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BOYS BASKETBALL: Eighth-grader David Dejulius ready to take that next step into high school

   | Branden Hunter

BOYS BASKETBALL: Eighth-grader David Dejulius ready to take that next step into high school

FT.WAYNE, Indiana - While his teammates were preparing for their next game, eighth-grader David Dejulius was alone in a stairwell, jumping rope, stretching, and dribbling a basketball. Even most of the high school sophomores and juniors were either lounging around, or watching television in the food court until their next game. But not Dejulius, who was participating in the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-N-Shoot Classic.

The basketball stayed in his hands and he carried himself like he was one of the high school players. Things like that shows just how mature he is already and how serious he takes the game, for someone his age. He plays for The Family, one of the top AAU clubs in the state, with their 15-under age group. Most players in his grade aren't playing up an age group with the high school kids, but in a way Dejulius has to, and has gotten used to it.

"It has not been hard for me playing up," he said. "It's actually better for me, because I get better competition out here and it allows me to get better at my game."

Dejulius fit right in with the other players, on The Family's loaded 15-under team. At times he was the best player on the court for them, even scoring 19 points in a double-overtime loss at Speice. Still Dejulius' maturity shined through, hitting two big 3-pointers in regulation and the first overtime, to keep his team in the game.

"The tournament went good for me," Dejulius said. "I wanted to come work on my handles, because you have to know how to dribble as a point guard.

"And The Family was the best fit for me to play with, because they fit my style of play."

Dejulius also opted not to play basketball for his school team this season, at Harper Woods Middle School, as he prepares for high school ball. Like most young players are, Dejulius is excited about his new venture, and will be one of the top players in his class once he enters high school.

"I'm very excited about high school and I can't wait to make my decision on where I will go,"he said. "It feels good to be one of the best in my class and I feel blessed. I've been putting in a lot of hard work and that feels like a reward."

Being a child phenom, especially in athletics nowadays, can take it's toll on most children. A lot of then aren't used to all of the media attention and major decisions that have to be made.

Plus their is more to the entire process than just basketball. Academics are just as important, maybe even more, and Dejulius' mother, Latrice Halthon has already begun to hammer all of that into his head.

"I explained to David that him entering high school is another phase in his life," she said. "He is a young boy becoming a young man now and he has to make young man decisions, and stay focused.

"He has to keep his grades awesome, so colleges will want him for more than just basketball. We talk about high school testing and how we can prepare to pass them, so I believe he is up for the challenge."

Halthon said she recognized Dejulius' talents with a basketball at a young age. Of course all mothers think their child is the best of the best, but she felt she truly on to something when she saw him play.

"I knew something when he was four-years-old, playing basketball outside  of my mom's house," she said. "He was playing ball with a neighbor on the street, on one of those plastic rims, and he was shooting and making them all. So I went and brought him one and he was hitting more than he missed. I was amazed."

A few high schools have been linked with Dejulius, but he said he hasn't made a decision yet. Sure he will have his input on where he wants to go, but his mother said she plans on making the final decision, and for good reasons.

"I will be looking for a school who has his best interest at heart," said Halthon. "Also one with a good rating in academics, because grades are big with me, and I need a coach who look at grades, as well as skills."

It's also never too early for players at Dejulius' age to start hearing from colleges. It's not unusual to hear that eighth and ninth-graders are getting offered by schools already, and some committing. That might not be happening for Dejulius just yet, but he will be a name to remember a few years down the road.

"I have begun to hear from schools like Detroit and a few others," he said. "It's really early for all of that, so I just want to focus on my grades and basketball. But I do feel blessed about it."