Former Friendship Collegiate basketball star overcomes tragedy
In life, everybody deals with tough and adverse situations. But some face harsher challenges than others.
That's the case for former Friendship Collegiate basketball star DeJaun Harvey.
Harvey's a kid from D.C. who's lived in rough neighborhoods. He was surrounded by violence and drugs as he grew up in his grandma's house. And when we say grew up, we mean really grew. By the time he got to elementary school, Harvey stood 6'0' and towered over everybody.
He wasn’t a basketball player though until his senior year at Friendship Collegiate. By that time, he was 7'0". He could run, block shots, but he had no fundamentals.
"I couldn't pass dribble or anything man,"Harvey said. "I wasn't very good."
Despite the lack of fundamentals, he had something going for him. His older brother – Marvin. Marvin preached to Dejuan to get into the gym and work on shooting. With Marvin's help, Dejuan ranked as one of top 100 players in the D.C. area. He also earned offers from big schools across the country. The brothers were inseparable.
"I used to want to do everything with him," Dejuan commented. "I would always try to see where he was and what he was doing. We did everything together and he kept me on track."
But that’s not the end of the story. On July 3rd, 2013, three days before Dejuan's 18th birthday, Dejuan would face a crisis. His brother was stabbed to death by a female friend. The charges ultimately were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
On that day, Dejuan wasn't there but had a sense something was wrong.
"I was at a friend's house and something just kept telling me to go home," he said. "I get to the basement and I just see my brother laying there with his eys wide open just staring at me."
Just like that, DeJuan’s dream and life took a big hit. He lost his best friend. The friend who provided so much support – his mentor – who was sometimes mistaken for his dad.
"It didn't really sink in until a year later when we went to his grave and I looked at the plaque. I said, 'Damn man like you really gone, you not coming back.' I don't even celebrate my birthday anymore or like the month of July," he said.
Dejuan then bounced around for the next few years from one junior college to another. He barely played, got hurt. His last stop at Panola, a small town in Texas, he got arrested for possessing weed by virute of being with some friends in a car that had weed in it. The charge was dismissed but so was DeJuan. The president of the school kicked him out.
That’s when the soul searching began. His mentor helped him through it.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Frank Petersen, a former St. John's College high school player said. "I just tried to be there for him and be a positive influence on the court and also in life.
That brings the story to now, DeJuan is working out again. He’s 22, 7'2" and the dream of making it to the professional level is back in his sites.
"I think about all the times I failed and I say can't fail again," he said. "I can't do it."
He’s working out with his mentor and then there is this other motivating factor that lead him to this point. Dejaun's a dad.
He plays with his daughter at night. She act like she is going to give him a water bottle she has holding in her hand but then pulls it back to her chest. Her name is Royalty, she's one and already a jokester.
"Ever since I got my daughter I told myself I need to stop this nine to five," he commented. "I have to start taking this basketball thing seriously, like real serious."
The two look exactly alike and Dejaun shared that Royalty helps him stay focused when he might drift off into some bad things. Dejuan's story is still being written and while he'll never get his brother back, adding his daughter helps him stay on track to get to the professional level.
I wouldn't bet against him to succeed in this next chapter of life. Dejaun will attend prep school this fall and then declare for the NBA draft in 2018. His backup plan is to run a clothing business.