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Kiki Willis vs. LeBron

In the category of "moderately interesting things that you almost certainly didn't know and almost certainly didn't really need to know but might be satisfied knowing," I bring you this bit of breaking D.C. United trivia: United rookie midfielder Kiki Willis once played against LeBron James in a high school basketball game. So there.

Kiki is on the far right. The kids are fifth graders at Rolling Terrace Elementary and part of the Long Branch Athletic Association: Jahaida Feliz and Jennifer Escamilla. (Courtesy David Morrison.)

Willis, who, for those who haven't been paying attention, scored more goals than any prep player in Ohio state history and was a high-school all-American in soccer, was also a 5-foot-10 guard with a 32-inch vertical leap at Cardinal Mooney High in Youngstown. Yes, that means he could dunk. Also, he apparently briefly worked in a steel mill, which I didn't know. More to the point, Cardinal Mooney and Willis faced off against St. Vincent/St. Mary and LeBron. Willis said he thought Mooney lost by about 50 or 60, and that James scored about 45, and that he, Kiki, scored exactly zero. So I asked the natural question: is it more intimidating to face LeBron James on a basketball court or Ben Olsen on a soccer field.

"Ben Olsen on a soccer field," Kiki said. "He's small, but he packs a lot, very scrappy. Sometimes playing against him, I get a little nervous; you try to do your best and not have [veterans] jump down your throat. So I'd say it's more intimidating to play against Ben."

Well then.

"I'm a little bit speechless on that one," Ben said, when I told him. "That's as big of a compliment as I think you could ever get."

If you were curious, Kiki said he always liked basketball better than soccer and put more effort into the former, until it became clear in high school that soccer was his future. And in other Kiki news, his real name is Ken, and he was called Kiki because, I kid you not, people thought he looked like a girl with the whole long-hair thing. He said he wears his hair in that distinctive style to honor his grandfather, who is Dominican, and also "because I like to be different. I don't like to necessarily stand out, I just like to be different."

By Dan Steinberg  |  April 11, 2007; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , NBA  
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