CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On a Friday evening, well past the deafening ring of the year’s final school bell and right before most 17-year-olds are finalizing party plans for the night, Devon Dotson pumps in hundreds of jump shots atop the shiny hardwood court at Providence Day School.
There’s no fanfare; no row of videographers following his every move, no one back-patting or screaming atta-boys from the stands.
It’s quiet. Peaceful.
A boy and his ball; precisely the way Dotson likes it.
“This is the best part for me,” Dotson says. “People talk about being gym rats because it sounds cool to say that, but I’m always here. I literally don’t feel right if I’m not in the gym twice a day. I just love the process of getting better. I feel like I have a lot to prove.”
A truly perplexing perspective for a point guard who has turned in one of the most dominant springs of anyone at his position on any circuit, averaging 18.1 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals a game for Team Charlotte (N.C.) and subsequently has college basketball coaching giants like Sean Miller, Bill Self and others salivating at the thought of landing him.
Still, that resume hasn’t translated into five-star status for Dotson.
Currently, he checks in at No. 33 overall in the ESPN 60, a full 10 spots away from the ever-elusive fifth star.
“I’m not one of those guys who doesn’t understand that rankings are all about people’s opinions; I get that,” Dotson said. “I am very confident so I feel like I’m the best point guard in the nation, but I don’t worry about it. I do want to be a five-star player though; I feel like I’ve earned that.”
His unrest makes sense in that regard; elevating just one star rating gives him a greater chance of being picked for prestigious postseason all-star games next season like the McDonald’s All American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
“Rankings matter for things like that, but I always tell him that if you just keep working hard all the rest will take care of itself,” Dotson’s father Dana says. “He’s always been a very competitive player so he’s going to go after his goals with everything he’s got.”
Blame it on Devon taking beatings from his older brother, Dalen, on the court while growing up or earning his stripes on the rough and tumble courts at Palmer Park, a hoops staple in the heart of Chicago’s south side, ever since kindergarten.
“You’ve gotta be tough to play there,” Dana says. “I know that that experience has served him well. He’s always been a tough player; very intense.”
The latter is an understatement.
Devon is pretty much his own adjective on the court.
Think Russell Westbrook, a ferocious, grimacing assassin that will stop at nothing until complete domination has been had in every regard.
It’s no wonder Devon never smiles on the court.
“I’m all business,” Devon says. “Off the court I’m joking and laughing all the time, but on the court I’m different. I’m coming at whoever at all times. I play with a big chip on my shoulder.”
Team Charlotte coach Jeff McInnis knows all too well about the proverbial chip as a result of feeling undervalued.
“I never got my due either,” says McInnis, who starred at North Carolina from 1993-96 before playing more than a decade in the NBA. “I tell him to just play. For anyone who’s paying attention the numbers speak for themselves. When he plays against guys ranked higher than him he dominates them, but none of that matters.
“In five years no one will know who the No. 1 point guard was in the 2018 class. The people who need recognize him will recognize him and have recognized him and that’s all that matters.”
Devon took heed of the tunnel vision message this past season and led the Chargers to the Final Four averaging 24 points, four assists, six rebounds and three steals a game.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot and I don’t really worry about what rankings say or don’t say,” Devon says. “I do want to at least be a five-star player, but I know that’s not up to me. I know I’ve done my part and I’ll keep doing more because that’s just how I approach the game. I’m preparing for the next level. That’s what this is all about. If I don’t end up being a five-star, I’ll still know that I am one. That’s all that matters.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY