Steve Francis started playing ball at age 9. His best friend Jamal Hutchinson forced him into basketball, when him and the guys were tired of him not playing ball with them. So after football practice, Stevie went to the courts and played basketball for the first time. Since then, Francis fell in love with the game. Steve's first real basketball practice was at the boys and girls club, on a team called Takoma Park. Even though he practiced there, most of his hard work was spent outdoors at his favorite court, Honeybranch Field. He played there day and night. Jamal Hutchinson really made Francis want to become a better player, because he wanted to be the same level Jamal was. Tony Langley worked with Steve from the beginning for about 6 years, every single day. After football practice in middle school Steve went straight to the court to work with Coach Langley. Langley is definitely a factor in Francis' game you see today. In high school his mother Brenda Wilson got a new job, so he had to switch schools and moved a few neighborhoods away. On his senior year Stevie desperately wanted to graduate with his friends, so he got permission to switch back to his old school. Then his mom died, and Francis dropped out. Stevie tried getting back on track by trying to get into a private academy in Connecticut, but failed to get through and moved back. Hoops wasn't part of the equation; he never played high school ball after his sophomore year. Stevie wasn't star material then, just a point guard setting up the other players because he couldn't jump or shoot as well. Up until 12th grade, he couldn't dunk the ball. One night Francis took his mother's drivers license from his stepfather and the next morning Steve's height dramatically changed to 6'3 from 5'9. He could now lift in the air like never before and almost fly when he ran. Steve still believes to this day, it was his mother's way of saving him from a street corner life. It was a License to Fly. A stunning performance at an AAU tournament in Florida got him to San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College. Then he transferred back east to Allegany (Md.) CC when his grandmother, Mable took ill. He passed on a chance to be drafted that summer because, like every kid in Takoma Park, he dreamed of playing for Maryland. This dream he made reality and played a stunning season for Maryland. On draft night, Francis' dislike of Vancouver, not his love for his mother, is what most NBA fans first learned about him. Nobody does disappointment quite like Francis, and that lower lip that jiggles as he bounces through the lane drooped almost cartoon-like on draft night when the Grizzlies made him the overall No.2 pick. Steve was worried about not getting playing time with an already good player in the point guard position. Steve wanted to win at everything. Wind sprints, scrimmages, everything. Steve Francis wanted to be as close to his grandmother. But the draft's national audience knew none of that, making Francis' pout far less endearing. Houston quickly picked up Francis on a deal, where Stevie quickly felt at home. Francis has a bit of a feel of back home in Takoma Park. Moochie's locker is on one side; Cuttino's on the other. Another teammate, Walt Williams, starred at Maryland. Francis's rookie year he redeemed himself from draft night with a almost "too good" rookie season, picking up the Rookie of Year along with No.1 draft pick Elton Brand. Francis has bonded to Houston and has already stated he wants to stay his whole career. Lets hope he does.