By Chris Pico
One of the most recognizable faces on campus is De’Shaun Mears. He is known generally as “the basketball kid” or “the guy on the basketball team.” I believe he receives these titles because of how much his life truly revolves around the sport he loves.
He started playing basketball when he was three years old, and started playing competitively in middle school. He would later go on to play varsity all four years of high school, and start varsity 3 out of 4 years. Realistically, there are a lot of people who revolve their lives around their passions, but De’Shaun is in a separate category because not only is he passionate about what he does, but he’s got a natural talent for it too.
Having passion for a skill to back it up is a very dangerous thing. You’re dealing with a person who has no ceiling. De’Shaun shows this everyday when he goes out to play.
While we see the work he puts in, we also see his domination. It’s an intimidating sight to see. Before the new courts opened, you could probably catch him getting kicked out of an indoor gym by campus safety. He wasn’t getting kicked out for any bad reason, just the fact that he was staying too long.
With the new courts just opening up, time can only tell how many hours he will spend winning games.
There are a lot of talented people who attend The University of Tampa. From artists, to athletes, to entrepreneurs, there are people who identify in their jack of trades.
De’Shaun Mears leads the pack in what he does, and I sat down to talk with him about it.
Jams: Hey De’Shaun how’s everything going?
De’Shaun: Everything’s good, just a little nervous for this interview, gotta help me take it serious.
Jams: Did you receive any college offers or get any college looks coming out of high school?
De’Shaun: Unfortunately not, because my junior and senior year I barely played due to injury.
Jams: What was your injury?
De’Shaun: My junior year I tore my Achilles in my right foot.
Jams: Would you say the reason you didn’t receive offers was because of your injuries?
De’Shaun: Yes, that would be correct.
Jams: What do you think of the pick up basketball scene at UT and the people who play in it?
De’Shaun: I believe there’s a lot of good competition. There’s always someone there that will challenge you to be better. A lot of guys we play with here have stacked backgrounds just like me, so to be consistently challenged playing pick up is fun. There’s a lot of people who are under looked that could play at a college level, such as myself. But I feel like the school should do more things to help people who aren’t on scholarship get looked at to potentially play at that level.
Jams: Are you looking into playing for the University of Tampa basketball team?
De’Shaun: If they hosted tryouts, I would definitely love to try out. They haven’t had any official days for tryouts or anything like that.
Jams: Let’s talk about BallisLife. You were featured on BallisLife where you scored 12/15 points against the BallisLife team. This led to viral videos and a lot of exposure to Tampa street basketball. Do you want to speak on that? [For those who do not know, Bal- lisLife is a multimedia basketball brand that travels the country filming pick-up, high school games, and college games. They have even done some work for NBA players. One of these segments includes playing local hoopers from the city they’re visiting.
De’Shaun: When the BallisLife team came, I saw they were coming to riverfront through Instagram. So I pulled up with me and some of my boys. We were lucky enough to get on the court because there was like one-hundred people there. Once we got on we just played our game and this lead to me cooking
Jams: What does the Future look like for De’Shaun and basketball?
De’Shaun: Hopefully somewhere playing professional where I can make money. The goal is to have basketball be my living.
Jams: How has basketball changed your life and have you continued to have the same passion for basketball even though you’re not on a roster?
De’Shaun: It has changed my life in many ways. It has helped me make new friendships and connections. There are so many people. Also, experiencing things and places I have never been before. Playing in the EYBL circuit in high school, traveling the country, meeting professional basketball players and talking to them about what they went through at my age. All of these experiences have helped me to grind to help me get to where I want to be at. I’ve learned everyone’s route is different, including mine.
After talking with De’Shaun I really got to see first hand what motivates him to become a better basketball player everyday. It is clear that for him everyday is a chance to get better, and a chance for him to beat somebody. Majority of above average players that only play pickup now have one large aspect in common. All these amazing players who could clearly play on college rosters all experienced injuries.
Unfortunately, these players worked their whole life to reach the ultimate goal of playing professionally or in college. But like De’Shaun said ev- eryone’s journey is different. Maybe it’s only time till all of these talented hoopers get the call. For now, you can find them sparing to become better everyday, till that call comes. In the meantime all the talent at UT, small or large, will still be present. De’Shaun Mears exemplifies perseverance, hard work, passion the list goes on. See you at the courts.