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Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 11:24 am  |  34 responses

Video: Dwayne Polee ’08-09 High School Season Mix

With a California state title, what can you say now?

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Words by Justin Walsh

Before our main event, let’s lay the groundwork with a situation…

Demetrius Walker was once named the next LeBron James. He was 14 years old; he had a personal chauffeur; he was home-schooled by a tutor in middle school, and his coaches told him he was more physically gifted than LeBron. He had letters from everybody.

You know that Sonny Vaccaro guy, the one who orchestrated the Brandon Jennings to Europe deal, the recent Jeremy Tyler skipping his senior year of high school to play in Europe? Even he said it was too soon. “Everyone wants him to be the next LeBron, and how can you be sure of that this early? We have set up a situation where a kid can go to college on a full ride and be deemed a failure. That’s what we are doing by starting it at 7th grade.” What happened to Demetrius? He didn’t grow an inch since that time, he was no longer one of the top 100 players in the country, he went from getting boxes of letters from Duke, UNC, UConn and others to committing to Arizona State. He couldn’t take the pressure.

One might ask, What does Demetrius Walker have to do with Dwayne Polee? The response is eerie. Dwayne Polee didn’t just get D1 offers in middle school; he committed to USC in middle school. This was before he even thought about high school. He was barely removed from the days of recess and jungle-gyms. His father Dwayne Sr., an ex professional basketball player, was lambasted by parents for “manipulating his son into taking a game too seriously for his age.” The father insisted that he had no intentions of living out the glory days on his son. Time passed, the media died down.

A while later, Dwayne Sr. was hired as Director of Basketball Operations at USC. Media cried foul. Fans of rival schools were heated. The situation looked off. Tim Floyd assured the media, the fans, the nation that Dwayne Sr. was “more qualified than 90 percent of the coaches in the country.”

At first, one might roll their eyes into the back of their head, wondering how this happened. Then we are reminded. Danny Manning committed to KU only two days after Larry Brown hired Danny’s father, a truck driver, to the basketball staff. Bill Self hired Mario Chalmers’ father Ronnie as Director of Basketball Operations after Mario committed to the Jayhawks. (Two KU titles that couldn’t happen without a packaged deal, which incidentally are not illegal). Dajuan Wagner, the cat who dropped 100+ in a single game in high school, brought his father on with him to Memphis. John Calipari gave Milt Wagner the Director of Basketball Operations position there too. He didn’t have a college degree.

Packaged deals happen all the time. They are not against NCAA regulations. Polee Sr. being a graduate of Pepperdine and having an NBA resume, albeit a short one, makes this less Manning and more Hackett. Oh, I haven’t told you about Rudy Hackett, father of USC’s former PG Daniel. He was an All-American who played professionally in Italy—he was named strength and conditioning coach.

During all this, Dwayne kept playing basketball. He could dunk from the free throw line as a freshman in high school. He could easily slap the portion of the backboard above the white box. His vertical is 45 inches—a legitimate 45 inches. Over the past year, he’s been developing a midrange game, a more polished handle and better defensive presence. Dwayne has not fallen off. Dwayne has not gone the Demetrius Walker route. He has also grown since 8th grade.

At 6-6, Dwayne is the most physically gifted player in the country. His vertical leaping ability is unmatched by any player most scouts have ever seen. In the past season, Polee and the Westchester Comets won the state title. Going into his senior year, he isn’t living in the hype machine—his college decision decided and his father keeps him level-headed. Dwayne is allowed to focus on his life and not the life some hope he leads, probably for the best—nobody wants him to be the next LeBron James. Like Weezy said “I’m just Dwayne bein’ Dwayne.”

SLAM: You’re coming off a state title, what’s on your mind these days?
Dwayne Polee: Getting a state title was great, but I’ve gotten past it now. I’m now focusing on this spring and the upcoming summer. Right now I’m practicing and working out every day to improve my game.

SLAM: What are you focusing on, from a skills standpoint, this summer?
DP: I think one thing I need to work on is ball handling—sometimes I don’t dribble close enough to my body. I also want to improve my jump shot.

SLAM: Any specific drills to attain that?
DP: Right now I’m working out on just those parts of my game four times a week, and I play everyday—I’ll be going to big tournaments and camps as well.

SLAM: Are you working out with your dad, Dwayne Polee Sr.? [Dwayne Sr. played for the Clippers during the ‘86-87 season.—Ed.]
DP: Yes, I am. He played basketball obviously, so I trust him to make me a better basketball player.

SLAM: That’s good. What tournaments do you have coming up in the near future?
DP: I know in a week or two I’m playing in a tournament at Cal-State Dominguez. That’s all I know for sure right now. I just play basketball, I’m told what tournament’s coming up and then I go from there.

SLAM: Going back to your season that just ended at Westchester—You sunk a game-winning shot against cross-town rival Fairfax. How was that, to sink a game winner in a playoff setting, ending your rival’s bid for a state title run?
DP: That felt so good. Because, outside of just wanted to beat Fairfax, we wanted to go to State Regionals. We hadn’t been there in a minute. So I was just excited, but mostly to have an opportunity to go to state—the rivalry is important, but the state title was the main goal. To get there, we had to go through Fairfax, so that’s how I see it.

SLAM: During the season, Westchester faced criticism, all the while Mater Dei was racking up hype on ESPN. Do you take pride in the fact that even though they were ranked in the top 10 nationally, they couldn’t even win their state tournament, and Westchester did?
DP: You know that felt good. Because, nobody can say anything about us now. Anytime somebody tries to say something, we can just point to that state title. The thing is, we had been playing well all year—nobody really noticed it, but we’d been playing good basketball all year. I guess that says something about how they put a bit too much into the history of the team. Like, Mater Dei always had that reputation of being good, so I think people just gave them credit based on that. We had to earn our reputation this year. The hardware speaks for itself.

SLAM: This past season, you seem to have taken a concerted effort to dunk less in games. Is this your way of showing you aren’t just a dunker?
DP: Yep. That’s basically it. I just wanted to show other parts of my game, what I could do as opposed to what everybody knows I do without trying. I wanted to prove I had more balance in my game, and not be known as that guy that just dunks all the time.

SLAM: What skill do you think you showcased the best this past year to the scouts that they might not have seen until your recent decision?
DP: I’ve been more aggressive. I feel like sometimes in the past, and I’m sure scouts have noticed to, that I’ve been playing passive. Part of that was because the demands of me for the team weren’t always as high, but this year we needed that, so I’ve been more aggressive.

SLAM: Are you excited to finally be a Trojan after you graduate in 2010?
DP: Yeah, I’ve been waiting for some time. I’ve been committed for a while. I’ve been getting everything in order on the court in basketball and off the court with academics to prepare for the next level.

SLAM: You committed to USC before you set foot on a court in high school. What kept you from falling off under all that pressure, much like a Demetrius Walker?
DP: My dad just told me I shouldn’t let up, instead to work harder. So I was working harder after I committed. My dad kept me level headed and told me to make sure I focus on basketball and school, not what the rankings say or what other people think I should be doing. He just told me not to worry about the commitment process, having everybody calling the house nonstop. I think one of the best things he did for me at that point when I first committed was to stay focused and grounded.

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  • http://www.broy7.com nate the great

    first

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    second? yes.

  • http://slamonline.com Tzvi T

    Looks interesting. I’ll give it a real read later.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    the ever busy Tzvi. While he works hard, I’ll nuzzle myself in this bed while I type on my chest hah

  • Mare Bennett

    Great job :) Very interesting.

  • RBGdUP

    Great read, definitely a level-headed kid. We’ll see how he’ll do. Seems like another Demar Derozan to me, which isn’t bad, but he’s a one-and-done guy, and he isn’t going to be much of an impact during that one year. Either way, I’d like to see what he can do. great read

  • stretch

    HIS POPS SEEM TO HAVE THIS ALL FIGURED OUT .GREAT FAMILY & GREAT KID . HUGE FAN .
    WISHING THEM WELL THE REST OF THE WAY

    KEEP THE HATERS AWAY FROM THIS FAMILY!!!!!

  • malanacream

    nice, the kid can jump but his handle is very wierd… he has time to work it out though…

  • nastierthanyou

    I DON’T DUNK ALL THE TIME BECAUSE BLAH BLAH BLAH. Kid there will be a day when you can’t get up for the get down EVER again. Cram ever time like its your last. You will miss it TRUST ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://my.thescore.com/members/Anas-Ahmed/default.aspx Anas Ahmed

    Justin, I know I say it all the time…but your writing is off the charts…you painted a sick picture and give us all the necessary background info…lots of cats would just bore us into the interview…I was more intrigued by the build up than the interview itself (note: I have a tendency to zip through text and just read the Q&A but I gave your stuff off the top a double take)…nice work my dude…keep it up

  • http://slamonline.com/ Double R

    His parents spelled his namme wrong, it’s Dwyane. Easy mistake.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Double R

    It is really unfortunate that kids aren’t allowed to be kids. A kid is 14 and people put that pressure on him that he is the next LeBron. He gets all this attention and if he is unable to handle it or he doesn’t pan out, he is dropped like a bad habit.

  • matt(ballislife

    for double r – I didn’t know his parents had to spell his name the way you like it -

    And you spelled “namme” wrong….

    As for jutins piece, I felt like it was….pretty sick, lately like Anas said, you’ve been giving us a pretty wide view of what you are writing about. It almost gives us that storybook picture type of feel and puts us in the action. Good stuff.

    As for dwayne, he’s actually been dunking more during the summer, he’s averaging like 3 dunks a game and has even dunked on a few people so watch out. Also his fall away jumper is getting better, and we should all realize that dwayne will be exceptionally better once he hits the college court and learns how to shoot, dribble….and dunk? jk

  • http://slamonline.com/ Double R

    @Matt: I wasn’t being serious about the name thing

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    Double R- my boy matt isn’t always serious so his criticism on you was more sarcasm than you think. It’s ironic that only one Dwayne spells it Dwyane but now we think its Dwyane because of Wade. WHOS THE TYPO NOW?

  • matt(ballislife

    arrrrrggggghhhhh

    i was only kidding…..only kidding…..

  • http://slamonline.com/ Double R

    @Matt: Duly noted

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Yeh co-sign Anas Ahmed Walsh. Great interview + bio.
    I just wish the highlights would show more than dunks, and driving right handed lay-ups.
    He hit a jumpshot- a game winner. But really apart from that, it makes it seem as if he’s not complete, not 100% multi-dimensional.
    If you can hit a short/mid range jumpshot for a game winner, then it takes balls, and he wouldn’t be shooting that if he wasn’t comfortable, but I’d like to see more jumpshots EVEN for a guy as explosive as Dwayne obviously is.
    I understand that dunking all over guys, and bullying your way to the rack is more effective for him- and he uses that strength really well, but from the video, you dont get an indicator of his defense (like say a previous video of Jrue Holiday) or his whole offensive repoutaire(sp?).
    Thanks Walsh/BIL/Slamonline.
    What you do is still very much appreciated.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    …did you not see all the blocks he had? the drive through the lane with the reverse layup? and funny thing- we actually DIDNT use about 50 dunks because we thought we had too many. When you see him in person you’ll see what I mean

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Yeah. I wanted to comment on the nasty blocks and putback dunks. Those take serious timing, not just pure leaping abaility. Kid looks like a monster to me. He has better size and length than DeRozan, but I can see the comparison.
    @Walsh: Is Dwayne gonna play SF or SG at USC? He and Renardo in the front court would be nasty.

  • Big Man

    I just had to comment after reading this ridiculous article… first off where are all these Demetrius Walker comparisons coming from. Demetrius is actually a better player than Polee, they played on the same aau squad for about 2 years and Demetrius was the leader of that team both of those years. The only thing that hurt D was those Lebron comparisons, Lebron is the best player who ever played the game hands down title or no title so that was too much pressure for anybody. Polee still cant dribble to save his life so he will be stuck in the post at 6’6 aka undersized… dont get me wrong his athletisicm is incredible, but the skills are questionable. And your talking about state title, well lets get to the facts… Demetrius just won the 5A state title in Arizona where he avg 26ppg 6 ats and 6rebs. As far as recruiting goes Demetrius had plenty of looks, he actually commited to USC then turned them down to go to ASU. oh yea and he’s not a top 100 recruit? WRONG! he’s ranked #74 check here: http://insider.espn.go.com/ncb/recruiting/tracker/espnu100 . next time you write an article do your research!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    Demetrius is’nt a top 100 player in the country. I’m sorry, but the only reason he’s even ranked there is because ESPN’s ranking system is trash.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    Rivals- 115. Scout- not in the top 100. Even if I do average in your 74 ranking? Well RSCI does just that. They average all the rankings to come with an aggregate top 100. Demetrius Walker isn’t on it. Don’t accuse me of not doing my research when your own was shoddy at best. I also know he turned down USC. This article wasn’t a trashing, it’s just proof that when you hype a kid in middle school, one of two things can happen- he can be thrust in the spotlight too much and crumble by comparisons to the pressures his own coaches and family put on him… Or his family can keep him grounded.

  • matt(ballislife

    Lebron is the best to ever play?? ummmmm…..no sorry but no. He’s not even the best player in the league imo right now and a lot of other people’s opinion. And do not insult the greatest of all time by saying with or without a title. Just because he is a great athlete, does not make him the greatest basketball player, not even close. Lebron is the greatest athletic basketball player of his time, but in no sense is the the greatest basketball player. As a whole and total package, i’d take handfull’s of people before I would even consider Lebron. Imagine the best basketball player ever, to have his shoes being sold at a nike outlet shop for 74.99….and the logo on the side is….LB, for lebron.

    About Polee, I’d take him over Demetrius in a heartbeat. What can Demetrius play outside of College? He is 6’3 and does not have half the tools to be a pg, and not half the tools to be a sg. Best bet is that he’ll have to develop into a pg. Winning a state title in itty bitty arizona is not nearly as hard as winning the state title in the same division as Mater Dei (formerly ranked #1 in the nation), Fairfax, Mcclymonds, Riverside King, and Dominguez to name a few. Dwayne may not have his dribbling down to a cue, but I can guarentee he will be a better prospect out of college than Walker. The comparisons also came about because of the early age of committment and Justin talking about how Dwayne is developing. Dwayne is a very fundamental player, who helps his team get victories. I’ll leave it at that.

  • Big Man

    Its pretty obvious that you haven’t seen Demetrius play in the last couple years. Last year he led Orange Co. in scoring at 29 ppg the same OC with Mater Dei and Santa Margarita. He put up 28 on Westchester in a close loss. Obviously Westchester had a better team im not arguing that. But the only reason this kid fell out of the rankings is politics. he didnt go to a good school out of the 8th grade (fontana high) which hurt his stock. If he would have went to a LA area school as a freshman he would still be in the top 25. If you saw any of the game this year he was a full time pg… Its gonna be funny to see who fell off when he’s making 15 times your salary as a 21 year old… lmao. Dont mistake what im saying Polee is a hell of a talent but he is not Demar… he will go league but more of a Julian Wright which is not bad. Demetrius is league bound guarantee (not guarentee MATT). something like Russell Westbrook, a guy who wasn’t ranked AT ALL out of high school do the research.

  • matt(ballislife

    I’ve actually watched Demetrius play for two years straight before he went to Arizona. I seen him also play in the same league with Mater dei and realize that his team was not that great even though they had 3 D1 players. I also seen him play on the same team with brandon jennings in SCA and him not really stand out like he should have in a pg type. He’s a great talent don’t get me wrong, but not like you are describing. To get top scorer in OC is not an accomplishment I see best fit to brag about because OC is not known for basketball, its known for football.

    Most 21 year olds make about 20,000 a year, multiply that by 15, and its $300,000 a year. Meaning an undrafted rookie at best, nice way to back up your boy!

  • Todd

    i agree with big man …. Demetrius really gets a raw deal from guys like Justin Walsh who throw dirt on his name.. this kids an underrated excellent talent who will have a Jerry West logo on his jersey one day…. all doubters check here http://westcoastballerstv.com/classof09/demetriuswalker.html

  • matt(ballislife

    Todd your crazy! No one threw dirt on his name, he is just simply saying that walker fell off from being hyped so much. He was talked about as the next lebron meaning #1 draft pick out of hs, right now he couldn’t go to the nba out of high school and won’t be considered a #1 pick anytime soon no offense do d walker. He’s a decently athletic kid, with an above average jumper and average ball handling skills for his position which would have to be pg. The difference about Dwayne from Demetrius is that Dwayne’s position is a lot easier to grow into, Do you know how hard a transition from sg to pg is? Thats probably the biggest transition to make in basketball and very few ever fully transition, and trust he’s no allen iverson, steve francis, or gilbert arenas.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Justin Walsh

    I threw DIRT on his name Todd? How is going from ranked #1 and being hyped as the next LEBRON by his COACHES to not being a top 100 player NOT falling off? I’m not throwing dirt on his name. Jesus you don’t get the point. I’m not throwing dirt on his name, but let’s be honest- Demetrius Walker is a perfect example of not hyping a kid THAT much at age 14. And it wasn’t just the press, it was his coaches, it was his family… It was being home schooled and chauffeured in middle school instead of going to school so he could play more basketball than school. I mean it’s just things like that where you go- maybe they went to far with the kid

  • Todd

    i just find it funny how you guys put so much emphasis on these rankings compiled by guys who never even played varsity ball…. when you see cases like Paul Millsap being ranked #130 in 2003 and Ndudi Ebi(?) ranked #4… you tell me who’s having a better career? or maybe in 2004 when Rodney Stuckey was #131 and Jawan McClellan was #18… Or how about Terrence Williams being ranked #111 and Fendi Onobun being ranked #27… who do you think will be putting on a cap on draft night… the list goes on and on.im just saying let the kids play, stop trying to be fortune tellers.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Justin Walsh

    Todd, I don’t put much emphasis on rankings. I’ve said on literally hundreds of occasions that they mean nothing. But someone brought up to me that I didn’t do my research because ESPN did have him ranked in the top 100. I merely gave the rebuttle that on the other rankings, he did not.

  • Todd

    Yea i understand man, i didnt mean 2 come off like an a-hole… im just a fan of the game and I’ve been watching kids play for years on the aau circuit and high school and i just think that D Walker is a heck of a talent and will prove a lot of people wrong, and Polee has a heck of an upside and will be fun to watch in the near future.

  • Todd

    LMAO … Polee aint even ranked (check rivals) so who fell off now…. hahahahahaha

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