AAU rosters have always been known for being indefinite. Players skip tournaments, switch jersey numbers and jump from team to team like it's a pick-up game. By the time a game tips off, the roster is more of a vague guess than a factual document.
So when Tyreke Coger was added to the Greensboro Warriors lineup shortly before the national tournament in Florida back in July of 2008, Upper Room Academy guard Rodney Purvis didn't think much of it. Outside of giving the Warriors some help on the paint, Coger was just another player.
"His brother played at Dudley High School in Greensboro and the head coach of the AAU team was the assistant at Dudley, " Purvis remembers. "We needed some height and he was like 'Hey, my little brother is like 6-foot-6 and you'll can take him down.'"
He might be a blossoming prospect now, but two years ago Coger was a little raw to say the least. He'd just started playing organized basketball and wasn't really up to Purvis - now a Louisville commit - and his teammates' ability level.
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But it wasn't Coger's basketball skills that stood out to Purvis.
During the trip the two roomed together with Purvis' mother, Shanda McNair, and they started to become friends. The pair played video games and hung out, but most of all, they just liked joking around with each other.
"All he does is laugh and play all the time, " Purvis said of Coger. "He's a big kid. He wasn't good at basketball, but he was a really good person."
With the unclear nature of AAU basketball, Coger said he wasn't sure he and Purvis would hang out much after the tournament. Living more than an hour away, Coger thought they'd see each other occasionally through basketball.
He was wrong.
"I have a real good personality, so I can make friends with anybody, " Coger said laughing. "I thought after nationals I'd come back with them next year and play again. But I never knew I'd end up with him being a brother to me."
In the weeks following nationals Purvis and Coger continued to stay in touch. A few weeks after the tournament Coger and some of his AAU teammates went to Raleigh to spend the night and he was surprised by the environment he encountered.
"They just made me feel welcome, " Coger said. "[Purvis'] mother made me feel welcome. I was like 'Wow, this is a good place.'"
Coger, 17, started making the hour-and-a-half trip from Greensboro to Raleigh to spend the night more frequently. Before long, spending the night turned into staying the weekend and then the week.
Before moving to Greensboro to live with his grandfather a few years before, Coger bounced around, living with various family members. While those situations gave him a sense of family, this was different. Staying with McNair and Purvis, 17, gave him a home.
By the end of the summer in 2008, Coger didn't want to leave Raleigh at all. He was scheduled to attend team camp with Dudley in Greensboro, but Coger told McNair he'd rather stay with them instead.
"I told him he needed to go to his summer camp with his high school, " McNair said. "Then when he got done, I said he could come back and stay until the time for school."
When team camp ended, Coger returned to Raleigh and this time he arrived on McNair's doorstep with all his belongings packed.
"He said, 'Ms. Shanda, I am moving in and that's final, '" McNair remembers.
The decision to let Coger move in wasn't a simple yes or no.
McNair had to talk to Coger's family and she also had to make sure Purvis was OK with the idea. It's one thing to share your toys and space - it's quite another to share your parent.
But both Coger's family and Purvis embraced the move. Now three years later, Coger still feels at home and said living with McNair and Purvis gives him a more stable life than he had before.
"They teach you how to be a man and how to work hard, " Coger said. "[McNair] is like a mother. She's always there to support you in whatever you try to do."
Coger said his old home situation wasn't bad, but that this one allows him to reach his potential. Coger wasn't a troublemaker before moving in. Instead, he says he was just a hyper kid who didn't know when to play and when to be serious.
Now he does.
"They've helped me in sports and becoming a better young man than I was before, " Coger said. "Rodney, his mother and my coach [Avie Lester] helped me change all the way around to become a better person. I appreciate Rodney and his mother for helping me do that."
Not only are Purvis and Coger teammates at Upper Room, they're also closer than ever.
"I feel like I can relate to him even though I'm younger than him, " Purvis said. "We have a really, really good relationship. It's a brother relationship."
"We're past the friendship level, " he said. "We're brothers."
Suddenly a family
Taking in foster children is a large responsibility for some, but McNair said it runs in her blood. Both her mother and aunt raised foster children when she was young.
So it's not surprising the family didn't stop growing with the addition of Coger. In the past 20 months McNair has given homes to two more foster children as well. Due to privacy laws McNair can't reveal the names of the two, but she said both boys are around Purvis' age.
"Sometimes we have our ups and downs, " Coger said, "but Ms. Shanda makes everything right."
Having extra teens in the house suits the extroverted Purvis well. McNair says when her son was an only child he never liked it. Purvis always invited people to hang out at his house and spend the night - to the point some didn't leave the next morning.
"They're great boys, " McNair said. "Every day, for the both of us, we feel it's so very rewarding."
McNair's generosity has also helped Upper Room on the court. Purvis and Coger said their brotherhood gives the Eagles an edge in chemistry.
"We're actually closer on the court than we are off the court, so that has a big factor in our relationship, " Purvis said. "It helps our team become more successful."
Upper Room was 22-16 this year and still has a chance to make a run in the national tournament that starts this week in Pennsylvania. Purvis said his team is re-energized after a long regular season.
"We've been going through a couple growing pains and frustration ... but I really think things are coming back together, " he said. "I'm really pushing our guys to be nothing but the best there and to play our hardest."