Thursday, November 21, 2013

"41"


Series 1:   The Jaguars - Who Are They?
Interview # 2
By: Keenan Mann


I had a few people in mind for the second interview in this series.  I ended up choosing Derek Stewart (1989-1993), the second all-time leading scorer in school history.  I decided to make him the subject because Brian’s reference to him in the last interview reminded me of our own special connection.  As uncool as this may sound, I’m going to describe that connection using the X-Men comic books.  For the uninitiated, the X-Men were superheroes.  They all had some kind of special mutant super power.  In a way, we basketball players were kind of the same, minus the spandex and masks, in that most of us had a special skill that we brought to the team.  I was different in that I didn’t really bring anything unique to the table.  Derek, on the other hand, brought several specialized skills with him.  As any reader of the comics will know, a certain member of the X-Men team, Calvin Rankin (AKA Mimic for the real X-Men nerds like me and John Walker), had the power to imitate the abilities of others for a short period of time.  Mimic’s quest (mine too secretly) was to make the powers that he copied from his teammates permanent.  He never achieved that goal.   I didn’t either, but I sure did spend lots of time copying Derek and trying to make his skills my own.  Again I never succeeded in my quest for permanency, but my failure, in that context, didn’t turn out so badly either.


Derek was one year younger than I, but physically I always felt like he was a couple of years ahead (except for in the weight room where he made me look like Mr. Universe by comparison).  He had a touch on his jump shot, had really developed post moves, and had such leg strength that he could bounce up and down for dunks, blocks, and rebounds with seeming effortlessness.  He actually led the nation (NCAA Division 1) in blocked shots one season and re-wrote the blocked shot record books for our school.

By the way, he did get a lot stronger in the weight room over his career, but he never passed me there like he did in almost EVERY other category for which records are kept.  And speaking of records, Jack Nicklaus, the world’s greatest golfer by total major victories, once said of Tiger Woods, ‘If I had known Tiger Woods was coming along, I might have worked a little harder’ (to protect his records).  In my case, if I had known Derek was coming along, there really wouldn’t have been much I could have done about it.  So it was a fitting end to my short reign as the school’s all-time leading scorer that I would present Derek with the game ball on the night he moved me (briefly) to second place.

To get the interview process started, I reached Derek via text message.  Here’s our initial conversation (please excuse the slang.  I can’t resist talking like that with old friends like Derek. It kind of takes me all the way back to that time, which is fun):

 Me:  What up man, this is Keenan.  I’m working on some interview questions that I need you to answer for me when I get them all polished up.  Give me an email address I can send them to.

Derek:  What up Skinny?  D…….@yahoo.com

Me:  Not a whole lot man.  Almost finished writing this screenplay and about to start shoppin’ it.  Please listen to my demo. 

Note:  Every time I’ve talked to Derek since he went Hollywood on us, I've made some reference to him helping me break into the business.  "Please Listen To My Demo" was an underground hit by a semi underground rap group called EPMD.  The reference will crack up most Jags from our era.

Derek:  Lol!

Note:  See, told you.

Me:  Seriously man you’re the second person on my interview list.  I’m working on the questions now, but I gotta tell you, Schmall set the bar way up there.  Go check out the one I did with him at augustabasketball.com.  The Clint breakfast thing between you and Brian had me choking.  I had forgotten all about that. 

Derek:  (after about 10 min) Which one is it?  Never mind, found it.

Me (after about 30 min, anxious to get his reaction):  What did you think?

Derek:  Just finished reading it.  Wow, that was GREAT!  Alright, I’m ready for my questions now.  Don’t lob me no soft ball either!

Me:  LOL.  Cool.

Me (After a few days):  You haven’t forgotten to take a look at my questions have you?

DS:  I’m actually working on them now.

Me:  Cool, I have one or two more that I forgot to ask and your answers may lead to a few more.

DS:  Ok, send them to me.  These were great questions by the way.  I knew the jersey question was coming, and I’m glad it did.  It’s time to get that stuff off my chest.

Me:  Thanks, I tried to fulfill your request about not lobbing softballs, so I only asked a few of those for people who don’t know anything about you.

Me:  And I know you got the battery reference right?

DS:  “D” (expletive)  “D”!                    

Me:  Lol!!!!!!!!!!

End of text exchange…………………….

So I polished up the questions as I had indicated and sent them off to my old teammate.

ME:  (Before switching into reporter mode and not being able to resist pointing out the only time I “got” Derek) Do you remember that time I dunked on you when Jay Boogie was down here on his recruiting trip?  My forearm hurt for weeks!

DS: LOL…that would be your first question, huh? Yeah, I remember. It was a challenge. You know I tried to block everything back then!

ABR:  Which Augusta College coach was the first to visit you?

DS: Gerald White

ABR:  Had you ever heard of Augusta College?

DS: Nope. Hadn’t even heard of Augusta.

ABR:  What high school did you attend?

DS: Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga.

ABR:  Who else was recruiting you?

DS: I had a partial scholarship offer from Ga. Southern, and full scholarship offers from Armstrong St., and Western Carolina.

ABR:  I remember picking you up or hanging out with you while you were on your recruiting trip, but I honestly don’t remember what we did.  I was probably the worst guy to show a recruit around, which I’m sure you would agree with.  Nonetheless, you signed with us.  Why?

DS: I would have to agree with you on that one Skinny…you were THE WORST guy to show a recruit around! LOL. If I’m not mistaken, you picked me up from the hotel, we went to Coach B’s house and ate and watched an NCAA Tourney game, and you dropped me off at the hotel.

But in spite of that, I saw the beginnings of something when I went on my official visit. Coach Bryant spoke to me about being a part of the foundation that would turn that program around and I wanted to be a part of that. I was also excited about playing with you and Brian. Gerald would send me some of your game tapes when he was recruiting me and I just felt like you were the kind of guys I wanted to play with, guys who were competitive and hungry.

ABR:  Our readers will already know about the condition of our facilities. What did you think and why didn’t that deter you from coming to Augusta?

DS: Because the new gym was already being built. That played a big part. Being able to see the beginnings of what College Station and the Sports Complex would become made me want to be a part of it.

ABR:  Where were you born? 

DS: Syracuse, New York

 Note:  I asked this question intending to tease Derek a bit.  Back then, because of the huge influence of the hip hop culture born in New York, it was cool to be from anywhere up there.  Derek and Jay Boogie used to proudly proclaim their New York heritage while we all joked about them really being from Hinesville, GA and Bennetsville, SC.  But times have changed now and it’s just as cool, if not cooler, to be from the Deep South.  Those two still can’t lose!

ABR:  If you had it to do all over again, what would you change, if anything, about anything (school, team dynamics, etc.)?

DS: Those shorts we wore my freshman year! I’m still recovering from the psychological damage wearing those shorts caused! But seriously, I don’t know if there’s anything I would change. It was such a great experience for me both on and off the court.  Not to say that it was always perfect but whenever I think back to that time, I never find myself saying, “I wish…”

Note:  This was just about the time that basketball shorts started to lengthen.  Coach Bryant may not have been as fashion conscious as we were at the time or maybe a uniform refresh just wasn’t in the budget that year. Either way, the shorts were definitely bucking the new trend (in the wrong direction).  And they were even worse my freshman year.

ABR:  Give me your all-era fantasy Jaguar basketball team.  You can have a starting five and two subs.  Elaborate as much or as little as you would like on your selections.

DS: Well, with respect to those who didn’t make the list:

1.     Brain Schmall-best PG I’ve ever played with.

2.     Gerald Daise-range was when he stepped into the gym.

3.     Keenan Mann- The Batman to my Robin

4.     AJ Bowman-maybe the best Jag ever

5.     Derek Stewart-

6.      Buck Harris-I need an unselfish player who can guard, and play, all positions.

7.     William Adair-low post scoring machine


Note:  I’d take that squad anywhere and feel good about my chances!  Also, there’s a pattern developing with Buck Harris.  Guys who didn’t play with him wanted to and guys who played with him wanted to play with him more.  (Buck, put your thinking cap on, we may be coming for you soon!) 

ABR:  As a player at AC, what was the highest point in your career?  What was the lowest?

DS: The highest point for me is easy. My sophomore year.  Period.  We came off of a year (the year before) where we were the laughingstock of the Big South. Finished last my freshman year and then picked to finish last my sophomore year. We were on a mission as a team from day one to prove that we were better than that. Do you remember that? We finished in 2nd place and lost in the conference tournament championship. That was a great ride.

Note:  Yes I do, and yes it was.

I would have to say that the low point was losing to Georgia College in the first round of the PBAC Tournament my junior year. We had a lot of expectations for our team that year and to go out like that…that loss still bothers me to this day.

 Note:  Me too.  I was stunned at how quickly it all ended.  I felt sure we had a few more games left.

ABR:  Do you remember the bus trip during which you introduced the team to Jay Boogie?  Who came up with that name?

DS: Lol…that story is an example of what made my time at AC so memorable. We had great times together. We were on a road trip somewhere in NC. After practice, we’re on the bus on the way to dinner and Jermaine (Jay Boogie) Henegan and Johnny (I Save My Per Diem) Mize were having a freestyle rap battle. Coach B told them to come do it over the loud speaker on the bus. Jay wanted me to introduce him so I got on the mic…”Ladies and gentleman, straight from the streets of Brooklyn, NY…my main man…Jaaaayyyy Boogie!” The legend was born. I have no idea where it came from. Just off the top of my head. He was known as Boogie from then on. I created a monster.

ABR:  You were a pretty competitive guy.  Did you have any secret competitions going on with any of your teammates?

DS: Well, you probably weren’t aware of this but I would say that I had sort of a friendly competition going on with you. We were teammates and at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was win. But I also wanted to be the best. You were great and I looked up to you. I challenged myself to be better than you when my career was over.

Note:  This was a loaded question.  I was fully aware of the competition because I was in it as well.  I was wondering whether Derek would open up about it, so I think it’s pretty cool that he did.  I feel the same way he did about it - it was always friendly.  And I think I got better faster than I would have if Derek had not shown up on campus my sophomore year.

ABR:  Spike Lee made a movie called Do the Right Thing when we were in college.  For a while, it became a bit of a sport for us to quote some of the movie’s funnier lines.  One of my favorites (and I think yours too), which I’ll only hint at here, involved an exchange between ‘Radio Raheem’ and a convenience store clerk about some batteries he was trying to purchase.  But that was just funny.  One of the more thematic quotes from the movie was uttered by a character named ‘Buggin Out’ (who would also go on to play ‘Gus Fring’ in Breaking Bad).  He was sitting in Sal’s pizzeria looking at all the pictures in the restaurant and asked Sal “How come there ain’t no brothers up there on the wall?”  Any true long-time Jaguar fan who has visited Christenberry Field House since your departure must be struck with a similar question.  So, how come there ain’t no number 41 up there on the wall?  And how do you feel about that?

DS: In all honesty, it hurts. For the first few years after I left school, it didn’t bother me. My playing career was still moving forward so I wasn’t really thinking about what I had done, only what I was trying to do. At the time, I honestly didn’t care one way or the other. But as we get older, we begin to reflect on our lives and the things we’ve accomplished.

I believe that I made a SIGNIFICANT contribution to that program and that there is no way anyone can justify my number not being retired. I left as the all-time leading scorer and shot blocker, holding every shot blocking record that existed.  I was a three time all-conference selection, conference player of the year as a senior and a Div.II  All South Region First Team selection. I’m not sure what else I could have done do qualify for that honor.

I’ve been told that the reason it hasn’t been done is because they “Don’t retire the jerseys of players who don’t graduate.” I respectfully disagree with that position. I’m not downplaying the importance of obtaining a degree, but if a person’s athletic jersey is being retired, it’s for what they did on the field of play. It has nothing to do with what goes on in the classroom. If that’s the case, then Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt should have his jersey up there as well.

Having said all that, it is what it is. Whether my jersey is hanging on the wall or not, I did what I did. No one can erase that and the people who matter most (the guys I played with) will always remember. I have had (and continue to have) an amazing life and if not having my jersey retired is the worst thing that happens to me in my lifetime, I’m cool with that.

Note:  Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt was a walk-on who we all loved being around.  He was never going to win any awards for his prowess as a basketball player, but he gave 100 percent of what he had every time he stepped on the practice floor.  There are only two memories I have from the locker room after my final game in a Jaguar uniform.  The first is of Coach Bryant silently walking in and giving me a big bear hug.  He turned and walked away without saying a word.  We were both fighting back tears.  The second is of Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt.  While we were both still wearing our uniforms, he walked up to me and said “It was an honor and a privilege to have played with you.”  I’m sure I’ll always remember that and I just thought I’d share that about the guy to help keep Derek’s remark in context.  We all respected the hell out of Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt, who we always called by his full name for some strange reason.
Front row from left to right:  Buck Harris, Keith Harrison, Gerald Daise, Johnny Mize, William Lester, Cedric Hurst, Jermaine Henegan; Back Row from left to right:  Kareem Kenney, Kevin Mitchell, Larry Blakeney, Jake Middleton, Derek Stewart, Jarrod Dubose-Schmitt, Bernard Pettiford, Keenan Mann


ABR:  Has the issue strained your relationship with Coach Bryant?

DS: I think it has. I mean I speak to him from time to time and always make sure I see him whenever I’m in town. But I certainly think we would be closer if there wasn’t this “thing” between us.

ABR:  Do you regret anything you might have done or said to Coach or anyone else regarding this subject?

DS: I don’t. Whatever I’ve said to anyone regarding this issue came from the heart. It’s how I feel and I think I’m entitled to that.

ABR:  We had a very good team for your sophomore and my junior year.  There’s no question in my mind we could have won the Big South tournament and gone on to play in the NCAA tournament against Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers that year.  Why do you think we came up a short?

DS: I think we were just learning how to be a good team. We had done a complete 180 in just that one season…going from (literally) the bottom of the league to (literally) the top. We certainly had the talent to accomplish those things but we just weren’t ready yet.

Note:  I agree with Derek’s point about learning how to be a good team.  The fact that Derek and I both wanted to be the best probably helped us and hurt us.  We probably weren’t as deferential to each other as we could have or should have been at certain times.  Too bad we can’t put our forty-plus year old minds back into our 20 year old bodies.  It wouldn’t even have been fair!  Besides that, we drew the short straw as far as scheduling went for the conference tournament.  We played the late game on Saturday night and didn’t get back to our rooms until after midnight.  Then we had a shoot-around at 9am for a 12PM tip off – all because the game was televised on ESPN as a part of Championship Week.  I still believe if that game had been at 7 PM we would have won.

ABR:  You’ve just fouled out.  The Jags are down two points with 10 seconds to go.  Of all the guys you played with, who do you want to take the shot – and be honest.

DS: Keenan Mann

 Note:  Wow.

ABR:  You played pro ball for a while.  How long and where?  Why did you stop playing?

DS: I played from 93-94 thru 2000-2001, playing on teams in Germany, France, Israel, and China during that time. At the time I retired, I had been contemplating it for a couple of years. It was a great experience living abroad and getting paid to play the game I loved but I sacrificed a lot as well. Being away from home for so long starts to take its toll after a while and the game becomes more of a job.

My oldest son was born in the summer of 1998. He and my wife Keisha spent the 98-99 season with me in France but they stayed home the following season. Being away from him for so long made me rethink my priorities. I was missing time with him that I would never get back. I felt like I had been blessed to play the game that I loved for as long as I did and that it was time to start the next chapter of my life.

ABR:  Back when we were in school, Ice Cube was one of the guys on top of the rap game.  I remember his Death Certificate album being in pretty heavy rotation in the locker room.  We were all fans.  Now you know the guy personally!  How in the world did that happen?

DS: It’s crazy man! I’ve actually said the same thing to Coy. That my college teammates and I loved Ice Cube in college and now you’re working for him! Well…

Coy is my oldest son (15). Back in the summer of 2008, we were looking for a summer activity for him and signed him up for acting classes at an agency in Columbia, SC where we lived at the time. He came out of the first class and said that he loved it so we thought, “Great, this will be something for him to do for the summer.” Turns out that he was a natural and before we knew it we were taking him back and forth to NY for auditions. In the fall of 2009 he booked a play (A Raisin in the Sun) at a regional theater in Weston, VT. We moved to Vermont for two months so that he could do that. A few weeks after we returned to Columbia, his agent in NY wanted us to bring him back up to audition for another play, this time on Broadway. While we were on our way, he (Ice Cube) called and said that there was a casting call for a new sitcom called Are We There Yet that would broadcast on TBS. He said that it would be a long shot because Coy was an unknown kid but since we were going to be in town, why not. The rest, as they say, is history.

ABR:  I actually knew the answer to that question, but I thought asking it again here would be a good segue into what you’re into now.  Your son Coy is a very successful actor.  I remember the first time I ever saw him, I knew he’d be a famous actor!  I’m kidding.  Really the first time I saw him you were pushing him in a stroller on the sidewalk outside the Warren Road gym.  The next time I saw him was on national TV.  That wasn’t the plan was it?

DS: Of course it was! Nah, no one can plan anything like that. The only thing Keisha and I did was try and introduce him to as much as we could when he was younger. We always let him know that we loved and supported him and that he could do anything he wanted. The only limits are those he puts on himself. When he said that he wanted to be an actor, I said that we would support him as long as he understood two things: 1) School comes first. If his grades started to slip, we would shut the acting thing down. 2) We would be as dedicated to it as he was. If he didn’t take it seriously, we wouldn’t either.

ABR:  Remember the last time you came down for an alumni gathering?  We were both injured (trying to get in shape) and you said something like ‘Skinny, it’s over man, we can’t do it any more…’ and I agreed.  Are you okay with it?  How do you fill the competitive void now?

DS: You know what Skinny? I’m not. I hate to admit it, but I’m not. I wish that I could say that I enjoyed it while it lasted and I’m ok with being older and moving on. But the truth is, I wish I could do it forever.

As for filling that competitive void, I think that it has a lot to do with what I’m doing now. When Coy started acting, he basically pulled our entire family into the business. With him being a minor, he always had to have a parent present with everything he did. Once I realized that our circumstances had changed, I had to figure out what my purpose was in this new “world” we were in. I couldn’t be one of those parents who just sit around on set waiting for their child to finish working. I had to have my own thing. So, I wrote and published a book chronicling our journey into the entertainment business and I am currently in film school studying to be a filmmaker. My goal is to put us in a position to produce our own projects.

This is a very competitive industry and it’s a challenge for me. I approach it with the same mindset that I did when I played basketball- work my butt off and try to accomplish what many think I can’t.

ABR:  What advice would you offer to the current Jag or non-Jag college student for that matter about how to approach planning out the next 15 to 20 years?

DS: Figure out what it is that you love to do, then figure out how to make a living doing it.

Note:  That’s a powerful sentence.  Amen to that.

ABR:  Brian Schmall says you guys still imitate Coach Bryant every time you talk.  You got any funny stories you want to share?

DS: Well, aside from “Breakfast is mandatory, and when I say breakfast is mandatory, that’s what the hell I mean!”, there are quite a few stories but none that I can share in public. You know the saying, what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room. Although I’ll never forget the face he made when we put hot sauce in his sweet tea while we were eating at Horne’s in Florence, SC.

Note:  The place we were eating at was actually a restaurant that Coach Bryant always insisted on stopping at called the Thunderbird Inn.  The fare was very similar to Horne’s though and many of the players began to refer to it as Thunderhorne’s.

 ABR:  This is becoming my favorite question.  If you had to produce an episode of “Unsung” about your time as a Jaguar, who would be the subject?

DS: It would have to be J Boogie. He had talent and an engine that didn’t stop. To this day I still ask myself from time to time, “What happened?”

Note:  Jermaine had a way of getting everybody on the floor to turn it up another notch when they might have otherwise started coasting.  He did all the dirty work and enjoyed it.  Aside from the occasional overzealousness on defense, which would leave him out of position and us exposed, he was exemplary of the kind of guy you wanted to go to battle with.  Thats stands in stark contrast to his off the court persona in that he never worked hard on the academic side.  He never did the dirty work of staying up past midnight studying for a test.  But he did always know where the party was and he was always able to convince a few people to tag along when they might have otherwise stayed home and used the time more constructively, even if it was just to get some rest.  So the answer to what happened to Jermaine is actually pretty simple – the inevitable.  He became academically ineligible in the spring of his junior year (Derek’s senior year) and his college playing days were over.

ABR:  If you had to point to a person, place, thing or idea and say, ‘That’s why I got so much better from my freshman to my senior year”, what who/would it be?

DS: I can point to three things…

1)     As I said earlier, I was in competition with you for being the best player on the team. I always respected your game and looked up to you so part of my motivation was trying to be just as good or better.


2)     I came in as a freshman with a chip on my shoulder. My freshman class included Todd Holts, Bernard Pettiford, Cedric Hurst, and Rob Harris. After we had all signed, Gerald (White) sent me an article from the Chronicle about all of us having signed. In the article, they talked about each player and what they were expected to contribute during the upcoming season. Bernard, Todd, and Rob were expected to battle for the starting position at center, Ced was expected to challenge for minutes at the point, and I was expected to “add depth to the frontcourt.”  I was offended when I read that and swore at that moment that by the time we all left AC, I would bet the best of the whole group.


3)     The pressure of living up to expectations. After my freshman year, I felt like people expected certain things out of me and I expected certain things out of myself. I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t live up to his potential. I wanted to fulfill the promise that my freshman season seemed to have made.


Note:  Thank you, G. White!

ABR:  What player from either before or after your time as a Jaguar would you have liked to been a teammate of and why?

DS: Tim Daniels. I know that we technically were teammates during my freshman year but I never got to actually play with him. He was a hell of a player and it would have been nice to share the court with him.

 ABR:  You had some real characters as roommates, Cedric “The Ladies Love Me” Hurst, Jake “Leather Shoestring Tie Wearing” Middleton, and Bernard “Always in the training room” Pettiford.  After you stop laughing about that tie, reflect on this question:  Reality shows didn’t exist back then, but if they did, who of your roommates or other teammates would have been the best subject for such a venture and why?  (If you take this idea to some producer somewhere, I need a little piece broken off)

DS: Aww man, the tie! I forgot about the tie! Lol. If I were producing it I would’ve made the entire team the subject. We had some colorful characters on our team (including Clint) and I think collectively it would have made for some entertaining television.

ABR:  I asked Brian this question and came up empty.  Do you have anything you’d like to confess to Coach or any of your teammates or anyone from back in the day?

DS: Well, I’m not sure who all knew this but I almost left after my freshman year. I had an opportunity to transfer to a bigger school. It ended up not working out and when I look back on it, I’m glad it didn’t.

ABR:  What do you miss most about college?

DS: The camaraderie with my teammates. You guys were like my brothers and we had some great times together.

ABR:  I asked about regrets earlier as it related to the jersey situation.  Do you have any regrets in general about your time at AC?

DS: You know, it took me some time to think about the answer to this one. I don’t really like to say that I regret anything I’ve done in the past because all of our past experiences are why we are who we are today. I kind of like who I am so anything that I’ve done (or not done) in the past seems to have worked out for the best.

If I had to pick one I would say maybe that I didn’t take school as seriously as I could have and gotten my degree. But at the same time, not having it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything I’ve wanted to do since leaving school so it’s hard to say that I regret it.

ABR:  What advice would you give to anyone just starting that four year journey.

DS: Work hard, play hard, and enjoy it. It’ll be over before you know it. Then it gets real.

ABR:  Last time you were down here, I gave you my top three all-time Jaguars.  I put myself somewhere behind you and AJ and said you guys needed to battle it out for number 1 and 2.  I wasn’t trying to be patronizing or falsely humble (and frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if I was a lot lower in a consensus rankings list). But as far as you and AJ, I truly believed that.  You both made it look easy.  So it’s one of my biggest regrets that the two of us on the same team didn’t accomplish more than we did together?  What are your thoughts on that?

DS: Now that is actually a regret. I feel the same way. I loved playing with you (and everyone else as well) and I thought we were a great 1-2 punch. Our games complemented each other and we didn’t get in each other’s way. I thought for sure that we would accomplish more than we did.

Note:  You can’t have an all-time discussion without talking about Ben Madgen.  He was a hell of a player and his jersey hangs in the rafters to prove it. But the liberal in me (I’m not really a liberal but I’ll adopt one of their tenets for this argument) wants to level the playing field a bit before the ballots are cast.  Ben showed up at the school when he was about 22 yrs old and was 26 when he finished.  I don’t know about Derek and AJ, but the 26 year old me as a basketball player barely resembled the 21 year old me that played my senior season.   I was a problem for defenders.  I imagine that goes double for Derek and AJ.

ABR:  Hollywood history books are littered with cautionary tales about child stars and their “lives after”.   Do you worry at all about that with Coy?  

DS: Not even a little. First, while there are a number of child stars who’ve had well documented issues during and after their careers are over, the issue is not as big as the media would have us believe. There are probably twice as many who have had no issues whatsoever. We just never hear about them because it’s not as interesting. Second, “Hollywood” isn’t the issue.  It’s parenting. Our job as parents is to raise our children to be the best people they can be, no matter the circumstances. Whether they are a junior in high school, playing on the basketball team living a “regular” life, or they’re the star of a TV show living in the public eye. A parent’s job is the same.

What I’ve noticed during my four plus years in this business is that sometimes parents forget this. They get caught up in all of the attention and the lifestyle and all of a sudden, parenting takes a back seat. Their focus becomes making sure that their child stays in the spotlight so that they can stay in the spotlight.

Being a mother and father are the most important jobs that Keisha and I have. We are well aware of the fact that the kind of people our boys grow up to be is more important than how famous they are and we raise them accordingly. We don’t treat Coy any differently than we ever treated him.

ABR:  You have a daughter too don’t you?  What’s her name and does she have any interest in the Hollywood game? 

DS: I actually have another son. He’s 7 and his name is Chayse. As far as him being in the business, that remains to be seen. He’s been on TV production sets since he was 3 so it’s all kind of second nature to him now. He has representation (agent, manager) and has done a guest spot on an episode of The Electric Company with Coy and an AT&T commercial but we’re not sure yet if it’s what he wants to do. Sometimes he says he does, sometimes he says he doesn’t. Typical 7 year old. We’ll see what happens.

ABR:  You’ve already written a book.  Do you have anything more ambitious in the works (and do you need a partner)?

DS: Yes, very ambitious. I am currently in film school at the International Academy of Film and Television out here in Burbank, studying to be a filmmaker. In addition to writing the book (The Unlikely Journey), I have also been working on a handful of screenplays over the last couple of years. My plan is to start a production company and be in a position to produce, write, and direct my own projects, some specifically for Coy. (I am currently working on a project for class in which I will write and direct a short film with Coy set to play the lead.)

As far as a partner, I’m always on the lookout for script ideas.

Note:  Derek’s book is called The Unlikely Journey and it’s available at Amazon.com. I haven’t read it yet but I intend to.  A couple of people I’ve spoken to who have read it say that it is very well done.  Click here to get your copy!

ABR:  You are your son’s manager right?  Have you had to learn any hard business lessons in that role? 

DS: I’m not technically his manager. He has an actual manager that we work with but at the end of the day, Keisha and I decide what he does and doesn’t do. A lot of child actors are managed by their parents but I decided against this for a couple of reasons…1) A manager’s job is to create opportunities for his clients to showcase their skill. The way a manager creates these opportunities is through his relationships with various producers, directors, casting directors, and studio executives. When we first started in this business, I didn’t know any producers, directors, casting directors or studio executives so I was in no position to do the job of a manager.  2) I am his father and that’s the relationship I want to have with him. I will always be there to guide him but things tend to get complicated when you mix business with family. Plus, I have my own thing to focus on.

I actually haven’t encountered any hard business lessons thus far. It turns out that this business is very similar to being a professional athlete so I was more prepared for it than I knew. After all, it’s all entertainment.

End of interview………………………

So I sent Derek a follow up text after reading his answers to my questions.  I was having some trouble receiving emails so he actually had to send them several times.  The following is a recap of our conversation:

DS:  Did you get ‘em?

Me:  Yeah, I got ‘em.  You did an incredible job with your answers.  Way beyond what I had hoped for.  Thanks for the raw honesty and a big thanks for the compliments you paid me.  They mean more than you can know.

DS:  I’m glad you’re happy with it.  I tried to be as honest as I could.

Note:  I’ve known Derek for a long time so there isn’t much about what he revealed that surprised me.  I will say I was surprised to learn he had written a book since our coaching staff struggled sometimes to get him to take books seriously while he was a student.  I guess that’s just one more proof of the theory a good friend of mine used to quote.  I’m going to paraphrase and hope I don’t mess it up too badly here, ‘In life, we’re all basically C students.  Some of us end up making A’s and some of us make F’s’.  Derek is in film school now.  I’m willing to bet he’s making A’s.  I’m also willing to bet he could come back here and make enough A’s to put a number 41 up on the wall – if he wanted to.  But even if he doesn’t want to, as he pointed out, it won’t detract one bit from his on-court body of work.  Ask anybody who played with or against him.


Augusta Basketball Report

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