Jerry Myles always has been ahead of the basketball learning curve for his age.
He had a ball in his hands as a toddler. He was taller than 6-foot by his 11th birthday. He could dunk before he was a teenager.
And the 14-year-old from Davenport already has college coaches evaluating him before playing a second of high school basketball.
As Myles begins his freshman year at Davenport West later this month, there is plenty of hype and expectations surrounding him.
“Sometimes, I tend to still act like a kid,” Myles said. “I forget that I have to act more professional now that I’m easing into high school. Coaches expect me to act a lot more as an adult and leader.
“That said, I never have had a fear of the crowd and people watching me.”
According to those around him, there is no questioning his athleticism or ability on the court, either.
At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Myles is ranked 44th nationally in the class of 2016 by Prospect Central. When Rivals.com releases its national rankings later this year, Quad-City Elite coach Logan Wynn anticipates Myles to be in the top 50.
“Everybody wants to see the big play, and that’s what separates him,” said Wynn, who coached Myles this summer on the squad’s 16-under team. “Everybody in the crowd is stopping and watching because he can take that one dribble and do a 360(-degree) dunk.
“He’s got all the physical tools, really long arms, an explosive first step and is very strong for his age.”
Myles took an unofficial visit to Iowa and met assistant coach Andrew Francis last fall. According to Wynn, Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery watched Myles play three times during a weekend tournament in Wisconsin last month.
Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin also have taken an interest in the southpaw.
“It puts a little more pressure on me with the way I act during (AAU) tournaments,” Myles said. “My coach told me I’m on the radar now, so I have to watch the way I act.
“Even games where there isn’t that competition, I still have to play hard because you never know who’s watching.”
Teamed with Rockridge junior Ethan Happ, a Wisconsin recruit, and Rock Island’s C.J. Carr this summer, Myles said there has been an adjustment to facing older competition.
He also has had to keep his emotions in check, something that has been a learning process.
“Even last year and a little bit this year, I had a problem talking back, mainly to my dad,” Myles admitted. “I had to grow out of that. I just listen to what the coach has to say because it might be something really important.
“I used to take what coaches say personal. Now I take it as motivation to play harder.”
Myles was introduced to basketball by his father, Jerry Moore. Before Myles turned 2, Moore placed a baseball, football and basketball on the floor in front of his son.
“I went straight over to the basketball, and put it in the little hoop my dad bought me,” Myles recalled.
He stood 5-foot-7 at the age of 10 and grew nearly a half-foot in the ensuing 12 months. He was 6-3 at 12 and registered his first dunk that year at the Davenport North YMCA. His first throwdown in a game came a short time after.
Moore had an active role in coaching Myles until this past year. Now, Myles trains with Nasir Shabazz at the Group O facility in Milan. Shabazz played basketball at Chicago State, and has a son in the Davenport West program.
“I knew I couldn’t take Jerry that far, but Nasir knows the game and has worked with him on dribbling with both hands, going both ways and using body control,” Moore said. “He’s pretty much taken Jerry under his wing and has really helped him get to another level.”
After competing for a local club team coached by his father, Myles joined the Quad-City Elite this year. Wynn said Myles’ maturation on the court hasn’t been only in his skill set.
“What has impressed me so much is how well he took coaching,” Wynn said. “From a maturity standpoint, he grew a lot in the two to three months playing under me. I think being around those older guys helped him a lot and prepares him for this basketball season.”
Myles made a big splash at the Under Armour Summer Jam in Milwaukee two weeks ago. He had 24 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and several highlight-reel dunks in a game. He followed it with an impressive second-half performance in an outing at the national tournament last weekend in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The talent at the 16U level has required him to compete with a higher sense of concentration.
“If I get lazy, I’ll get run over playing with 16s,” he said. “Those boys are really fast. Everybody is athletic when you get to that level.”
Because of that, Wynn has not focused too much on the results with Myles this summer. He is more concerned with the intangibles.
“He’s got a target on his back, but he’s handled it pretty well,” Wynn said. “It is not about Xs and Os; it is about playing with consistent attitude and effort.”
Wynn said Myles, who could play anywhere from point guard to power forward at West, has a knack for finishing at the rim and displaying strong body control in the lane.
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The next area of development for him is moving consistently without the basketball and becoming a better defender.
“Even though I’m trying to get better in those areas, I’ll probably have some difficulties during the season,” Myles said. “I’m not satisfied with my game so far and probably never will be because I know I’ve got a lot more to work on.
“There is always somebody out there who is better than you.”
Picking a school
Myles went to junior high at Sudlow Intermediate, which is located in the Davenport Central district. Based on where he currently lives, he would attend Davenport North.
But with the option to open enroll, Myles decided to go to West and play for Mark Bigler, a coach he developed a relationship with four years ago participating in the Future Falcons program.
“Coach Bigler cares about all his players and stays on kids about their grades,” said Myles, who played football last year but intends to be a basketball-only athlete in high school.
“I’ve been leaning toward West, but I was still open to other high schools.”
According to Moore, he received phone calls from coaches or officials at three other Mississippi Athletic Conference schools about his son possibly joining their programs.
“I’ve never been through this process,” Moore said. “You just don’t want to make the wrong decision or make one too early. We try not to get Jerry involved with something that’s not beneficial for him or his style of play.”
Myles came to a decision at the outset of the summer. He believes the Falcons are ideal for his up-tempo style, and he has already formed relationships with many of his teammates during summer leagues.
“We’re going to be very young,” Myles said. “We may or may not win a lot of games this year, but at the end of the day you have to have fun, love your teammates and love your coaches. We’ve already got great chemistry and we’re going to be building a program.”
Much like selecting a high school, Myles wants to explore all his options before choosing a college.
“I don’t see myself committing until my senior year,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to commit early and then another college I’d like to go to sends an offer. I’m just going to wait and see how many I get.
“I’m going to be open to everyone.”
First, Myles has to maneuver his way through MAC defenses this winter with added fanfare.
“PV has an aggressive defense, as does Bettendorf and Assumption,” he said. “I know teams like that will be ready. I’ll have to be ready for them and adjust to that, but I know I can rely on my teammates.”