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article imageJehovah's Witness college basketball star at life's crossroads

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 12, 2011 in World
This is the story of Dewayne Dedmon who, at 18, took a decision on the course of his own life. Dedmon, for years, dreamed of playing basketball, but his mother, a Jehovah's Witness, thought his time was better spent preparing for end of the world.
At 7 feet, expectations are high that the USC forward will soon be a high NBA pick, and stories of his promise are already making the rounds in NBA scout circles. Many of the scouts who first heard of him were puzzled at repeated reports about an unknown prospect, a 7-footer, described, according to Los Angeles Times, as a "lean and athletic kid who plays aggressively. Runs like a deer."
One of the scouts marveled at Dedmon's sudden rise to prominence:
"I can't think of a guy in the last few years who has come out of nowhere...There is going to be a ton of mystery about this kid."
CNN reports that Dedmon is now a 22-year old redshirt sophomore at USC. But when Dedmon was at Lancaster High, he was mystery of sorts to his school mates. Not yet 18, but already over 6 feet 5 inches, his schoolmates pestered him, wanting to know why he wasn't playing basketball. He seemed to them made in heaven for the game. Too often, Dedmon was embarrassed to tell the truth. He just walked off. But when he did, he would only say, "I just don't."
The truth, however, was that his mother did not allow him. She had better plans for her gangling athletic son, and that was ensuring he makes it to the "new world" after Armageddon destruction of this "wicked system of things." She took the boy to the local Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witness regularly and did everything she could to smother his interest in the game. But Dedmon wanted to play basketball. On a number of occasions, he tried to make the high school team. But each time he dropped out, telling his coach with tears in his eyes: "I can't do it...My mom won't let me."
But finally at 18, the boy, now a man, took a decision of his own. He went to his mother and said in a final tone: "Mom, I still want to play basketball. You know where I stand on this."
CNN reports that initially, his mother challenged him. She called the Kingdom Hall elders who told him basketball would take him away from the Truth he had been learning from his childhood, and that might mean God's judgment at Armageddon. But the young man had made up his mind. He could serve both God and basketball. Then, for the first time, at 18, 6 feet 8 inches and 190 pounds, the gangling athletic youth began learning the basic drills of basketball his mates his had known for years.
David Humphreys, Dedmon's high school coach, recalls the boy's first serious attempts at playing basketball: "It was almost like he was running around in circles."
In his senior years at high school, he played a few games, but his overall performance was mediocre. He scored once and almost brought the roof down. Dedmon recalls the moment: "I ran down the court, raising the roof...screaming, 'Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!' "
When Dedmon entered Antelope Valley College, he contacted Coach Dieter Horton, junior college basket ball coach in California. Horton recalls the first time he saw Dewayne Dedmon, in April 2008, at the Antelope Valley College gym. The towering youth walked up to him and said, quietly, "Coach, my name is Dewayne Dedmon. I want to play basketball."
Horton gets lots of ambitious kids coming up to him saying, "I want to play basket ball." But an 18-year-old, at almost 7 feet, is a rare kind that a basketball coach does not overlook, especially when he recognizes the name from stories he'd been hearing from other kids about a near 7-foot kid who did not play basketball. Coach Horton answered the teenager:
"O.k, Dewayne Dedmon, how about we see what you got...Show up next Tuesday at 3 p.m., and we'll work you out."
But the boy wasn't so impressive at first. He had much catching up to do after years he should have spent learning the basic skills had been dedicated to Kingdom Hall meetings and bible classes. But one thing about him struck Dieter Horton. Though entirely inexperienced in the game, he showed promise, learning very quickly the basic moves such as rebounding and scoring drills. "It was unbelievable," Horton said.
Horton gave Dedmon a place in the school team, but he only practiced during the first year and never appeared in a game. During the time, however, he grew in height to 6 feet 11 inches, and Horton had his eyes on him all the time. Finally, Horton called a friend of his, assistant coach at USC, telling him he had what looked like a future star.
Dedmon played his first junior college exposure at the Galen Center in July 2009, with several Division I coaches in attendance.
O'Neill, the coach at USC, was impressed. He wanted Dedmon to play for the USC Trojans. In October 2009, Dedmon played his first game for the Trojans, after refusing several other offers. He improved on his game quickly at USC. Soon everyone was talking about him, and top NBA scouts were making inquiries.
But Dedmond, it seems, still holds on to Jehovah's Witnesses teaching. CNN reports he says he will not accept blood transfusion. But he admits playing basketball has drawn him away from the faith: "I'm just not so much into it. Since basketball came...I didn't have to be completely immersed [in church]."
His mother, Gail Lewis, continues hoping he will not become an apostate, like several other famous Jehovah's Witnesses who allowed fame and fortune lure them away from the path of "Truth." Gail Lewis is sure Dedmon's decision to take up the game will make him stray from the narrow path of "Truth that leads to Eternal Life." She says, "It would be kind of difficult, because you can't serve two masters. He would probably have to make a decision within himself. He thought he could do both, but obviously you can't."
Gail Lewis says she said to her son, whom she thinks is like the prodigal son, "You turned away from [your faith], but I'm gonna pray until you come back...I'm not gonna stop praying until you return."
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