Entering Leuzinger High School at just 5 ft 8 in and 140 pounds Russell was not immediately a stand out player and did not start on the school’s varsity basketball team until his junior year. While he did not receive much attention from top basketball schools, he continued to work hard with the support of his family and friends. Russell’s senior year he averaged over 25 points per game and led Leuzinger to a 25-4 record and then graduated with honors and a 3.9 GPA.
In high school is where Russell’s mantra of “Why Not?” was born. Every time he, his friends and his family faced adversity instead of being defeated they asked themselves, “Why Not?” and worked even harder.
Russell was offered a scholarship to UCLA and was able to further his education and continue to play basketball in his hometown of Los Angeles. During his time with the Bruins they went to back-to-back Final Fours and he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.
After two years at UCLA Russell opted to leave school and pursue a professional career. Many thought this was the wrong decision but Russell believed in himself and “Why Not?” He was selected fourth overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2008 NBA draft, which became the Oklahoma City Thunder shortly thereafter.