Samford's Demetrius Denzel-Dyson bounces back in full 3D

Growing up in Tennessee, Demetrius Denzel-Dyson used to watch as his dad built the engines of the cars he drag-raced — how every piston, every sparkplug, every bolt had to be just so.

Then his dad, Maurice Dyson, would go out and compete. Still does, in fact, five or six months out of the year.

Sometimes things go well. Sometimes they don’t. And when an engine misfires or a wall crops up at an inopportune moment, Maurice rolls up his sleeves and gets back to work, usually with the help of one of Demetrius’ uncles.

They can, Demetrius said, “literally tear a motor down and put it right together in just a few hours and we can go right back to racing. They’ve mastered it. It’s crazy.”

It appears Denzel-Dyson has done something similar with his collegiate basketball career.

After two unproductive seasons at UMass (and another on the sidelines), the junior guard has resurfaced this winter at Samford, where he is averaging a team-high 13.8 points after a game-high 16 in Saturday's 73-62 victory against UNC Greensboro. Off to a 10-4 start this season, the Bulldogs visit Western Carolina in a Southern Conference game Monday on ASN.

Denzel-Dyson is nailing over half his shots, and his 51.6% accuracy from 3-point range would be among the national leaders if he had a few more makes. Fittingly, his nickname id 3D.

“It’s great to be playing again,” he said.

And playing at a high level, after averaging 3.9 minutes a game as a freshman at UMass in 2013-14, and 3.3 points a game the following season. He said he had no gripes with head coach Derek Kellogg or any of his teammates but added, “The basketball aspect wasn’t for me.”

Things were fine his first season, he said, when the Minutemen went 24-9 and reached the NCAA Tournament behind point guard Chaz Williams. Williams then moved on and UMass slipped to 17-15 in ’14-15.

“We tried to use the same (offensive) system, but it didn’t work,” Denzel-Dyson said. “That led to me leaving.”

He considered transferring to Chattanooga, some four and a half hours east of his hometown of Covington, but ultimately believed Samford was a better fit. That has proven to be true, though he first had to negotiate the idle season required by the NCAA of all transfers.

“Sitting out definitely made me appreciate the game more,” said Denzel-Dyson, who has been playing organized ball since he was 7 or 8. “I really appreciated the game already, but it makes you appreciate it more, because it can be taken from you at any time.”

He has attacked this season as might be expected, among other things pouring in a career-high 40 points in an overtime loss to Nicholls State on Nov. 27 — an output that immediately set off warning sirens for all future opponents. The next game he managed 10 against Saint Louis; the one after that, against Jacksonville State, he scored exactly one.

The Bulldogs nonetheless won both, which to him is the bottom line.

“I’m not all about myself,” he said. “It wasn’t about me just scoring all the time. As long as we win, that’s all that matters. … For us to get to the (NCAA) tournament and win games, if you need me to fill up the water, rebound, defend for the whole game, not even score — whatever it takes — I’ll do it.”

Demetrius has always been one to do what is asked of him, and there are many who ask quite a lot. Start, again, with his dad, a computer engineer his son describes as “a student of the game.” He is always harping on shot selection, always telling Demetrius to seek out high-percentage looks.

There are also the unspoken things Maurice and his wife Twyalla imparted, through their need for competition, for adventure. Besides drag racing, Maurice also rides motorcycles, as does his wife. (Once their son grew serious about hoops, they barred him from doing so, however. Same with drag racing.)

Still, Demetrius said, “It’s all about competitiveness in my family.”

His younger sister, Desiree’, found a different sort of outlet for the family’s fire — beauty pageants. She was named Miss Tennessee High School America earlier this year.

“She’ll probably be Miss America one day,” he said. “It’s just like a basketball game for me, when I go to one of her pageants. It’s really serious.”

A further look at the family tree shows that Demetrius has a cousin, Ramon Foster, who starts at guard for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Another cousin, Renaldo Foster (Ramon’s brother), played offensive tackle at Louisville, and two others, Rodney Carney and Ron Slay, play pro basketball overseas — Carney after a five-year NBA run.

They continue to track Demetrius’ career, continue to advise him, continue to push him. And like his parents, they don’t tell him what he wants to hear; they tell him what he needs to do.

“I’m thankful to have them in my corner,” Demetrius said.

All a matter of building a career. Or in his case, rebuilding one.

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