Thomas Dean took the message to heart.
He believes his sons are doing the same.
Growing up in Richmond, Va., where Dean said trouble easily could be found, his mother constantly reminded him and his siblings they’re known by the company they keep.
“You can get in a bad situation and mess your name up for life,” said Dean, whose son, DeAngelo, has made a name for himself playing football and basketball at Quincy High School. “It’s a tragedy to those who have had their name tarnished because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. That happens.
“Like my mother told me, I always tell my boys to keep a good name.”
That means making some tough choices.
Within the last year or so, DeAngelo, a senior who earned All-Western Big Six Conference honors in both sports, needed to distance himself from some of his closest friends because of their involvement in drugs. On the advice of his father, Dean walked away from the trouble brewing.
“That was tough at first because they were my friends since diapers,” Dean said. “I had a decision, and I made the right decision.”
It helped he got the right advice.
“My dad told me to stay home and hit the books,” said DeAngelo, the 6-foot-5 forward who developed into the most dominant post player in the WB6 this winter and has being named the 2012 Herald-Whig Player of the Year. “He told me, ‘You don’t need to be around them. When they get off that stuff, you can go back to them.’
“I’m so glad he pushed me. If he wasn’t here, I’d probably be in the position they are right now.”
Instead, he’s mulling college scholarship offers with the chance to play either sport and get an education.
“If I didn’t have my dad, I wouldn’t be here today,” Dean said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing, but I certainly wouldn’t be as good as I am.”
Developing into a force
Coming off his junior year in which Dean led the Blue Devils in scoring and was their lone All-WB6 representative, expectations were high.
On Thanksgiving night, they skyrocketed.
Quincy opened the season with a 77-42 victory over St. Louis Normandy in which Dean finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Yet, it was Dean’s signature moment — a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop midway through the first quarter — that electrified Blue Devil Gym.
“So sweet,” Dean later described the moment.
Such a moment had been a long time coming.
Despite his size and length, Dean had never dunked in a game. So last summer, with the help of his father and several others, Dean learned to dunk.
“We started on low rims and kept going up and up,” he said.
Dean kept rising, too.
He had two dunks in the opener, which led to a promise he made after the game to get two dunks per game the rest of the season. That didn’t work out just as he had planned, but he provided enough highlight-reel plays to earn third-team all-state honors from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and honorable mention all-state from the Associated Press.
“He’s a monster,” point guard Martin Kvitle said of Dean, who averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. “He does things because he’s so long and so athletic we all wish we could do.”
He’s fearless as well.
Dean spent almost every day last summer in the gym, usually with his brother, Tomas, and his dad. A senior on last year’s team, Tomas is a jitterbug-quick guard who forced his brother to learn to play perimeter defense.
“Guarding smaller players is no big deal,” Dean said. “I’m not going to be scared because I can guard my brother.”
However, getting the better of his dad is a different story.
Thomas Dean’s first love is football, and he volunteers as an assistant coach with the QHS football program. He instilled in his sons the competitive drive that he carries.
“He showed no slack on us no matter what we were doing or what we were playing,” DeAngelo said. “No mercy.”
That inspired DeAngelo to challenge his dad on the field, the court or anywhere.
“I want to show him I can do everything he can do … only better,” DeAngelo said.
That’s easier said than done.
“I think I’m going to try him again soon,” DeAngelo said. “Last time, it didn’t work too well.”
Regardless of the outcome, DeAngelo realizes the time spent with his dad made him a better player and a better person.
“I never thought I would be this good,” said DeAngelo, who was cut from the Quincy Junior High School teams in seventh and eighth grade. “My freshman year I began to see it, and I wanted to do it. I wanted to become a better player. My dad helped me make that happen.”
In turn, Thomas has watched his son mature.
“In every way,” Thomas said. “I’m proud of the way he has handled the expectations and pressures. He’s becoming a man.”
He had the advantage of being shown how to act.
“I feel like I owe my dad,” DeAngelo said. “If not for him, who knows how things would be.”
He doubts the opportunity to choose his future would be there.
The commitment in the weight room and the gym during the offseason turned Dean into a physical force, and that caught the eye of college coaches throughout the Midwest.
He’s mulling an offer to play football from Northern Iowa and has drawn interest from other Missouri Valley Football Conference schools. Lindenwood has talked to him about the possibility of playing both sports, and Lincoln Land Community College is actively pursuing him to play basketball.
Other schools have made their pitches, too.
“This is the biggest choice of my life,” Dean said.
It’s not an easy one, either.
“I don’t want to give up the court,” Dean said. “I’m putting in so much work for both sports, just to give one up is tough.”
Yet, he also sees the advantage of concentrating on one sport.
“If I do just one sport, and lift all year long and work on that one sport, just think how good I can be,” Dean said. “I’ve got four years to do that. I’m imagining my fourth year and what it’s going to look like.”
It could be better than anything he’s ever imagined.
Dean has dreams, such as possibly developing into an NFL-caliber defensive end or outside linebacker should be choose to play football. He also knows he is going to get an education. That’s an invaluable asset, something that wouldn’t be possible if he hadn’t stayed on the straight and narrow.
All he needed was the right person to keep him there.
“My dad has done so much for me,” Dean said. “I have to take advantage of that.”