April 13, 2014 by Russell Simon
The Orlando Magic’s season will end on Wednesday, when the 23-56 squad faces the Indiana Pacers. It’s a game that, in all likelihood, will have zero playoff implications. Yet, it’s hard to understate the game’s importance for former Trojan Dewayne Dedmon. Wednesday is Dedmon’s last chance to impress Magic GM Rob Hennigan before the offseason, an offseason in which the Magic have the opportunity to sign the young big man to a guaranteed contract.
He’s certainly done a good job of impressing Hennigan so far. In his last five games, Dedmon has played an average of almost 19 minutes per game. He started for the first time in his NBA career on April 5, and the Magic beat the Timberwolves 100-92. He’s established himself as a capable rebounder over this recent stretch, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game in April. He had double digit rebounds for the first time in his career on Friday in a loss to the Wizards, and he has scored in every game he has played in in April.
His NBA success comes as no surprise to his old teammates in Santa Cruz. Dedmon suited up for the Santa Cruz Warriors, the D-League affiliate for the Golden State Warriors, in November and December of 2013. According to Santa Cruz coach Casey Hill, Dedmon’s time in the D-League helped him mature into an NBA talent. “If you go back to when you started, he didn’t start playing until he was 17. The amount of improvement he’s shown from then until now is second to none. He’s just gotten better and better and better,” Hill said after the Warriors’ recent victory over the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the D-League Playoffs.
Dedmon did not start playing high school basketball until his senior season, and only played at USC for two seasons. Despite his lack of experience, Hill said he thought Dedmon had the natural skills to be a player in the NBA. “The fact that he’s 7-foot and has the athleticism and quickness that he has, you don’t find it anymore. If he couldn’t do anything else, it’s worth having him on an NBA bench just to see what he could turn into. Now you add the instincts, the mid-range jump shot, and all of a sudden, things start to come alive,” he said.
Warriors point guard Seth Curry saw many of the same things in Dedmon that his coach did. Speaking after he scored 40 points in a 140-127 victory over the D-Fenders, Curry praised Dedmon’s tenacity. “He’s a big body and he plays hard,” Curry said. “He rebounds the ball and plays good defense and as long as he keeps doing that, with his size, he’ll be pretty good.”
Dedmon has already joined a growing list of players with D-League experience who have gone on to play in the NBA. 148 current NBA players have D-League experience, and there have been 48 call-ups so far this season. According to Curry, Dedmon’s experience in the D-League helped prepare the young center for life in the NBA. “It gave him good experience playing good basketball, and he came in and did what he was supposed to do while he was here,” he said.
Dedmon was only in Santa Cruz for a couple of months, as in January he was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers, and then in early February went to the Magic. Still, his time in Santa Cruz gave him his shot at the NBA, an opportunity he has parlayed into major minutes for the Magic. But for Hill, it’s just another step in the road. “We empowered him to do the things he was good at,” Hill said. “He was fortunate enough to experience success early on, and that success turned into confidence, and that confidence turned into growth, and he is where he is now.”