NHS sophomore puts in overtime for collegiate reward

Published 12:40 am Monday, July 30, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Dearius Griffin, a Natchez High School junior, does a workout called the “caterpillar” early Saturday morning at the high school gym. Griffin is thinking ahead to college, hoping to play basketball for the University of Kentucky.

NATCHEZ — Every Saturday morning, Dearius Griffin makes his way to Natchez High School in order to work overtime at the game of basketball.

As a smaller point guard, Griffin acknowledges that he’s going to have to put in twice as much time and effort if he’s going to achieve his dream of playing college basketball at a Division I school.

“I want to make it bigger in life and go to a bigger college,” Griffin said. “I want to play at Kentucky. That’s my favorite college team.”

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So NHS boys basketball coach Mike Martin puts Griffin through an intense training course that includes stretching, dumbbell curls, other weightlifting, layup drills, shooting drills and chair drills. The pace Griffin attacks these exercises is lightning fast, which is by design.

“The only break I get here is to wet my mouth down,” Griffin said.

Martin said very few players have shown the level of dedication Griffin has in Martin’s time as a coach, and Martin wants to do whatever he can to help Griffin fulfill his dreams.

“I’ve had a few players that have gone on and done well,” Martin said. “Some players just like basketball more than others, and some know what the game can do for them.

“The reason I care so much for Dearius is because I love the game, and I’m always excited about working with someone that loves the game as much as I do. He has a passion for the game on a higher level than other players.”

The most rewarding thing Martin gets out of coaching basketball is helping players like Griffin reach their potential, he said

“Player development is one of my favorite things,” Martin said. “I love players getting bigger, stronger, faster and better. I enjoy watching him do this.”

Griffin said he’s grateful to Martin for taking so much time out of his weekend to help Griffin develop as a player.

“He’s been the best to me, like a father,” Griffin said. “Anything I need I can ask him. He never gave up on me if I couldn’t hit a shot. He just told me to keep on coming with it.”

It’s not just his college aspirations that have Griffin doing these workouts, however. Griffin said he also has this coming basketball season in mind at NHS.

“Basically, my body wasn’t ready,” Griffin said. “I’m really little. I knew I needed to gain weight to be a contender to play basketball.”

A sophomore, Griffin said he’s played basketball since he was very young, and he’s moved all around the court at different positions. But Martin has Griffin lined up at point guard this year, and Griffin said his skills as a ball-handler make point his best position.

“I’m probably the only person on the team that knows how to get players to create their own shot,” Griffin said. “I’m the best passer on the team.”

Being able to pass the ball is extremely important, Griffin said, and his abilities are a combination of good mechanics and smart thinking.

“The way I straight line pass, my passes are on the right path to (my teammate),” Griffin said. “I pass so it can go straight to him and not around him, so only he can get it and a defender can’t reach for it.”

Growing up, Griffin said he’s watched basketball greats like Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade play the game, which is what got him onto the sport in the first place.

“I like the way Wade is confident, experienced and mature,” Griffin said. “I like how Jordan was a team player.”

When school starts, Griffin said he doesn’t plan to stop his intense workouts, he’ll just shift it into his fall schedule.

“I’ll do it after school, before school, whenever I can fit it in,” Griffin said.

Griffin also said he expects big things from this year’s team when basketball season eventually rolls around.

“I have a feeling we can make it to state,” Griffin said. “But that’s only if we work hard to get better. Our post men have to get better.”

So far, Griffin said he’s been impressed with the team’s work ethic during summer workouts.

“The team’s a little more dedicated (this year),” he said. “They want to win and to be able to play against better players.”