Dewayne Dedmon Experiencing Fortune, Uncertainty of 10-Day Contract
NEW YORK -- It had been just 13 days since he left Reno, Nev., unaware of where he was headed for the next four months, but so much had changed for Dewayne Dedmon. He now sat in the visitor’s locker room at Madison Square Garden wearing a Philadelphia 76ers uniform, the clock ticking on the ninth day of his 10-day NBA contract, and smiled. The journey from “The Biggest Little City in the World” -- where he played for the Santa Cruz Warriors as part of the five-day NBA D-League Showcase -- to “The World’s Most Famous Arena” was sweet.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he told the reporters gathering in front of his No. 30 locker an hour before tip-off on Jan. 22. “It’s my first time in New York, first time at Madison Square Garden. I mean, I get to play the Knicks.”
This is 10-day contract season in the NBA, the equivalent of audition time for young players hoping to catch the eyes of one of the 30 teams. By Wednesday, five NBA D-Leaguers had been given that brief window of opportunity in the wake of the 2014 Showcase, where they performed in front of the scouts and executives who determine their futures. The deals are handed out like flyers every year, and most barely register as a blip on the radar to the casual fan. But few players on 10-day contracts get the type of opportunity that Dedmon has in front of him, and perhaps none have come as unexpectedly.
No one could have expected the 24-year-old from Lancaster, Calif., to be here less than six years after he began playing organized basketball. Dedmon’s physical gifts -- his chiseled 7-foot, 255-pound frame, combined with his ability to run and jump like someone a foot shorter -- have taken him to basketball’s highest level, yet his aptitude for the game is what could keep him there.
“The fact that he’s in the NBA right now would be a surprise to anyone who just looked at him on paper,” said Casey Hill, Dedmon’s coach with Santa Cruz, “but not a surprise if you’ve worked with him, you understood his work ethic, his attitude and his skill level. He’s just a phenomenal athlete.”
Before his first season as a professional head coach, Hill’s only knowledge of his starting center's background came from a 7,000-word feature story in the Nov. 14, 2011 edition of Sports Illustrated, detailing Dedmon’s decision to stray from his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness -- that one should not show allegiance to anyone or anything but Jehovah -- and join the Lancaster High School basketball team. Once the NBA D-League season tipped off, Hill was taken aback by Dedmon’s knowledge, acquired in one year at Antelope Valley Community College (Calif.), two years at the University of Southern California and a few months in the pros.
“He didn’t forget plays. He understood defensive rotations decently enough to where you didn’t have to completely write the book with him; there were a couple chapters missing and you just had to fill it in,” Hill said. “He picked up on it really, really quickly.”
Hill -- who spent his formative years watching his father, longtime NBA coach Bob Hill, train the likes of Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal -- saw almost all of the foundational pieces required to mold an NBA big man in his new pupil: size, athleticism, timing as a shot blocker and a natural jump shot extending out to 18 feet. All that he's missing beyond simply gaining experience, Hill believes, is footwork in the low post.
Dedmon averaged 15.2 points and 13.5 rebounds, numbers close to his single-game career highs at USC, in 15 games for Santa Cruz before his Jan. 14 Call-Up. He made 31 of his 66 shot attempts (47%) from mid-range (outside the paint, inside the three-point line); just five NBA big men have made that high of a percentage while taking at least that many mid-range shots this season. That’s why Hill sees Dedmon’s NBA career lasting much longer than 10 days.
“He could end up being a big-time contributor on an NBA team,” he said. “To be honest, I think his ceiling hasn’t even been put in yet -- the house is still under construction. If he’s developed in the right way, if he maintains the attitude that he has and the work ethic that he has, his ceiling can be 15-feet high.”
- Casey Hill
“At his early age now, you have to feel his upside could be pretty significant,” Brown explained. “We’ll make that official decision [Thursday], but I’m thrilled with what he’s done so far.”
Minutes before, the team had announced that backup big man Brandon Davies would miss at least a month after undergoing surgery on his broken right pinky. Dedmon, who has played significant minutes in all five of the rebuilding Sixers’ games since his signing, could sense opportunity knocking. “It’s another slot that’s open,” he said.
But he also faced the uncertainty that defines life on a 10-day contract. He left the arena as the potential last day of his NBA tryout drew closer with “no clue,” he said, as to whether the Sixers would give him another 10 days to prove himself -- whether he’d be playing in Philadelphia or Santa Cruz or some other city with a professional basketball team.
Hill was much more sure of Dedmon’s destination. “I don’t think we’ll see him back in Santa Cruz anytime soon,” he said.