Brunswick High School head basketball coach Chris Turner met Dereck Lampkin in the gym of the Brunswick YMCA when Lampkin was a seventh-grader.
At first, Lampkin didn’t know what to think of Turner.
“Who is this big guy, who came up to me asking me about basketball?” he thought.
Perhaps Turner didn’t know much about Lampkin either. He could tell he was a gym rat, but the middle- schooler was short, somewhat chubby and a few years from his growth spurt. Turner talked with Lampkin for a few minutes, and then he got the information he was digging for: Lampkin was going to Brunswick High in two years. It’s since worked out for both of them.
“If anyone deserves a scholarship, it’s Dereck Lampkin,” Turner said. “One thing about Dereck this year, he’s achieved a lot.”
So began the high school basketball career of a player Turner described as one of the hardest-working players he’s coached. That high school career his nearly at an end, but Lampkin’s basketball career is officially not over with his signing to Andrew College on Tuesday morning.
The Andrew College basketball program is in the first season of a reboot. The men’s basketball program at the Cuthbert-based junior college was scratched 13 years ago, and head coach Jamie Brooks was put in charge of rebuilding the 2017-18 team by roving around the state to recruit good-makeup, high-motor players to fit his system.
“I went over (to Tifton) saw (Lampkin), and I loved him,” Brooks said. “From then I probably saw him four or five times, and he was just consistent. He was really under recruited and we’re hoping to change that when he comes to us.”
At the McDonalds Invitational Tournament in Tifton, where Brooks first saw Lampkin, the Pirate guard’s length — despite his shorter stature — range and makeup were all pluses to Brooks. Not to mention, Lampkin chalked up a team-high 17 points against Bainbridge and led the team with eight rebounds against Monroe.
After about three games into the 2016 season, Lampkin said he was starting to garner attention from college scouts and he realized playing college basketball was a possibility.
By the end of the season, Lampkin was averaging over 13 points per game, nine rebounds and was shooting over 70 percent from the free throw line.
Lampkin started crossing things off his senior basketball bucket list as the season went on. The Pirates went from region champions to state runners-up, and Lampkin sensed it was nearing time to make a decision. After one trip to Cuthbert, Lampkin said he had found the right fit.
“It’s just quiet, and I’m kind of a quiet guy,” Lampkin said.
His mother, Valerie Williams was skeptical at first.
“You know you’re in the woods, right?” she asked her son at first. Ultimately, she agreed with her son’s decision. In Cuthbert, there will be plenty of time to focus on basketball.
That work ethic Lampkin is making his brand was sparked from fairly-recent family tragedy. His two sisters Desiree and Danee Lampkin died at ages 21 and 16, respectively. That loss sparked a motivational fire inside Lampkin, a drive that persists today and he plans to carry over into his college career.
“When my sisters passed, I guess it just push me harder,” Lampkin said. “It just made me work harder, play harder.”
Perhaps that explains the inexplicable will Turner speaks of when Lampkin tries to out-leap opposing forwards for rebounds, when he cuts to the basket or looks for the extra pass.
Or, perhaps, his mental blinders are more impressive. That tragedy doesn’t invade his mind at the free throw line, or when he pushes the ball up the court.
Whatever Lampkin mulled in his head during games, it’s resulted in a scholarship, and a proud family.
“It means a lot,” his mother Valerie Williams said. “It means he stayed focused throughout everything that was going on, and we’re proud of him. This means the world to know that, even when he leaves home, he’ll be able to persevere.”
Unsurprisingly, Lampkin hasn’t missed the court since the Pirates’ season ended last month.
“It’s amazing, I’m still playing basketball, as a matter of fact,” Lampkin said.