By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The basketball career of Demetrius Dyson has made stops in Memphis, Brighton and Covington.
But once familiar road on his journey to becoming a UMass Minuteman was Highway 51 with his parents Twyalla and Maurice Dyson behind the wheel most of those days and nights.
“(Demetrius) went over and beyond in the classroom and on the court,” Twyalla recalled. “Everyday we traveled the highway from practice or games, he was doing homework with the lights on in the car making sure he maintained an A average. Right now he has an A average here. He’s maintained that and prioritized with God, family, education and then basketball.”
With his priorities in order and a strong support system, Demetrius was able to sign a national letter of intent to play basketball for UMass Head Coach Derek Kellogg on May 10 in the Covington High School Library.
Growing up in Tipton County Dyson was like most young boys in the community, he played baseball. He was becoming a standout third baseman and pitcher when he started to hit a growth spurt.
Maurice took noticed of his son’s potential for the game of basketball but he still left the decision of which sport to pursue to Demetrius.
“I quit playing him when he got to the ninth grade,” Maurice said with a smile. “I usually beat up on all my nephews and I used to beat up on Demetrius mainly to make him tougher, those kind of things. I usually would back him down. But he got a little too long for me and a little too athletic. I knew my time was coming. I just got to where I stop challenging him one-on-one.”
After Demetrius put his athletic focus on basketball he found new challengers on the court.
“He’s had connection with Derek Kellogg,” Twyalla recalled. “He was the ball boy there when Coach Kellogg was an assistant at Memphis under John Calipari. Demetrius was the ball boy there for four years. He would always play Kellogg one-on-one.”
The relationship Dyson developed with Kellogg and his now Assistant Coach Syrone Chapman played a huge part in his decision while being recruited.
“I’ve always wanted (UMass) in my heart,” Demetrius said. “When I was a little boy, and I was a ball boy for Memphis, playing against Coach Kellogg one-on-one, he always used to beat me. Now I can go up there and beat him. I get a chance to play for him and I like that.”
Chapman played for the Memphis Tigers before becoming a coach. Chapman still showed faith and kept in touch with Dyson after he suffered a knee injury his junior year at Brighton.
Trainers like Richard Hogan and Devante Holmes helped Dyson regain his strength in his knee and surpass his output from Brighton. For three seasons Dyson was a standout and leader on Cardinal teams that reached Regionals each year along side his classmate Jonathan Stark.
But Dyson’s final prep season was at Covington playing for Head Coach Dion Real’s Chargers. Dyson, who was rated a three-star recruit by both Rivals and ESPN.com, averaged 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds a game during his senior season at Covington. He also shot 50 percent from the field and was a 78 percent from the free throw line.
“He can do it all,” Real said. “He can survive in the Atlantic 10 because he’s a mismatch player. He can step outside. He’s 6’5, so if you put a 6’4 on him, I don’t think a 6’4 could guard him down low. If you put anyone bigger on him, he’ll go by him. Anybody shorter, he’ll go down low. He’s a mismatch player.”
Real said the Atlantic 10 Conference with teams like Saint Louis, VCU and Butler should be aware with Dyson coming on the scene. West Tennessee’s Class 2A schools found out how lethal Dyson’s skill set could be this past year.
“They’re very lucky to have him coming there,” Real said of UMass. “We were extremely blessed to have him for one year. I don’t think we played one game where there was a better player on the court and we played Southwind with one player going to Missouri and the other to Marquette. You couldn’t tell a difference. He’s that caliber of player.”
Johnathan Williams III and JaJuan Johnson led the Southwind Jaguars to the Class 3A State championship. And Dyson was well on his way to leading the Chargers to a special season before TSSAA ruled they had an illegal player forcing the team to vacate victories.
But Dyson has made his impact already as a team leader and putting the program back on the Regional map. And several websites were tracking UMass’ recruitment of the 6’5 shooting guard.
“We looked at the offer and read it, the tears started to roll down,” Maurice recalled. “All the hard work he’s put in it was the moment we all waited for. I think it’s been good for the community, school and administration. They’ve all really embraced him since he’s been here. I’m humbled and I’m so proud of him.”
Maurice said the trips to Memphis for AAU and allowing Demetrius to be a Tiger ball boy has another benefit.
“It’s a tremendous blessing, to know the staff at UMass the coaching staff was the same that was there in Memphis,” he noted. “He’s going to be in good hands. I know they’re going to take care of him and push him to the max.
“He’s going to have some brick walls that he’s going to run into, but that’s a part of being in a competitive environment,” Maurice continued. “I know that staff is going to take care of him. It’s like having a home away from home.”
Demetrius said he can’t wait to get up to his new home in New England.
“I’m very excited about going up there with Coach Kellogg, the coaching staff and good teammates,” Dyson said. “I’m ready to get into that winning atmosphere and make it. I’m looking forward to playing on TV in front of my family and put on a good show for my city.”
Dyson said he will go up to UMass to add on to the strong basketball tradition of the school that produced Julius “Dr. J” Erving. But he is also on a mission to show young hoopsters of Tipton County if you choose basketball as your road to athletic stardom it will pay off with a free education.
“I just want to prove to little kids there is still hope around here,” he concluded. “If you want to do it, you can do it. Just put your mind to it and do it.”