It doesn’t matter if it’s coaching, recruiting, or analyzing the game, as long as it keeps former TCU basketball player and sports broadcasting major Aaron Durley here at TCU, he is all ears.
“I would do anything. I would scrub the floors if I had too,” Durley said. “As long as I get to stay here and wear purple for the rest of my life, I’ll do it.”
That may seem like a simple statement coming from a former college basketball player staying loyal to his school, but Durley’s background gives his words some meaning.
Durley has lived all over the place during his lifetime. He was born and raised in Houston before he moved to Canada when his dad got a job offer.
About four years later, he moved to Saudi Arabia when his dad starting working for an oil company. His family still lives there to this day.
Not only has he lived in many different countries, he has also traveled to even more countries thanks to his stint in the Little League World Series. He didn’t mind all of the traveling, though. He actually really enjoyed it.
“Traveling is the best thing in the world,” he said.
He added he loved to experience the different foods and cultures in all of the places he visited, some of which were Thailand, Italy and Poland.
Durley was a pitcher and first baseman for the Arabian-American team from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for two seasons and garnered a lot of media attention thanks to his size.
At age 12, Durley was 6-foot-4. He grew another four inches to 6-foot-8 the following year. He was by far the biggest player on the diamond and is still the biggest player in Little League World Series history.
He is also in the Little League World Series Hall of Fame in Saudi Arabia.
Because of his height, Durley said his mom had to carry around his birth certificate in her purse to prove to anyone and everyone that he was in fact the age he said he was.
Durley guest-starred on Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live and even Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Baseball didn’t come naturally for Durley, though. He didn’t even play baseball until he moved to Saudi Arabia. With basketball not being a huge sport there, he decided to go to baseball tryouts for a local Little League team.
Durley said he remembered the day vividly. It was the first day of tryouts and they all picked partners. Once he got his partner he was asked if he had ever played before, and he had no idea how to even properly throw a baseball.
“Uh, not really, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out,” Durley said at the time. He then proceeded to throw the ball as hard as he could to his partner and accidentally hit him in the eye, which caused a huge cut.
“That’s how I knew I was going to play baseball,” Durley said, looking back and chuckling while remembering that moment almost ten years ago.
Eventually, Durley outgrew baseball and had to find another sport to focus on.
“I really thought I was going to be a baseball player for the rest of my life…but the bats were getting smaller and smaller.”
It wasn’t that hard for Durley to figure out what sport to play next. He basically played every sport he could growing up, except for football. He was even good at soccer before he started to grow and his footwork and coordination started to change.
But the next move was obvious: playing basketball.
His parents sat him down and gave him a choice. He could either go to an academy in Florida called IMG to play basketball, or he could go back home to Houston to live with his grandparents and play basketball there.
He decided Houston was the better option.
“I love my grandparents to death, so it made the decision easier,” Durley said.
He jumped from Westbury Christian School to St. Thomas Catholic High School and then finally landed at Fort Bend Bush High School, where he played with University of Texas basketball player Cameron Ridley.
He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and signed with Marquette University before changing his mind to become head coach Trent Johnson’s first recruit at TCU.
“I was a pretty big recruit coming to Marquette, and I was like ‘Maybe I could try to go somewhere not as big and try to make a bigger name for myself and help that team in any way that I can,’” Durley said.
Sadly, injuries derailed his career at TCU before he even got to play a game.
Durley tore his ACL in the last two minutes of practice, two weeks before TCU’s first game of the 2012-13 season. He went up for a dunk and slipped on some water or sweat, he wasn’t sure, and “went down like a sack of potatoes.”
Durley said that he had never been in so much pain before.
But he wasn’t talking about the injury.
“The one thing that hurt more than the injury itself and the surgery was standing up during the national anthem and seeing everyone lined up,” Durley said. “And then the tip ball really hurt because I wanted to have that opportunity to throw on my TCU jersey and give it everything I had for the university and my family.”
He slowly endured nine months of rehab before being ready to play and hopefully become a rotation player during the 2013-14 season.
The team’s first trip was to Canada for an exhibition tournament and Durley did great in all of the practices, up until minutes before the first game.
The team was doing a simple layup drill during warmups a couple of minutes before the national anthem. Durley went up for a dunk and felt a pop in the same knee he had torn his ACL in almost a year ago. He immediately knew what it was.
Durley had re-torn his ACL 75 percent of the way through.
“If it were 50 percent, or a torn LCL, I would’ve been able to play that season,” he said.
Instead, it meant the end of a promising career of basketball before it even started.
Durley said the decision to quit basketball because of his health was a joint decision between him and the coaching staff. Durley originally wanted to try playing again, but Johnson didn’t agree.
Durley said that he can recall the conversation as if it happened yesterday.
“Coach said ‘Durley, I love you, but I can’t allow you to do that to yourself because, at the end of the day, I want you to be able to run around with your kids,’” Durley said.
Durley is still around the team and helps out wherever he can, including talking to recruits and their parents.
“I always go up to as many recruits as possible to let them know that if they need me for anything. I’m always here,” Durley said.
Durley isn’t being asked to do that, he said enjoys doing it because it gives back to a school and program that has stayed by his side through thick and thin.
“I really want to be there for people like coach Johnson has been there for me and provide the same opportunities that this school has provided me,” Durley said.
Even with an atypical life story and the chance to go anywhere he wants to, now that his playing career is over, Durley said he is still committed to changing TCU’s basketball program for the better.
And he doesn’t plan on that ever changing.
Durley said he would love to begin a career as a coach or an analyst, and he hopes that opportunity could come here, at the one place he wants to be.
“I’m really loyal to TCU,” he said. “So if I can stay here as long as I can, I would do it in a heartbeat.”