LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As a high schooler in Dallas, all LaMarcus Aldridge heard about was Chris Bosh.
No matter how well he performed, how many points he scored, Aldridge always played second fiddle to Bosh.
"He was the golden guy," the ex-Seagoville standout said yesterday when recalling his high school battles with the Raptors star's Lincoln team from the early part of the decade.
"I had to really have a grudge against him and use it for motivation to get better. And when I played against him, (he) just (had) to go extra hard. He's one of the guys that is idolized big time in Dallas. He has done great things. He was the big man in Dallas. Everybody said, 'Do it like him, do it like him.'"
He doesn't quite do it like Bosh yet, but he might be on a similar path. Four years after their final high school game, Aldridge and Bosh are good friends and workout mates. And just over two weeks from now, they could be teammates.
The 6-foot-11, 235-pound power forward/centre, who is one year younger than Bosh, is one of a group of six in the running to be picked first overall by the Raptors in the NBA draft on June 28. Every day, Aldridge, who has entered the NBA draft after a two-year college career at Texas, meets Bosh in Dallas. They run, lift weights and play one-on-one. Aldridge said their record is pretty even this summer.
"No one wants to lose," Aldridge said after a mandatory physical and weigh-in at the NBA's pre-draft camp. "One-on-one in the post, one on one from the elbow, one-on-one from the top of the key. I'm just working on getting used to being guarded by a longer guy and a real quick guy.
"I never really looked at it like (he is facing an NBA all-star). But, yeah, he is an all-star. So if I can get used to playing against him, I should do all right."
Not so long ago, Aldridge was not even thinking about the NBA -- he simply was trying to get on a basketball court. As a 6-foot-7 Grade 8 student, Aldridge recalls being a "horrible" player. At the park, the other kids wouldn't pass to him and sometimes didn't let him play.
"I couldn't shoot, I couldn't do a hook shot, I was just tall," he said. "I'm scoring points, but it's because everybody else is down there (at his midsection)."
But his skills eventually caught up to his height and by his senior year of his high school, Aldridge was making a name for himself. A guy by the name of Shaquille O'Neal invited him out to lunch before a game in Dallas.
"He was just seeing if I had any questions or anything so we just had a long talk," said Aldridge, whose loyalties, because of that meeting, are divided in the NBA final.
A year later, Aldridge suffered a hip injury that kept him out of the final 15 games at Texas and forced Aldridge to stay in school. But during the time off his feet, Aldridge improved his game by shooting hundreds of times while seated on a stool. He now looks at that time as a "blessing in disguise."
This past season, he reviewed tapes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's famous sky hook and added that to his arsenal, helping Aldridge lead his team to the NCAA elite eight.
Aldridge believes he is a natural power forward, but also can play with his back to the basket as a centre. Many people, of course, suggested the Raptors shouldn't have picked Charlie Villanueva because he was identical to Bosh.
That selection worked out just fine. And in Aldridge's mind, he and Bosh also can co-exist without a problem.
"It sounds cool," Aldridge said. "He's a nice guy, he plays very hard and he plays well.
"Playing with him, it wouldn't be such a bad thing after all."