The neighborhood in Cincinnati is called Winton Terrace.
“There’s only one way in and one way out,” says Chane Behanan, his symbolic description of the area perhaps not fully intended.
It’s where Behanan, a rising senior at Bowling Green High School and one of the nation’s most coveted
basketball recruits, spent much of his childhood. Living with his mother, or his father, or his grandma, or his high school coach - Behanan became a son of Winton Terrace and other neighborhoods on the north side of town.
“I mean, yeah, the neighborhood I lived in - it’s pretty tough,” he says. “Like shootin’s. Drugs going around. I was around that stuff every day. But I wasn’t gettin’ affected to it or nothin’. I knew I had a goal in life. My brother had friends that did that, so, I mean I had friends, but I was always the insider. I didn’t like going outside. Sometimes they wouldn’t let me go outside. They thought I was gonna get affected by it. But, I didn’t.”
Though surrounded by the influences of his environment, Behanan had an escape from reality in basketball. And he was good at it, quickly becoming a recognizable name in basketball circles and by Cincinnati hoops fans as a sophomore at Aiken High School.
But Behanan’s life was about to change. During the summer of 2009, just before his junior season, Behanan and his family decided it was time to move to Bowling Green.
A year later, the 17-year-old awaits his senior season as a favorite to be named Mr. Kentucky Basketball. He’s on the radars of numerous major college basketball programs. He says he’s ready for it all.
An education in basketball
Behanan threw a football before he dribbled a basketball.
In the pigskin-leaning state of Ohio, Behanan ventured onto the gridiron as an above-average-sized 8-year-old. He was positioned at quarterback, and he was immediately better than his peers.
“I was coaching the 12-and-under team for football,” Cincinnati’s Leon Ellison remembers. “I was down there for football practice and I was trying to get all my guys up to one end of the football field. And I looked down and I seen a big ol’ kid down there with the 8-year-olds, and I’m like ‘There’s no way that kid’s 8 years old. He’s gotta be 12.’ So I walked down to the coach and I’m like, ‘Hey, that kid’s supposed to be with me.’ They told me he was 8 years old. I couldn’t believe it.”
Ellison quickly took Behanan under his wing, introducing him to basketball along the way. Behanan took a liking to his new mentor.
“When I first started playing football, I was the tallest thing on the court - I mean, on the field - so I played quarterback at that time,” Behanan said. “(Ellison) was coaching the 12 year olds. One day he saw me, he walked up to me like, ‘You wanna play basketball?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play.’
“Then … as I was progressin’, Leon came along and asked if I wanted to play (Amateur Athletic Union basketball). I said I would. I didn’t know what AAU was. He was telling me we’re gonna travel - I didn’t believe him. I’ll go to Florida, I’ll go everywhere - I didn’t believe him, because I didn’t know AAU existed. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play.’ ”
Football fell by the wayside as Behanan and Ellison noticed the turning heads whenever the young phenom took the court.
“He was an unbelievable athlete then,” Ellison said. “He was just naturally a great rebounder, athletic and had a good feel for basketball. So we took a liking to each other and just - a bond formed from there.”
The bond was so strong that Behanan even lived with Ellison, the head coach of the Aiken High boys’ basketball team, for a time. Behanan says he tired of 5 a.m. alarm clocks and of standing at the bus stop on brutally cold Cincinnati mornings, waiting for the long ride to school.
“I couldn’t do it,” Behanan says. “I would sleep through class every day. So I was like, I’m just gonna go ahead and stay with him.”
The two lived, ate, slept and breathed basketball. It quickly became apparent life would be this way for a while.
“During the week, he stayed with me and went home to mom during the weekend. I think he did that from the time he was probably 11 up until the time he left,” Ellison said. “He went to school with me because I worked at Aiken. He stayed with me during the week and went home during the weekend.
“He’s one of my players, but he’s also like my best friend, I would say. I would definitely call him my best friend. Me and him are together every day. It was always just me and Chane. I have two other sons and Chane was just like one of my boys. Man, we were inseparable.”
“I’m always gonna be a mama’s boy. I’m always gonna be a mama’s boy,” Behanan says. “That’s the only reason why I survived this year down here - ’cause of her. If I would’ve moved down here by myself, I don’t think I would have made it. There was talk at first that I was (going to) move down here by myself, live with my uncle. Nah, I wouldn’t have made it. I wouldn’t have made it three weeks.”
Behanan never embraced the idea of moving away from Cincinnati. Fact is, he still hasn’t.
“Freshman year, that’s the first time they brought it around,” he recalls. “I was saying, ‘No, I wanna stay here.’ ”
But his mother, Heaven Warren, had other plans.
“It had been talked about for about three years before we moved here,” she says. “We’d come for visits. We visited Bowling Green and a couple other schools down here maybe a couple years before we actually moved. Chane was dead set against it. And I understood. My uncle’s been down here for 30 years and he tried to get my mother to move when we were that age down here and we were like, ‘No! It’s the country. There’s nothing down here!’ Especially at that time, when I was 15. So I understood where he was at and I was tryin’ to listen to him and let him and the kids tell me no, because everyone was dead set against it.”
Ultimately, Warren acquiesced to Chane and his two younger brothers, Calem and Kiki. She decided, seemingly once and for all, that the clan would remain in Cincinnati.
But when they returned to Cincinnati from a trip to Bowling Green in the fall of 2008, an apartment fire altered everyone’s futures.
“That destroyed everything,” Warren says, sighing. “So we were living with my mom, trying to find me another place and all that. It was actually right after we had left down here, visiting and looking around at houses and stuff in September. I had called my uncle and told him, ‘No, I’m not gonna do it.’ Then my apartment burnt down and both of us said this might be the sign from God that’s telling me, ‘Yes, you are gonna do it.’ ”
An investigation determined that the blaze was caused by an electrical accident.
“We lost all our clothes. Furniture. Bedding. Everything. When we moved down here we had absolutely nothing,” Warren said.
Word rapidly spread across the region that Behanan, already a known name in college basketball recruiting, was leaving Cincinnati. BGHS coach D.G. Sherrill had a front row seat to the rumors and speculation.
“I think any time you transfer and your family relocates to another community and school, and especially him being the age he was, (it’s hard),” Sherrill says. “He had some pretty deep roots, being an athletic guy in high school. It may have been even more difficult for him, for as high of profile as he was as far as his athleticism and all. It had to be difficult, and I can’t imagine being a sophomore in high school, just finished my sophomore year, and having to relocate to a community where I, basically, only know a handful of people. ”
Few people, however, really knew just how hard it was. The typically quiet and stoic Behanan didn’t volunteer many glimpses into his emotions.
“At first, you know how you start somewhere and you act real good and don’t talk that much, ’cause you don’t know nobody? That’s how I was,” he says. “And they would call me cocky, ’cause I wasn’t talkin’ to nobody or nothin’. So I’m just sayin’, like, why talk to ’em? I don’t know nobody here. I don’t know nobody. But as the year went on, I started gettin’ comfortable with the system, comfortable with people, and I ain’t never heard a cocky word yet. I ain’t heard it since the first three weeks.”
Those feelings were largely kept secret for a while, even from family.
“I didn’t realize how tough it was until I kept hearing him elaborate on that,” says Maxcine Warren, Behanan’s grandmother, who still lives in Cincinnati. “So, yeah, I think it must’ve been really tough. It must’ve really took him through something.
“Then I started hearing rumors that he was coming back here, and I’m like, ‘For what?’ They got a shooting in Cincinnati every night. Somebody getting killed. In our old neighborhood, in our new neighborhood. I mean, ‘What you coming back here for?’ Even when he wanna come visit - he wants to come visit every weekend - I’m like, ‘No, stay home. I don’t have to worry about you walking up to the store even. That’s even a danger in Cincinnati.’ Walking up Harrison Avenue, where I live at now, people get shot up there all the time. I don’t want that for him.”
The decision to move, however, was final. Behanan would no longer be an Aiken High Falcon. He became a Bowling Green Purple.
“Eh, it was hard for me, because it was kinda like - like I said, he was my best friend, like one of my kids. But it’s a good situation for him down there,” Ellison says. “(Heaven) made the best move for her and her family.”
Says Heaven: “Well, I would explain to (Chane) that it’s a better environment, not only for him but his two little brothers. He understands it from that aspect of it. He really agrees that (it’s good for) his two little brothers and himself - especially from the academic part - moving down here, because Cincinnati public schools are so below average all across the board up there.
“Moving down here, the public school system is so much better. You can see the difference in ’em and (Chane) acknowledges that. But he’s 16 years old (at the time of the move) and that’s home. I completely understand how he’s feeling and I hate how he feels like that, but it’s like I told him, ‘We’re here to stay. This is better for you. It’s a better environment. You can actually go outside at nighttime and I don’t worry about it.’ ”
Behanan’s stock as a basketball player seemingly rises every day. Those closest to him have known for some time the sport was his ticket to ride.
“When he was 9, I took him and I put him on a sixth-grade team - AAU,” Ellison says. “He was 9 years old and he played up and he dominated bigger guys. We traveled all over the country and he played and he dominated 12-and-under guys and beat up some pretty big kids. I knew then.”
Behanan remembers those days, too. He looks back on winning a national AAU tournament as a 12-year-old: “Like, when nationals first started, man, you know how they have opening ceremony and stuff before every game, before all the games start? All the teams come together and they call out all the teams? When they called our team - everyone started talkin’ then. That’s how I knew.”
Currently listed by Sherrill at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, Behanan’s summer performance has helped him soar into the rarefied air of widespread major-college interest. He’s gone from being a top national prospect to one of the top targets.
“Chane was outstanding at NBA camp (earlier this summer in Charlottesville, Va.) and the result has been a meteoric rise this summer,” says Dave Telep, the national recruiting director for Scout.com, in a recent e-mail to the Daily News. “Sometimes when one commits, the competitive edge dulls. Chane seems invigorated and has something to prove. He’s playing like a baby (Charles) Barkley inside and can step to mid-range. He’s got his bounce back, but I firmly believe his biggest thing now is his motivation to prove to himself and observers that he’s a high-major guy who can impact early.”
Not surprisingly, Behanan says he plays basketball every day.
“You see my ranking going up, right?” he says. “I wanna keep improving that.”
The colleges have seen that ranking go up as well, and Behanan is being courted by some of the biggest programs in college basketball. Among the schools that have inquired, according to Behanan and Sherrill, are Louisville, West Virginia, Alabama, Cincinnati (where Behanan originally committed before reopening his recruitment), Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Seton Hall, Texas and Western Kentucky.
Behanan’s criteria in selecting a destination is fairly simple.
“Just how they accept people when I first walk in,” he says. “If they accept me with open arms, if I get comfortable quick, that’s how I know the college is for me. That’s all I’m lookin’ for. I don’t know where I’m gonna play at. Where I get a lot of minutes. That’s what I look at it.”
He also thinks about following the “one-and-done” route - playing one year of college ball, then entering the NBA Draft.
“Yeah, I thought about it - I think about it a lot,” he says. “I just wanna know how my game’s gonna be against the college teams. That’s all I’ll be worrying about. How will … I match up with them? I got the body for it, I just don’t know how my game is, whether I got the speed. I’m looking forward to it.”
Still, Where are you going to play? and How long are you going to play there? are questions Behanan has fielded thousands of times already and will field thousands of times more for perhaps as long as the next nine months.
“I think, for one, he’s embraced it and he’s really excited about it,” Sherrill says. “We all like to pound on our chest and all this and the other, but it’s been about him and the work he’s put in. He’s put a tremendous amount of work into his game this summer. I think as a high school basketball coach, we’re in the business of trying to put these kids in every position they can so that they can better themselves, whether it’s through basketball or academics. Chane obviously has a pretty bright future in basketball.”
“I was born, Cincinnati, Ohio, September 24th, 1992. I was born on Sutter Avenue,” Behanan says, almost as if reciting a pledge of allegiance.
He speaks with an unshakable pride when discussing his hometown and the neighborhoods collectively nicknamed for the bricks used to build them - from Sutter Avenue to Harrison Avenue to Winton Terrace or anywhere in the Cincinnati Police Department’s District 5 - where one murder, five rapes, 22 robberies, 84 burglaries and 16 auto thefts were reported in the last year.
Behanan learned to avoid the temptation lurking outside his door.
“Your typical projects today,” Heaven says. “A lot of things going on that, you know, I tried to keep my children from being exposed to. … I was a young mother that kinda sheltered my kids. They weren’t allowed outside. I think that part of it might have affected Chane more than probably growing up in that … environment. I think me holding him back made it a little bit tougher on him.”
Behanan’s eldest brother, Cordero, 22, hasn’t been so lucky. He’s in prison in Lebanon, Ohio, on a drug trafficking charge. His 20-year-old brother, Cameron, is still in Cincinnati, working toward his GED. All three shared a bedroom at one point in a two-bedroom place.
“For the most part, all of them were pretty sheltered, and then once they got to 15, 16 it was hard to kind of keep up with ’em,” Heaven admits.
There was also a time growing up when Behanan struggled to accept his way of life. He looks at his younger siblings now with a hint of bittersweet remorse.
“I mean, they didn’t go through what we went through - me and my older brothers,” he says. “(The younger siblings) ain’t seen nothin’. I remember them days. Wearing other people’s shoes. We didn’t have anything. We weren’t poor, we just, we didn’t have nothin’, for real. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor. My definition of poor is - our way of poor is - we didn’t have nothin’, we weren’t financially like that. We just didn’t have nothin’ at that time. They too young. The stuff they get now, we use to have to beg to get when we was out of back in the day. But I’m happy for ’em. I don’t want them to go through the same things me and my older brothers went through.
“Good thing we wore uniforms, though. We didn’t have clothes up there. In Cincinnati - I mean, it might be like this everywhere - I’m just telling you in Cincinnati on Easter, that’s when all the kids get, like, new outfits. I remember we didn’t get one. We ain’t never get one. It’s like a tradition, every Easter - that’s when everybody gets their outfits. Yeah, especially to see when my cousins’ got ’em, it’s hard, boy … real hard.”
Behanan, however, didn’t let those types of moments affect him.
“He’s always been a nice kid, he always has been,” Maxcine Warren says. “I’m a disciplinarian, I’ll whoop kids. So Chane probably got very few whoopin’s to speak of.”
Behanan’s come a long way from the little kid who used to be called - at least according to his grandmother - “Snot-Snot,” because he kept a little nasty nose.
“I’m proud of him. Very proud of him,” Maxcine Warren says. “I’m pushing on him use those skills that God has given him. It seems God has blessed Chane with this talent and he’s supposed to use ’em. Here’s a kid that come out of a neighborhood that everything says it shouldn’t of happened that way.”
And as he enters the final year of his prep basketball career, he still has a long way to go and plenty of distractions to ward off.
“He’s just gotta not look sideways, not let his old neighborhood friends make him feel like he’s got an obligation to, ‘Come on and go to the party with me.’ That kind of thing,” Maxcine Warren says. “Chane is a people pleaser. He likes to please. He don’t know how to say no. Even at this time in his life now. When he comes home, he’s pulled in so many different directions. Everybody’s calling and Chane tries his best to accommodate that. This person calling over here, ‘Chane, stop by, come and see me,’ and Chane trying to go. He going here, he going there, you know? And he’s gotta learn how to politely say, ‘No, I can’t.’ I’ve learned in my older days that sometimes a no is just what you gotta give ’em.”
Behanan said he’s already dealing with some people who come along looking to ride coattails, asking for more than their share.
“There was a couple people. I ain’t that dumb, though,” he says.
And he still misses Cincinnati - the word is tattooed across his back - every day.
“Everything. My grandma. Coaches. Friends. Just that environment,” he says. “I mean, the environment up there - I had fun. I wasn’t gettin’ in no trouble - it was all positive. I already built relationships with the team I was on down there, high school and all them. I don’t see what the big deal was.”
One day, he hopes to go back, perhaps 20 or 30 successful years from now.
“I’ll probably be retiring from basketball - hopefully - if I keep my body right and my diet right,” he says. “Building a house in Cincinnati, in the middle of the ’hood. Pull up in Cincinnati with a Bentley or something. I’m in love with Cincinnati. …
“One thing, I just want my family to get out where they from. See me and my family make it. That’d be my dream, for real.”