To call Dewayne Dedmon a late bloomer in basketball would be a massive understatement.
His mom is a Jehovah's Witness, and for religious reasons, she strongly objected to him playing organized sports. As a high-school senior, he joined his school's basketball team, but even though he was 6-feet-8 at the time, he was so unskilled that he barely ever played in games.
"When I turned 18 years old, that's when I was of age to make a decision for myself," Dedmon explained. "That's when I was like, 'I'm going to do this.' "
His decision changed his life.
It's brought him to the NBA and to the Orlando Magic as a 24-year-old rookie.
The Magic are Dedmon's latest stop in a long, winding path.
The 7-foot-tall center learned basketball at Antelope Valley College and later attended the University of Southern California. Undrafted last June, he played for two NBA franchises' summer league teams. He went to the NBA Development League and had brief regular-season stints with the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers.
He ultimately returned to the D-League and was playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors when the Magic expressed an interest in him. Although he's still raw as a player — the result of taking up the game so late — he was averaging 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
The Magic signed him to a 10-day contract on Tuesday, and he's been in uniform for the team for two games but hasn't played yet.
Buying out Glen Davis' contract left the Magic with 12 players, so the Magic ultimately had to add to their roster. Adding Dedmon and another D-Leaguer, swingman Adonis Thomas, were no-risk moves.
"I'm just trying to get something to stick right now as far as a team and from there just improve on what's needed," Dedmon said.
The 76ers, one of the worst teams in the NBA, signed him to two 10-day contracts but decided not to sign him for the rest of the season.
"He was a wide-eyed kid that really hadn't had that much of a taste of certainly the NBA," 76ers coach Brett Brown said. "But also when you look back, he hadn't played basketball until, I think, he was 18. He's a 7-foot young guy who played with some good energy, and he was good while he was here."
Still learning the game at 24 years old, Dedmon knows he faces an uphill battle.
Everyone else in the NBA has more basketball experience than he has.
A pair of Magic second-year players, power forward Andrew Nicholson and big man Kyle O'Quinn, didn't start playing competitive basketball until they were high-school juniors.
But Nicholson and O'Quinn became integral players on their high-school teams and spent four years in mid-major college programs learning the game and gaining extensive experience.
Even to Nicholson and O'Quinn, the NBA was a huge step up.
So just imagine what the NBA must feel like to Dedmon.
He probably hasn't played in more than 100 games his entire life.
On Wednesday night, before the Magic played the 76ers, he was asked in the visitors' locker room at Wells Fargo Center about his unusual journey to the pros.
Flanked by some new teammates who've played the game their entire lives, he was wearing his Magic warm-up shirt and pants.
"Some days, I reflect on it," Dedmon said. "It's kind of mind-blowing a little bit. But it just comes with a lot of hard work."
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