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This Shooter Didn't Dodge the Bullet
Rick Reilly
March 16, 1998
If any player's had a tougher life than Dowling star Dez Phillips, heaven help her
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March 16, 1998

This Shooter Didn't Dodge The Bullet

If any player's had a tougher life than Dowling star Dez Phillips, heaven help her

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The next foster mother lived in the Bronx. A year or so after Dez moved in with her, the social services woman called and, instead of saying, "Your time is up," she said something wonderful: "Do you know you have two baby brothers?"

"Two?" said Dez.

"Two. Would you like to go live with them?"

"Well," said Dez, numb. "Yeah."

They took her to a two-story house in Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood, a .38-caliber section of New York City. It was surrounded by more trouble than you can shake a nightstick at. Dez walked in and met a special ed teacher named Eunice Miller, who would save her life. "Welcome to our family," said Miller. "These are your two brothers."

Standing in front of Dez were twin boys straight out of Disney, big-eyed and handsome. They were Michael and Jon, born to her mother after Dez and Randolf had been sent into foster care. Dez loved the twins instantly.

Miller had taken the twins to live with her, in a houseful of kids, some her natural children, some adopted, some foster. Overnight, Dez went from nobody's anything to somebody's big sister. "In that house," Dez says, "I learned what real love is."

It's amazing what real love can do to a kid. Dez started finding confidence she didn't know she had. Catercorner to Miller's house was a playground, and Dez shot baskets there hour after hour, with a real basketball, and talked her way into some serious boys' games.

Then, Dez asked if she could find Randolf. "Of course," said Miller, and sure enough, the agency's motherboard spit him out. While Dez had bounced around, Randolf had been with one family the whole time. Dez was sitting on the stoop when a car pulled up and a four-year-old boy jumped out. "That's Randolf!" she yelled.

Randolf remembered Dez's face, too. "I never forgot her," he says. They put such a hug on each other that you almost needed the Jaws of Life to pull them apart.

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