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When the season was over, though, instead of giving up on sports and returning to the church, Dewayne did the opposite. One day in the spring he came home and told Gail he was going to go to college. To play basketball.
The text pinged onto Horton's phone one morning in the fall of 2009. It was from the school janitor, Herman Mena. Dedmon was just in here for an hour and a half, it read. The time stamp was 12:45 a.m.
Moving out of the house had changed Dedmon's world. One day at the start of the semester Mena had come by with a borrowed truck and helped Dedmon load up his belongings: one mattress, an old TV, a dresser and some clothes. They'd moved him into a sublet a few blocks from AVC. From that point on Dedmon had practically lived on campus. He showed up at seven in the morning to lift, often arriving on his foot-propelled Razor scooter, looking like a giraffe on wheels. He stuck around after his evening classes; Mena opened the gym for him, and Dedmon lifted weights and worked on his game. "I'm going to be a point guard!" he shouted, and Mena laughed and shook his head. Eventually Dedmon would take a work-study job alongside Mena, cleaning the cafeteria four or five times a week at midnight, the tallest janitor you've ever seen.
That fall Dedmon finally got a chance to play in a real game. It was ugly. A whistle a couple of minutes in, another not long after, and then he was on the bench. The next game was worse: He grappled for position, challenged every shot and flew around the court, but he finished with four fouls and only two points. It was the Kyisean Reed approach—cede nothing, challenge everything—only it doesn't work in a real game. The next time out he got three fouls in the first half. Horton had to yank him again. Dedmon jogged to the bench, where he sat down next to Mike Rios, the school's athletic academic adviser. "Coach, why'd I come out?" Dedmon asked.
"You have three fouls," said Rios.
"Well, how many do I get?"
Rios chuckled and put his arm around Dedmon. "You only get five, my man, only five."
The breakthrough came against Fullerton College on Nov. 21, the sixth game of the season. One of Fullerton's players bumped Dedmon repeatedly, then finally threw an elbow at his head. It was the ultimate honor: Fullerton was trying to get Dedmon out of the game. Of course, Dedmon didn't see it that way. He shoved the Fullerton player and drew a technical foul. But Dedmon stayed in the game and something changed. Energized, he became more aggressive on offense. He finished tied for the team lead in points (14) and rebounds (eight) in an overtime win. Better yet, he didn't foul out.
The kid was improving by the day, and he seemed to retain everything. One morning AVC's point guard was late to a walk-through, and Dedmon volunteered to take his place. Horton stared in disbelief while Dedmon ran the offense as if he'd been doing it all year. "We had probably 50 plays, and he could run point through five on every play perfectly—the timing and nuance, baseline out-of-bounds, half-court, you name it," says Horton. "Here was this 6'10" kid who'd hardly even played, and he had the best basketball IQ I'd seen. I was taken aback."
In games Dedmon scored his points on offensive rebounds and monstrous putback dunks and became so good at converting lobs that Horton installed four plays for him, his favorite being X, a back-pick against a zone in which Dedmon soared in from the right side. Defense was still his forte, though. He pulled down 14 boards in one game, blocked seven shots in another. Logan was not only losing to his friend in one-on-one but was also finding it hard to even score.