ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — From a small high school in New Jersey to the bright lights of the NBA, a hometown hero is now coming back home to save his alma mater.
It has been a whirlwind two years for the Australian-born Kyrie Irving, who grew up in West Orange. After going from high school All-American to Duke University to No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, he capped it all off by being named the NBA Rookie of the Year.
Now, he’s giving his time and his money to help St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, the place where it all started.
After a spectacular rookie season, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard is staking his claim as one of the top play makers in the league.
Night in and night out this season, he went head to head with the NBA’s best, who up until a year ago, he was watching on television.
“At first you’re automatically in awe — bright lights, people are paying to see you play. Being on court with Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, it’s different completely. I’m an NBA point guard and he’s an NBA point guard. I can play with these guys,” Irving told CBS 2′s Otis Livingston.
Irving attributes his confidence and who he has become on and off the court to his father, Drederick, who raised him and his older sister, Asia, after his mother died when Kyrie was just 4 years old.
“What my father has done for me, the way he raised me and my sister, is just so unique. He described it as rope. As we got older, he gave us a longer length of rope how far we could go and if we do something wrong, then basically you’ll kind of choke yourself back into where he is and you’ll have to start all over again,” Irving said.
And now he’s helping his alma mater start all over again.
The historic Catholic school in Elizabeth, including its tiny gym, is being shut down by the Archdiocese of Newark when the school year ends, but thanks to some restructuring, it will re-open in the fall on another campus.
“I made a promise that when I made it, I was going to come back and give back to the school…whatever we could do to help, just let us know because St. Pat’s holds a special place in my heart. St. Pat’s helped raise me. It shaped me into a person I’m proud to be,” Irving said.
Irving is committed to seeing the new school succeed with his own finances and in fundraising efforts, like a special dinner on Aug. 26.
Memorabilia will be signed by Irving and other former St. Patrick stars’ goodies will be auctioned off.
For more information go to www.savestpatsnj.org