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DEWAYNE DEDMON'S LEAP OF FAITH
CHRIS BALLARD
November 14, 2011
Discouraged for religious reasons from playing basketball, a young Jehovah's Witness who would soon be 7 feet tall had to decide whether to follow his mother's ardent beliefs or his own heart
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November 14, 2011

Dewayne Dedmon's Leap Of Faith

Discouraged for religious reasons from playing basketball, a young Jehovah's Witness who would soon be 7 feet tall had to decide whether to follow his mother's ardent beliefs or his own heart

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Thou wilt show me the path of life.

—PSALM 16:11

Dieter Horton first caught sight of the skinny kid with the long arms one afternoon in April 2008. The boy was sitting in the first row of the bleachers in the small gym at Antelope Valley College, waiting silently, his knees together. Only when he stood up, 30 minutes later, did Horton realize just how tall he was. At least 6'8", Horton thought. Then he looked closer: Who the hell is this kid?

After all, AVC is located in Lancaster, Calif., in the heart of the Antelope Valley, only an hour's drive north of Los Angeles over the San Gabriel Mountains but in a world of its own. If there was a teenager within a nose of 6'6" in the valley, Horton could tell you his home address, his girlfriend's name and what he liked on his pizza. In 11 years as a junior college basketball coach in California, Horton had won a state title, sent nearly 20 kids to Division I schools and set a state juco record by finishing 37--0 at Fullerton College in 2005--06. Young, ambitious and handsome in a clean-cut way, Horton scouted so relentlessly that his phys-ed students had grown accustomed to his teaching with a cellphone pressed to his ear. Yet here was a towering kid unfamiliar to the coach from local high schools or the AAU circuit or even city rec leagues.

When Horton finished talking with one of his players, the boy walked over. He wore an enormous pair of beat-up hightops, ratty shorts and a white T-shirt so large it looked like a muumuu. He hunched over, as if trying to shrink to standard proportions. "Coach," he said, "my name is Dewayne Dedmon. I want to play basketball."

Instantly Horton recognized the name. For years stories had floated around the valley about a tall kid who wasn't allowed to play basketball, but the coach had never believed them. He heard lots of stories. Most came from the kids themselves. Every year dozens of cocky teenagers approached Horton and assured him they'd score 20 a game if only he'd give them a uniform and the rock. To weed out the dreamers and boasters, he told them, "Come back next week." Only one in 10 ever did.

"O.K., Dewayne Dedmon, how about we see what you got," Horton said. "Show up next Tuesday at 3 p.m., and we'll work you out."

Dedmon nodded. "Yes, sir," he said. "I'll see you then."

Within a few days, Horton had forgotten all about him.

Gail Lewis was so proud she felt like crying. She stared at the letters on the notepaper stuck to the wall and read along. She knew the line, from Proverbs. Then she looked down at her nine-year-old son, sitting on his bed in their sparsely furnished three-bedroom apartment in Lancaster. Here he was, only halfway grown up and already disciplining himself.

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