LOS ANGELES – Dewayne Dedmon, the Lancaster High School graduate and Antelope Valley College basketball player, didn’t start the sport until he was 18 because of religious reasons.
He went from Antelope Valley College to USC, and has played in the NBA since 2013. His journey to the NBA was short, shorter than those who played from the time they learned how to tie the laces on their high tops. But it doesn’t mean it was easy.
Few know how he’s adjusted to playing basketball at the highest level, and what it’s like for him to play with the likes of Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, two stars for the San Antonio Spurs, to which Dedmon signed a two-year contract in July.
“This is great,” Dedmon said while sitting at his locker after Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. “Not only are they great athletes (and) competitors, but they’re just great human beings – easy to talk to, get along with, joke.”
Earlier in his career, Dedmon had stints with the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers, but barely got off the bench with those teams. He then played more than two seasons with the Orlando Magic, where he averaged 4.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game, according to basketball-reference.com.
With the Spurs, he’s averaging 14.7 minutes per game – the most of his career – and averaging 4.6 points with 5.6 rebounds per game, also career highs.
Dedmon’s mom is a Jehovah’s Witness and she preferred he went to church instead of playing basketball. It kept the 7-footer off the basketball court until he graduated from high school. He started learning the game and building his skill set as a student at Antelope Valley College.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Dedmon has done a “great job” adjusting to his system this season, even though he hasn’t had very much playing time.
“It takes time to get used to any system, but he’s been a quick learner,” Popovich said before Thursday’s game. “He’s really opened up personality-wise and done a really good job for us coming off the bench. So we’re really happy with what he’s added.”
Popovich also said he’s been giving Dedmon more minutes lately because he’s willing to fulfill his role on the floor.
“Some players that are new might want to show you how many moves they have or how good they are or what you’re missing as a coach,” Popovich said. “He doesn’t do that. He rebounds, plays (defense), runs the floor, tries to run whatever play we draw. He’s been real solid.”
Dedmon’s time in the NBA has come with some slight growing pains. He said his biggest adjustment has been not playing too fast and playing within himself in the offense.
But Dedmon feels he’s taken to that aspect of the NBA just fine.
“I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job,” Dedmon said. “(I’m) fouling less, which is good. But I just have to keep building off of that.”
Dedmon has enjoyed his time on the Spurs so far this season, he said, and remembered feeling welcomed on his first day with the organization.
“It’s like a family,” Dedmon said. “They’re real cool.”
There’s been some buzz on the blogosphere lately about Dedmon. In a Dec. 15 post, the Spurs-centric site PoundingTheRock.com made the case that Dedmon should start over veteran center and two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol.
The numbers could back up that claim. Despite limited minutes, Dedmon is leading the team in net rating – an advanced stat that measures the result of points scored versus points allowed per 100 possessions – at 15.6 while he’s on the court, according to NBA.com. The next Spurs big man with a positive net rating over 10 is David Lee.
Dedmon said regardless of how many minutes he receives, he’s only focused on staying ready for when his number is called.
“It just takes time and you always gotta be ready for your moment,” Dedmon said. “The first couple of years, I really wasn’t playing that much, but when I got my opportunity, I had to be ready. That’s just how I’ve been basing my career so far. Whatever my time is, just be ready and do what I do.”
Dedmon has started two games for the Spurs, most recently against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday when Gasol rested.
Although this is his fourth year in the NBA – with more on the horizon – things still seem surreal for Dedmon.
“I couldn’t tell you I would be here at this point in my career and my life,” Dedmon said. “It’s a blessing.”