Nate McMillan, LeVelle Moton and P.J. Tucker all have something in common. Besides being successful at basketball, each walked the halls of Enloe High School, though in three different decades.
Last Friday Enloe honored the trio during the school’s “Night of Legends.”
McMillan (class of 1982), Moton (‘92) and Tucker (‘02), each had their jersey honored during halftime of the Eagles’ home game against Cardinal Gibbons.
“For them to be here today paints a story for our students to see that success comes in multiple ways, shape, forms and fashion,” Enloe Principal Will Chavis said. “The story leads to success after having some levels of shortcomings and adversity.”
McMillan, 54, is currently the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. He has coached 14 seasons in the NBA, leading the Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trail Blazers before taking over in Indiana in 2016. He has seven playoff appearances as a head coach. McMillan also served as an assistant for Team USA in the 2006 FIBA World Championships and the Olympics in 2008 and 2012.
After starring at Enloe, McMillan played two years at Chowan College, at the time a two-year school, before returning to Raleigh to play at N.C. State, where he led the Wolfpack to the Elite Eight in 1985 and 1986.
Moton, 44, who played at Enloe from 1989-1992, went on to play at North Carolina Central, where he is now the head coach, a position he has held since 2009. Moton has led the Eagles to three NCAA tournaments, including back-to-back trips in 2017 and 2018.
Tucker, 33, went on to play three years at Texas after Enloe, and was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 35th pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. Tucker bounced around between the NBA D-League and several teams overseas before signing with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. He returned to Toronto in a 2017 trade and signed a four-year deal with the Houston Rockets in July of 2017.
At a young age, McMillan moved in with relatives just so he could attend Enloe. Tucker said Enloe has always been a basketball school and he grew up dreaming about the day he could suit up for the Eagles.
“I really wanted to come to Enloe, no matter what,” Tucker said. “Because of all these guys who played before me and my entire family went to Enloe, it’s where I wanted to go to school. It’s so many guys who paved the way and kept this thing going.”
McMillan moved in with a cousin just to attend Enloe. Tucker said he knew of people who change their addresses to go there.
Moton was supposed to go to Broughton, but wanted to attend Enloe to continue the basketball tradition started by McMillan, Danny Young and Tony Warren Sr., among others.
When McMillan returned to the area to do a basketball camp, Moton remembers that was the day he 100 percent knew for sure he wanted to follow in McMillan’s footsteps. As Moton recalls, his neighborhood had become infested with crime and drugs. McMillan pulled Moton to the side, the first time they had formally met, and told the young basketball player he had heard a lot about him.
Moton was listening, but he was more intrigued by McMillan’s car.
“He pulled up in a Mercedes that had ‘Mac 10’ on the back,” Moton said. “First time I had ever seen a Mercedes.”
McMillan told Moton if he kept his head on straight he could achieve the same kind of success, get the same kind of car.
“That was my first basketball camp,” Moton said. “Years later I have my first basketball camp, and P.J. Tucker is at my camp. So it’s weird when I saw the legendary stuff. P.J. is sponsoring a league at the boys and girls club. We’re all from this area, so I’m sure there is a young man looking at us dreaming about being the next one to come from here. Hopefully we can continue to pass the torch.”
McMillan said he never felt the pressure playing at Enloe and the comparisons to others who came before him. He just loved to compete, loved to win. Moton, however, heard the comparisons to McMillan all the time. Moton came up after McMillan played for most of the same youth coaches.
“If I ever had a bad day coach would tell me I have a long way to go before I would ever be Nate McMillan,” Moton said. “That pushed me. I was reminded every single day that if I wanted to have any kind of legacy I had a long way to go, so it pushed me. My coach had coached pros.”
MEMORIES FROM ENLOE
McMillan and Moton were interviewed in a makeshift television studio in the back hall near the gym. During their playing days, that was the locker room.
Moton remembers walking in that room as a junior, bursting through the door, with tears coming down his cheeks.
Moments earlier his coach, Frank Williams, told him if he didn’t like the way things were going at practice he could leave. Moton took his coach up on that offer, ripped off his jersey and left practice. The outburst had nothing to do with the coach or basketball. Moton was going through some things at home, and reached a boiling point.
“I was going through a lot of personal problems, and he (Williams) was on me pretty hard,” Moton recalled. “He told me if I didn’t like it, quit. And I didn’t like it, and I quit.”
After he walked into the locker room and changed, it dawned on him what had just happened. He had thrown away his basketball career, or so he thought. Three minutes later, Williams walked into the very room where Moton was being honored last Friday night, asking him what was wrong.
Williams told Moton to make sure he was there the next day. Confused, Moton asked Williams “you’re not kicking me off the team?”
The next day against Athens Drive, Williams had Moton in uniform, but his star player sat on the bench the entire time. It was a life lesson he still appreciates.
Williams was in attendance last Friday night and Moton made sure to acknowledge he coach after he received his framed jersey.
“I’m thankful that he didn’t give up on me,” Moton said. “Because if he would have gave up on me, there is no telling where I would have been. If it would have went wrong that day it wouldn’t have been any of this. Not for me.”