by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer
Dewayne Dedmon scored his first two points in an organized basketball game on a two-handed dunk. But, for the 2013 NBA Draft prospect, the flush wasn’t of some middle school legend like Vince Carter or LeBron James. Dedmon’s first points came in 2008, as a clumsy 6-9, 200-pound senior in high school.
“We were playing Eastside High School and we were up by probably 10-plus points,” Dedmon remembers. “There was probably 15 seconds left on the clock. One of my teammates got trapped in the corner and I’m sitting under the basket screaming his name. We were up, so we were supposed to dribble out the clock, but I wanted to score. So, I got the ball, just dunked and ran down the court. I was raising the roof and just gloating. That was definitely my most memorable moment of high school.”
Dedmon’s mother is a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and he says she felt that sports or any extracurricular activities would take away from time going to meetings and observing other religious commitments. Eventually, during his final year at Lancaster (CA) High, she allowed her son to play on the school’s basketball team. Well, at least join the team.
“I got into a handful of games that season, but in those games, I never played more than three minutes,” Dedmon said.
Fast-forward to 2013, Dedmon has technically only played three full seasons of organized basketball, and he’s declared for the NBA Draft.
“It’s definitely crazy, but it’s a dream come true,” Dedmon said. “Everybody, when they’re little, wants to be a professional athlete when they grow up. Just to be able to make that dream become a reality is definitely shocking. It feels great.”
The first year he considers a true season of organized ball came at Antelope Valley College, a comprehensive community college in Lancaster, as a grey-shirt freshman, following his first year on campus. Dedmon grey-shirted his first year at AVC as a part-time student, having to pay his own tuition and not an official member of coach Dieter Horton’s team. But that was more than what Dedmon ever expected out of his college experience.
“At first, my mom’s plan was for me to go to junior college and take up a course in water treatment and get a certificate in that,” Dedmon explained. “She had a couple of friends that were involved in that field. She thought it would be a good job out of high school. But, I figured if I’m gonna be in college, I might as well try basketball one more time.”
That path to the hardwood is pretty fitting considering the school’s motto is, “Antelope Valley College…Imagine the Possibilities.” But, Dedmon’s journey through basketball didn’t get any less complicated once he played his first full year.
The big man averaged 6.6 points and 7.8 boards during that first season of game action in ‘09-10—at 20 years old. But today, at 23, 7-0 and 255 pounds, Dedmon plays like he’s been a student of the game for years. Battling some of the nation’s toughest competition in the Pac-12 will do that to you.
After receiving interest from Division I programs, Dedmon redshirted in fall 2010 at AVC. That way, he could transfer to USC as a redshirt freshman before the spring semester of 2011 and retain a sophomore season of eligibility as a Trojan. So, if you’re keeping score at home, he grey-shirted his first year at AVC (’08-09), played his second year (’09-10), then redshirted his third year of college (’10-11)—half at AVC and half at USC—and finally became eligible at USC the next fall.
“The plan was to do that so I could start playing against Division I competition and get ready for [’11-12],” He said. “I got a chance to play against Nikola Vucevic in practice every day. I definitely learned a lot from playing against him.”
As Vucevic blossomed into one of the top rebounders in the NBA and a promising young center for the Orlando Magic this season, you can only image what Dedmon gained from that experience.
Finally, in winter 2011, Dedmon was able to lace up his sneakers and rock the USC cardinal and gold as a 22-year-old red-shirt sophomore. His long-winding road to a DI court resulted in his averaging of 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 23.3 minutes per game. Dedmon produced similar numbers his junior season, averaging 6.7 points 7.0 rebounds while adding 2.1 blocks in just 22.3 minutes of action per night.
While not totally stuffing the stat sheet, Dedmon felt his body of work and progression deemed him worthy of entering his name into the NBA Draft in April. But many scouts and media members doubted his potential due to his limited offensive production during his two years at USC.
“It’s always tough when people start doubting you, but I know what I can do and I’m very confident in how hard I’m working,” Dedmon said. “People don’t know what I’m capable of. I knew that I was ready to come out.”
Dedmon shut up many of those doubters during the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago earlier this month. Right after Chad Ford and Jay Williams dismissed Dedmon and several other big men at the workout as poor shooters, the live telecast was forced to go back and replay Dedmon’s impressive shooting during a five-spot drill. Ford commented in amazement at how effortlessly the former Trojan drained 18-footer after 18-footer from each spot around the arc.
“He can really hit that open pick-and-pop jump shot, not many people know that,” said Tony Miller, an a assistant coach at USC who worked closely with Dedmon. ”The NBA has guys who are stars and then selective types of role players. I think he can be a solid role player, a big guy that’s 6-11, 7-0, runs like a deer, plays with a high motor, can rebound and cover space.”
Since USC’s season ended with a loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament on March 13, Dedmon has been tirelessly working at facilities in West Hollywood and Los Angeles to improve his jumper and other facets of his game. His effort to become a better shooter spoke for itself just six days after the Chicago combine in East Rutherford, NJ, where Dedmon again poured in long-range jumpers, this time at the Brooklyn Nets’ league-wide workout. He also performed well in the workout’s five-on-five scrimmage where he rebounded at a high rate and even dexterously dished several interior passes to teammate Trevor Mbakwe out of Minnesota. Dedmon made his presence known almost at all times during the scrimmage too, constantly communicating with his teammates.
“I try hard to communicate out there. If you’re out there and don’t really have anybody talking to you and letting you know what’s going on behind you, you’re basically out there by yourself. Basketball’s a team game, so it helps everybody if you communicate and know what’s going on.”
Now, Dedmon has a chance to further prove how far he’s come from his first in-game points. With multiple workouts for individual NBA teams each week, Dedmon has had plenty of opportunities to show exactly what he thinks he’s capable of. But, his biggest challenge might just be convincing a team that a rookie who turns 24 in August will be able to max his potential in the near future.
“I think about this process as a whole interview process,” Dedmon said. “Like, you’re applying for 30 jobs and hoping to get a reply back from one of them on Draft night. Some people fax out their resumes to a whole lot of different offices, instead I’m flying around to different teams trying to show them what I’m capable of doing. All you gotta do is get one team to like you. I’m doing whatever I can to get at least one team to like me.”
He persuaded his mom to let him even pick up a basketball. Maybe he can make lightning strike twice.