December 16, 2013 by Joey Kaufman
By Joey Kaufman
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — For the last six months, former USC big man Dewayne Dedmon listened to a sizeable crowd of skeptics about his decision to leave school to enter the NBA draft. Between the uncertainty of going undrafted, and the promise of a college program on the rise under new coach Andy Enfield, he risked plenty by bypassing his senior season, they said.
But after more than a month with the Golden State Warriors and its NBA D-League affiliate Santa Cruz, the 7-foot forward/center sounded at peace with the decision on Saturday night when asked to reflect on turning pro. All the second-guessing aside, Dedmon appears unfazed.
“I feel like I made a pretty good decision in coming out early,” Dedmon said after Santa Cruz’s 124-118 loss to the Los Angeles D-Fenders at the Toyota Sports Center. “I’m definitely not regretting it at all.
“I’m happy with my decision, and I wouldn’t change it.”
Dedmon was re-acquired by Santa Cruz last week after being released by Golden State on Dec. 5. Through five regular-season D-League games, he is averaging 17.2 points, 15.4 rebounds and 3 blocked shots per contest, notable upticks. In each of his five starts, he’s also recorded a double-double.
“I mean, that’s my biggest emphasis,” said Dedmon, who added that his rebounding is 100 times better than last season. “I’m trying to come out here and be aggressive on the boards. Like today, I had a poor offensive performance, so I’m just trying to stay aggressive with rebounding and help my team that way.”
Dedmon initially signed a reported partially-guaranteed contract with Golden State in September, participated in training camp in October and was added to Santa Cruz’s roster as an affiliate player after being one of Golden State’s final cuts. But before playing a regular season game in Santa Cruz, he was called up by Golden State on Nov. 18 to replace an injured Jermaine O’Neal.
Dedmon appeared in four games for Golden State, totaling six minutes and scoring one point.
“I learned a lot,” he said of his brief NBA call-up. “Just because I was there and didn’t play, didn’t mean I wasn’t learning. I was talking to the vets [Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut and O’Neal] all the time. They gave me a lot of pointers and different tips: be comfortable in my game, slow it down, play at my own pace, but also be aggressive.”
After being released, he is no longer an affiliate player for Golden State.
“Mark Jackson is a great coach,” Dedmon said. “I appreciate him giving me an opportunity, to come up and start preseason with them, and another opportunity on the call up.”
He figures to play the rest of the season in the D-League, where playing time isn’t as scarce. After starting five games for Santa Cruz, he is averaging 36 minutes per game. And for the 24-year-old, who didn’t play organized basketball until he was 18 because of religious reasons, as documented by a November 2011 Sports Illustrated story, logging more minutes can only be beneficial.
“They said it was nothing I did wrong,” Dedmon said, referring to his release by Golden State. “It’s just circumstantial. They definitely want me to be playing more instead of just sitting on the bench.”
Dedmon left USC a year early last spring to declare for the NBA Draft after averaging 6.7 points and a team-best 7 rebounds per game as a junior, but was not taken in either round. Only first round selections are given guaranteed contracts, and so for the player who was once labeled a future lottery pick by former coach Kevin O’Neill, there was always hope he could fulfill that expectation with another year of seasoning.
Although, the transition seems just fine.
Added Dedmon: “It’s just a faster, different pace of basketball here at this level. Just getting adjusted to that is what I’m trying to do.”
Joey Kaufman is a freelance writer in Los Angeles, and a former sports columnist at the Daily Trojan. You can follow him on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.