Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scholarship by Fate: Former Washington guard Campbell lands unexpected scholarship after pick-up game

By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com

There are strange stories in the world of college recruiting.

Sometimes, strange can be bad. Other times, strange can be a blessing.

After graduating from Washington High School in 2010, former Washington Wildcats guard Deandre Campbell thought his basketball career was over. He was taking educational courses and was working at a local grocery store.

Then, fate intervened in a pick-up game in Kansas City, Kan., this week.

With recruiters from Seward Community College in town to check out another local product, it was Campbell who stole the show.

In a pick-up game that involved some recent KCK basketball greats, including Washington Wildcats all-time leading scorer Tra'Vaughn White, it was Campbell who put in enough work to earn a two-year scholarship with Seward Community College. 

"He was the best player on the court that day," said Derrick Estelle, head coach of the Kansas City Blue Dogs AAU program Campbell played for. "Deandre just balled that day and the coach saw what he liked."

Campbell, who saw limited action through his junior season at Washington, provided the Wildcats a rock of leadership during his senior season. He averaged 8.1 points, 3.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds a game.

He also made the all Kansas City, Kan., League's defensive team and finished top five in the voting.

Still, while he had a good senior season, the college option was not there. For two years, it looked like his basketball career was over.

Until last weekend, that is.

"This means a lot to me," Campbell said. "I'm really excited about meeting all the coaches and the players. I want to fit in and help them win some games."

Over the past four seasons, Washington Wildcats head coach Eric King has coached 15 players who eventually earned scholarships. This case may have been the strangest since scholarships generally aren't offered on the fly.

However, the coach isn't too surprised Campbell will play college hoops for at least two years.

"He's a competitor," King said. "Campbell was a  competitive player for us and he was one of the biggest reasons we made it to the state tournament in 2010. He was a great defensive player for us."

Campbell provided huge minutes and points during Washington's run to the state tournament.

He shot nearly 60 percent from the field in sub-state play, averaging 10 points a game in two upset wins against Lansing and Highland Park.

"When we finally beat Highland Park, that was sweet," Campbell said. "It was a great feeling getting to state in my senior season."

Lessons can be learned from examples.

In Campbell's case, it's the lesson that athletes should never throw in the towel no matter how bleak it looks for them.

"Campbell never gave up," King said. "He could have easily given up his career. He was working in a store when he got this opportunity."

"This is a blessing for him."