tall, gangly kid named LeBron James," Pluto said.
"I said to Keith Dambrot, 'Just imagine had they gone to Buchtel.' And he goes, 'Boy, everybody's life would probably be different.'"
After playing together at the community center, the time came when the group had to decide which high school they would attend.
"At the time, Dru Joyce II was an assistant coach at Buchtel on Akron's West Side. The assumption was that they were going to go to Buchtel, but all of a sudden Little Dru III decides, 'I want to play for coach Dambrot, he likes little guards,'" Pluto said.
"What nobody realized, is the sway Little Dru had over these other three kids. And they said, 'Well, if he's going to St. V, we're going to St. V.' So the next thing you know, the father, Dru Joyce II, wanted to stay connected with the group, so he left Butchel to go over there," Pluto said.
That group became known as the "Fab Five" when Romeo Travis transferred to St. Vincent-St. Mary.
After two years, Dambrot left to become the head coach at the University of Akron, where he stayed for 13 years. Dru Joyce II became the head coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, where he's won six state titles. Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce III went on to play in Europe for more than a decade. Travis is now back at St. Vincent-St. Mary's as an assistant basketball coach.
Dambrot taps Joyce for help
Dambrot has been at Duquesne for five years, and the program is struggling.
"So, he's bringing in Dru Joyce not just because of this connection. Dru is considered a really good coach. Cleveland State really wanted to keep him," Pluto said.
Pluto says it's a story that's "beyond LeBron."
"I just look at those guys and I think back to what they went through. And as we were talking, I said to Keith Dambrot, 'Just imagine had they gone to Buchtel.' And he goes, 'Boy, everybody's life would probably be different,'" Pluto said.