(KNOE 8 Sports) - Ask anyone close to four-time NBA All-Star Paul Millsap, and you begin to hear a similar refrain.
"Paul Millsap is a tremendous story," his collegiate head coach Keith Richard said.
"This is one of those stories that you just - unbelievable," his uncle Johnny Simmons said.
A story that begins in Monroe, Louisiana.
On February 10, 1985, Bettye Millsap gave birth to her second son Paul, but they would not stay in Northeast Louisiana for long.
"I was in a very abusive marriage," Millsap said. "So I went to Denver, Colorado and we stayed there for eleven years."
Along the way, the Millsap family grew, and grew. John, Paul, Elijah and Abraham - four boys, all athletic, and all too much for a single mom working three to four jobs at a time to handle on her own.
"So my oldest kid (John) got in my car, took off in it and I didn't know, I was sick," Millsap said. "And so I said okay, I can't even get sick here. (John) was about 13-14 years old. When he came and got out the car, (he said) 'oh Mom, everybody's doing it.' Well then I know, this can't happen. So I went in and gave my two weeks notice and we were back to Louisiana. I needed the support of my family."
And so, the Millsaps journeyed from Denver to Downsville, Louisiana, where a young Paul quickly learned a harsh reality."
"Paul was the quarterback, and he was more interested in football," his mom said. "But then when we relocated to Louisiana, my brothers told him, listen man, we play basketball down here."
"It was just in Downsville, we in the country," Simmons said. "It's Downsville. It's basketball. We didn't have a football team at (Downsville Charter), so we knew very little about football other than just watching it on TV."
It was there where Paul began learning the sport of basketball, under the watchful eye of his uncle and trainer DeAngelo.
"He didn't come on board until his sophomore year I believe, his sophomore year of high school," Millsap said. That's when he started basketball."
"As Paul realized that, hey look, I'm getting a little taller, I'm getting a little bigger," Simmons said. "I got good hands, got good hand-eye coordination, lemme see where this thing can take me."
It took him to Grambling Lab High School to play under head coach Michael Lyons.
"Paul came in what I always considered as a blank sheet of paper," Lyons said. "(He) didn't have any bad habits, still growing, clumsy, and believe it or not, that's the kind I like."
It didn't take long for the sophomore's skillset to begin shining through, especially an innate, uncanny ability for crashing the boards.
"Well when (Millsap) came into it - we had a lineup basically set," Lyons said. "At the end of a game, I'd get with my stat person and say, what's Paul doing? Paul was just standing around out there. He said coach, no, he had 14 rebounds and had 22 points. No, lemme look at it. I snatched the paper from him, look at it, and true enough. I told my assistant coach, we gotta find somewhere for this kid to play."
And so, Millsap stormed onto the Louisiana high school basketball scene. Letting his play do the talking, the soft-spoken star never lost a district game or a home game in his three years starting at Grambling Lab.
"Try to find things to get on him about, you know?" Lyons said. "This sounds like a cliche, but he was just that type of player."
While averaging over 25 points per game and leading his team to a 1A State Semifinal run, schools from across the country began noticing the senior three-star prospect, including one school just a few miles down the road.
"I have to thank Coach Richard for giving me the opportunity to be part of his staff (at Louisiana Tech)," Simmons said. "Without me being a part of his staff, there will probably never be a Paul Millsap at Louisiana Tech. (Richard) was always challenging me. You wanna be a great recruiter? Well there it is. Paul Millsap. How can you tell me you're the best and you wanna be the best recruiter? Hey, go get him for me. Show me how good you are."