Former St. Vincent Pallotti basketball standout Keron DeShields admits he is a product of the streets of Baltimore.
As a young boy, he lived with his single mother in a one-bedroom apartment in Woodington Gardens, near Mount Saint Joseph High School.
They also lived in a small apartment in Woodlawn, spent time with his grandmother and moved quite a bit before he was in middle school.
They lived on Liberty Road before they had to move after Deshields' future stepfather was murdered in front of their home, he said. DeShields also lived in Pikesville and played junior varsity basketball at Towson Catholic before finally ending his prep career as a senior at Pallotti in Laurel.
All of that makes his rise to the second-best pro basketball league in Italy all the more impressive after he graduated from Tennessee State last year.
After his college career was over, he worked out in Tennessee and Baltimore and stayed with friends and relatives.
He landed overseas with the help of agent Diego Torres-Malaga.
"It worked out for the best," DeShields said. "I ended up having multiple offers in Italy, France and a lot of other places that I could have gone to play."
DeShields, 24, is in his first pro season as a point guard for Latina, where he was averaging 16.1 points and 3.8 assists through his first 21 games.
"I come from the streets," he said. "I watched my mother grind and watched her work. I want kids to know they can make it. When I get to the NBA I want kids to know it is not always roses and peaches."
One of his teammates in Italy is former Meade High student Jonathan Arledge, a product of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, who played college basketball at George Mason and Old Dominion universities and played pro ball last season in Switzerland.
Latina has a population of about 115,000 and is on the south coast of Italy.
"The town I am living now, it is pretty small," DeShields said. "It is about 30 minutes from Rome. In my free time I watch films, like 'The Sopranos,' and different type of games. I talk to my family back home. We have a lot of practices with one game a week. It is a great town; I have no complaints."
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 16.5 points and 3.0 assists last season after he transferred to Tennessee State of the Ohio Valley Conference. He had to sit out the 2014-15 season, after playing his first three years of college ball at the University of Montana, where he played in the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013.
DeShields said the only school that recruited him out of Pallotti was Division III Goucher College in Towson, so he did a prep year in Vermont.
"He was definitely our most valuable player last year," Tennessee State head coach Dana Ford said. "He was a leader, just a driven kid. He really set the tone and the foundation for what our program is all about in terms of being a great teammate and graduating from college and going on to play pro ball and chasing your dreams. His work ethic was unbelievable. He was the hardest worker I have ever been around."
Ford noted DeShields was recommended to him by Maeshon Witherspoon, mother of former NBA player Josh Shelby, of Baltimore's Lake Clifton High.
She had suggested Lake Clifton High grad Daishon Knight to Ford when he was an assistant coach at Illinois State, his alma mater.
"There were some rough patches in the beginning. We had to coach him how to channel his emotions," Ford said of DeShields. "The thing about Keron is he is always wanting to learn. He wants to do things the right way in order to obtain his goal. We helped him as much as we could. Keron really found his own way [to Italy]. Being from Baltimore, he knows a lot of people."
But his long-time goals go beyond pro ball in Italy.
"I am using my time here at practice, with long hours, on fine tuning my game," he said. "I am preparing my game because I really want to make a push for the NBA in the coming year."