DeRozan’s Story Poised For Exciting New Chapter

Draft Central 09 | DeMar DeRozan Profile | Video: DeMar DeRozan | Masai Ujiri | 1on1 with DeRozan

Mike Ulmer - raptors.com
June 17, 2009

DeMar DeRozan is a prodigy.

DeRozan, who worked out for Raptor decision makers Wednesday, dunked a basketball for the first time when he was in Grade 6.

After a productive but hardly revelatory freshman year at the University of Southern California, he is a one and done, a player who leaves school for the pros after just one campaign.

He is also a story.

There has been a steady trail of players coming to Toronto and like their games, their stories have been laid open to scrutiny.

DeRozan is from Compton, California, long understood to be one of the most gang and violence-infested communities in America.

Like many urban dwellers, he has that peculiar understanding that allows day-to-day navigation in something that is understood to be safety. This block is relatively safe. This, clearly, is not.

Growing up there you know stay out of the bad parts and surround yourself with the good people, he said. Atop the list of good people are his mother Diane and his Dad, Frank, an independent film producer.

But Diane suffers from Lupus, a dreadful affliction and her care is expensive. For the 19-year-old DeRozan, that was the tipping point in forgoing a second year at USC.

Its great to help out my family, he said. Thats something I am really looking forward to doing.

DeRozan is six-foot-seven and his wingspan is no bigger than a pterodactyls. He brings the specifications to be precisely the player the Raptors need, a dynamic wingman who can score on the break and attack the basket recklessly.

That describes me 100 per cent, he said. Thats something I definitely could bring to this team.

As he has in other cities, DeRozan insisted on working out alone.

I felt like coaches would get a chance to see everything I had improved on. The whole focus would be on me, he said.

There are a lot of top 10 players doing the same thing. If a team wants a player, they re going to pick him.

As varied as the talents are the stories the players bring with them. Maybe its James Johnson from Wake Forest and Louisvilles Earl Clark becoming inseparable off-court friends as they travel from city to city beating each other up in scrimmages. That arrangement offers little benefit for Clark, Johnson is a black belt who has extensive experience in cage fighting.

Or consider the remarkable story of B.J. Mullens, the Ohio State seven-footer whose blighted childhood included an absent Dad, stints in shelters and a drug-dealing brother. His mother used to go to stores with a sign that read will work for food or clothes.

There is the struggle to aid in the rehabilitation of the mother of University of Buffalo prospect Greg Gamble who is paralyzed from the waist down. These are just some of the tales we know.

On the polished floor of the spectacular practice facility, young men bring their game as well as their struggles. In weighing and extrapolating scant evidence, Raptor officials arent just picking a prospect with their ninth choice. They are choosing the story they think will have the best ending.