Dewayne Russell: An Inspirational Story


Dewayne Russell is only 18 years old and has already been through more in his life than most kids will ever get to experience, from losing his Father, to moving to Arizona, to committing and de-committing to top colleges in the Nation. Russell had to learn how to be a man quickly while still in High School. Don’t let his size and age fool you. This is a young man that will stop at nothing to be successful in anything he commits to.

Russell grew up in the mean streets of Philadelphia. When he was just a young kid his dad passed away. This is where Russell’s life journey begins. Shortly after the passing of his father, he moved to Arizona at the age of 9 to start a new life in a more positive atmosphere.

In his senior season with the Peoria Panthers, he lead his team to their first State Championship since 1984 with a 50-48 victory. Due to his play, he was named the Boys Basketball Player of the Year in Arizona. In his championship season he averaged 27 points, 5.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 steals. 4 rebounds a game for a guy with his height (5’10) is incredible, and he shows you that his size does not slow him down.  He also lead the state in scoring with his 27 points a game.

I watched a few videos on him. You can see that he has a lot of swagger to his game. A fade away jumper, a Allen Iverson-esque crossover and the will to not be stopped. He has a great shot, but most importantly he has great court vision. To succeed at the college level as a point guard you will have to be to able to find your teammates. Russell has showed me that will not be a problem. He finds his teammates that most point guards his age wouldn’t even think of looking to pass to. Usually jump passes can be very dangerous, but he uses that arsenal of his game and his speed to his advantage. Everyone on the floor knows he’s the biggest threat to score, and they never see his passes coming.

The only knock I have on Dewayne is his lack of a left hand. He needs to work on going up with his left, dribbling to his left and passing with his left. Other than that his offensive game is on point.

Russell isn’t just a one side of the floor player. He also gets it done defensively by averaging almost 4 steals a game. He’s very aggressive with his opponent and you can literally see the fear in them when they see Russell in their face.  This young man has a lot of talent and it will take him a long way at the next level.

Not long ago Russell committed to one of the top schools in the country in USC. But shortly after, he left the offer on the table and decided to stay closer to home and committed to Northern Arizona University. Not many people can say they turned down a University like USC. This shows how loyal he is to the state of Arizona and the type of person he is. He doesn’t need to play at a big time school to get recognized. He has the talent to do it anywhere.

I recently interviewed his Uncle Will Roberts to ask him a few questions about his Nephew on and off the court. He spoke very highly of Russell and you could tell by the tone of his voice how proud he was to be his Uncle.

Me:  I saw that Dewayne committed to USC, but suddenly backed out. What made him make this decision?

Will: Well, he took a trip out there. Everything seemed perfect to him. He loved the atmosphere. But shortly after that he had a change of heart. USC got another commitment from a point guard the same size as Russell. He didn’t understand the decisions they were making, and decided it wasn’t the right fit.

Me: I saw that he has committed to Northern Arizona University. Why did he choose them?

Will: He liked the campus and obviously because it’s only two hours from home. He wanted to be closer to his family and friends. He loved the energy that Head Coach Jack Murphy showed. He saw that they were building something great here and Dewayne wanted to be apart of it.

Me: When did he move from Philadelphia to Arizona?

Will: It was around the age of 9.

Me: In what ways does he remind you of his late father?

Will: It’s funny that you ask that, because I grew up with his father. He was in the streets a lot. He was a go-getter. Russell is the same way mentally, only he uses that mentality in a more positive way.

Me: What about him are you most proud of On or off the court?

Will: I’m more proud of him off the court. The person he has become. How loyal he is to his family. How hard he works. Dewayne is the first person in his immediate family to graduate from High School. His mom got her GED, but Dewayne will also be the first one to graduate college.

I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Dewayne, but I can tell how great of a man he has become and will become in the future. He has all the tools to succeed in wherever life takes him. He has a great head on his shoulder, and a great family right beside him. I’m sure his Father is very proud of the man his son has become. Russell has a huge heart and is relentless when on the court. He seems to be the same person off of it. Just like Rudy Tomjanovich said, “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” Dewayne Russell has that heart.