The first time I ever heard DeMar DeRozan was in May of 2009, when he was interviewed by Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and others at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp. He had just averaged 14 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman at USC and decided to declare for the NBA Draft. During this pre-draft camp, he bragged that he could jump higher than Vince Carter, he said his game compared to no one in the NBA, and he mentioned that he followed the Wizards because of his friendship with Washington guard Nick Young–who also attended USC.
The Wizards ended up trading their lottery pick that year, and DeRozan was drafted ninth overall by the Toronto Raptors.
The first time I actually met DeRozan was during the 2010 All-Star weekend in Dallas. He had just won the “Dunk-In Contest”, which meant he could compete in the actual Dunk Contest (where he was the runner-up to Nate Robinson). The then-rookie was excited to be getting the exposure that comes with participating in All-Star weekend, and he was looking forward to soaking in as much of it as possible. I distinctly remember DeRozan saying, “USC baby!” as he walked away from the media, but I never thought to explore the relationship among the two Trojans, DeRozan and Young.
Shortly before the Raptors-Wizards game last night, I decided to do a bit of investigative journalism to find out more about this bond between the two players. My timing could not have been better, because DeRozan was coming off an impressive two-game stretch that saw him score a career-high 26 points in the Raptors’ victory over the Orlando Magic, and 21 points in a close loss to the Miami Heat.