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"No, sir," Dedmon replied.
So Horton took back the ball and demonstrated the simplest drill: Stand on the right side of the basket, take one step and lay the ball in righthanded. Catch the ball as it exits the net, move to the left side and do the same thing lefthanded.
Dedmon took an ungainly step and muffed the layup. As the workout proceeded, he botched his footwork on post moves, fumbled the ball while dribbling and fired his jump shot from so far behind his head that it seemed he might topple over.
After half an hour Horton was tempted to end the workout. But then he told Dedmon to go through the Mikan drills one more time. Slowly at first, Dedmon moved from side to side, catching the ball and laying it in. It wasn't pretty, but Horton noticed something remarkable: Dedmon was already 50% better than the first time he had performed the drills.
Still, Horton couldn't get a read on the kid. Dedmon was shy and awfully skinny for an 18-year-old, no more than 190 pounds, and had never really been coached. But he had potential, and you couldn't be picky at a place like AVC, especially when it came to 6'8" kids. Horton told Dedmon he would grayshirt him. It was a no-risk move—the kid would keep his eligibility but wouldn't use up a roster spot—even if in Horton's experience only one in three grayshirts ever panned out.
Dedmon seemed puzzled by the term grayshirt. So the pair headed to Horton's office, a small corner room in a trailer with fake-wood walls that looked out on a vacant lot. Horton sat behind his old metal desk and explained college basketball: how eligibility worked and the difference between a juco and a Division I school. He was amazed at how little Dedmon knew. He had never heard of the Big Ten or even the Pac-10.
By the end of the afternoon, however, Dedmon understood the most important thing: He could attend AVC as a part-time student and practice with the team. He'd receive a small amount of financial aid, but the rest—transportation, getting a job, improving his game—would be up to him.
To Gail Lewis's children, the world was a small place. Its borders were the dusty slopes and the desert on the horizons. From the San Gabriel Mountains, Antelope Valley appears to be a flat plain upon which man has tried to impose his will with mixed results. There are shopping malls, highways and a man-made lake watched over by a lone windmill. Everything feels tenuous. Tumbleweeds roll onto the highway; backyards abut rocky desert where cacti provide the only hint of green. Towns sprawl, their highway exits marked by the letters of the alphabet. Street numbers rise past 40000. There is no center to anything; in Lancaster, 145,000 people live in 94 square miles.
Though Gail moved her family often, it was always within the valley, from Palmdale north to Lancaster, one condo or apartment to the next. They hardly ever went Down Below, as the locals called L.A., other than to visit friends in suburban Long Beach. Money was tight. Life consisted of church, school and family.
Here Gail could maintain order, though occasionally she relented. After Dewayne pleaded, she told him he could play one season of volleyball, in the eighth grade. It didn't seem a huge risk—the practices didn't conflict with meetings, and she hoped playing would burn off some of his energy.