She suspended her pursuit of a college degree for a third and final time at Baltimore City Community College because there were days she would come home from work to find Dwayne hanging around unfamiliar neighborhood kids.

"That's when I had to make a decision to focus on him," Chambers says. "Me growing up around here, knowing what parts to go, where not to go, that's what I had to do as a parent."

When he was 14, rising in stature over his peers and able to dunk on his mother playing 1-on-1, Morgan told her he would someday play in the NBA. As scouts took notice, Chambers looked for support. She knew the landscape her son was stepping into, and she knew it to be treacherous.

"You have a lot of basketball sharks around here," she says. "You have a lot of sharks and weasels and snakes."


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She called on Dwayne Wise, director of the AAU program Morgan played for, B'more's Finest. He was a man her son had respected, Chambers says.

Wise sat to Morgan's right when he announced his decision to attend UNLV.

"Being in Baltimore, it's so easy to get off track," Wise says. "It's tough. It's tough here. The pressure of just being cool. The pressure to just fit in. And then a lot of times with players like Dwayne's type of potential, it draws, it's a magnet to everything.

"Over the years, we've seen how it's tough to be a top prospect."

The recruiting process had Morgan changing his cell phone number on three different occasions. He formed a circle he felt he could trust and he hung it over him like an umbrella.

"Once he's had the success that he's had, there's a lot of people that will just want to be around for the ride or around for their own personal motives," says Kevin Bullock, who's helped Morgan train and who frequently drove him to and from the airport over there summer. "He's aware of those things. So he chooses to keep it tight, to keep that circle tight."

He chooses to keep the ball in his hand. He's here on the porch, ignoring the constant iPhone buzz from his pocket as if out of courtesy, dribbling the ball from his grip as if out of necessity.

"There's temptations," Morgan says. "But at the end of the day, I want this for myself. Nobody can take it from me."

He looks out to the neighborhood, the sun dipping under it. Just around the bend, there's a concrete park where he says plumes of weed sometimes fill the night.

"You know," Morgan says, "I can't do the things that other people do. I've noticed that."

Staying calm

Potential is a dimly-lit cafeteria that has a moldy smell, and this is the place where the game starts for many of Baltimore's young and hopeful. Twenty-six years ago, Chambers began playing here. Nine years ago, Morgan did. They weren't unlike the 40 or so children one summer afternoon huddled during basketball camp's lunch break at the Bentalou Recreation Center.

The one coaches started calling "Big Ticket" all those years ago has been dreaming. Morgan wants to be a McDonald's All-American after this season. The dream of being an NBA player is burning fiery as ever.

But he is first eager to make an impact at UNLV.

"I want to take a path that no one ever took before," he says. "I felt as though me going out of state would put me in a situation to have to mature on my own. When I'm there, I'm a thousand miles away from my house. So I have to fend for myself."

By the time her son leaves this porch for college, Chambers admits that she will be "scared." She can only hope he will do so more prepared than she was.

Her pride is in knowing that she might be her son's lesson.

"God does things for a reason, and the toughness that I have comes from my mom," Morgan says. "The aggressiveness that I play with comes from the fact that my mom has had to struggle too much."

As he says it, she looks at him and she puts her hand to her trembling mouth. She looks off at the distance. "I never knew that," she utters softly to herself.

A quiet settles over the porch. Birds chirp somewhere.

"How do you stay so calm?" she asks, and he shrugs, and as he's always done, he looks to his mother beside him.

sboster@baltsun.com
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