Written by Jovan Buha, USC blog contributor
Almost every successful athlete has a backstory that separates him or her from the rest of the crowd. In most cases, athletes use their life obstacles - as light or burdensome as they may be - as motivation for their athletic achievements.
Dewayne Dedmon's hurdle on his path to Division I basketball is far from conventional. Due to religious responsibilities, Dedmon's mother felt it was in his best interest not to partake in sporting activities, and focus on church instead. The 21-year-old power forward/center didn't starting playing organized basketball until he turned 18 years old, right before the start of his senior year at Lancaster High School.
As a 6'9 senior, Dedmon didn't play much, averaging a mere 1.4 points and 3.0 rebounds. After developing a passion for basketball, Dedmon greyshirted at Antelope Valley College (after growing to 7-foot, 225 lbs.), sitting out his first season as a part-time student. In his second year, Dedmon helped lead Antelope Valley to a 17-14 record with averages of 6.6 points and 7.8 rebounds.
A forehead and nasal cavity injury caused Dedmon to miss the last seven games of conference play, but he returned in time for the playoffs. After turning down offers from Texas and Washington, Dedmon chose USC, and redshirted after transferring during the second semester to preserve eligibility (officially a redshirt sophomore).
Kevin O'Neill is high on Dedmon and adamant he could be a potential first round pick in the NBA. It won't be an easy task, though, as the pressure will be on Dedmon, as well as James Blasczyk, Aaron Fuller and Garrett Jackson, to fill the void left by Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson. When asked about his greatest strength and weakness, Dedmon was quick to respond.
"My strength is that I play hard," he said. "No matter what the score is, no matter what I'm going through, if I'm sick or injured, I'm going to play hard regardless. I feel like I can just get better in every aspect of my game. That's what I'm focusing on. Everything."
Dedmon says he hasn't been given a particular role yet, but claims "when he [Coach O'Neill] tells me that, that's when I'll go and play that role." Although he has been focusing on improving his game this offseason, as well as working on conditioning and weightlifting, Dedmon feels team chemistry is the key for the Trojans.
"Just get everybody's chemistry together so we can play together as a team. Because when you get team chemistry together, it's harder to beat a team as a whole than when they're individuals by themselves. That's my focus."
The thing he is looking forward to most this upcoming season, other than the Brazil trip, is facing the Trojans' crosstown rival for the first time.
"I just want to beat UCLA. That's my big goal. Twice. Here and there. That's my biggest goal."