By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
DETROIT – David DeJulius is not your typical teenager.
DeJulius doesn’t eat junk food, he doesn’t drink carbonated soda and he attends yoga classes regularly.
He’s also one of the best basketball players in the state.
A 6-foot guard at Detroit East English, DeJulius, who has signed with University of Michigan, was rated as one of the top players before this season – and it’s safe to say that few players, in any class, are having a better season at this point. He’s averaging 28 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, and his team is ranked in the top 10 in Class A by every news organization that releases weekly rankings.
The candidates for the coveted Mr. Basketball Award won’t be announced for about a month. But it’s difficult to imagine DeJulius’ name won’t be on that short list.
DeJulius, 18, might not be the best basketball player in what is a strong senior class, and he might not win Mr. Basketball. But it won’t be because he didn’t work hard enough or have the proper guidance from those close to him.
As for his nutrition intake, DeJulius credits his father, Dave, for the basics. The elder DeJulius also played basketball in the Detroit Public School League at two eastside high schools (Denby and Osborn).
“He told me to put the right food in my body,” DeJulius said. “I eat healthy. I haven’t drank pop in three years. It’s beyond basketball. I want to create a healthy lifestyle. I want to check every box.”
In addition to the workouts he receives from East English coach Juan Rickman, DeJulius works with three personal trainers to hone his body and improve his knowledge of the game. One of those trainers is former Detroit Pershing coach A.W. Canada. Another is one of Canada’s former assistants, James Cleage, and the third is Tony Harrison, who specializes in boxing and footwork beneficial in athletics.
During the season DeJulius watches game film with Canada, and the two go over nuances to improve DeJulius’ knowledge of the game. Cleage attends the majority of East English’s games, and the two talk afterward about what DeJulius did right and how his play could be improved.
“During the season it’s more to do with strategy,” DeJulius said of the time spent with personal trainers. “During the offseason it’s more physical.
“I do cross training with my boxing workouts. It helps me a lot. Conditioning-wise, you have to give it your all. With Tony, it’s more core work. I only spend about 15 minutes in the ring.”
On Sundays during the season, when many basketball players take the day off, DeJulius attends a yoga class. During the offseason he practices yoga three to four times a week.
“It stretches me out,” he said. “It keeps me limber. And it’s good for my hips.”
DeJulius spent the first two years of high school at Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a charter school located in the city’s Eastern Market area. He was a highly-publicized player when he enrolled at Edison, and his team reached a Class C Regional Final his freshman season and lost in a District Semifinal to Pershing when he was a sophomore. DeJulius was labeled a scorer who had yet to reach his potential when he transferred to East English.
“I knew of him vaguely before he got here,” Rickman said. “I remember him having a high skill set and a good work ethic, or so I heard. But when he came here I wanted him to put it all together. I wanted him to learn how to play a complete game. I wanted him to pass more. I don’t think he understood or knew how to get his teammates involved. He didn’t understand where the defense was at.
“He’s improved on his defense, and that becoming a better defender has improved his offense as well, because he’s now able to predict the positioning of the defenders which allows him to be more efficient and also allows him to make more plays for his teammates.”
Physically, DeJulius was developing. And with the help of Canada, Rickman and others, DeJulius was also gaining a better understanding of the game and what it took for him to become more of a complete player.
“The biggest change for me was here, at East English, its family oriented,” he said. “I’m getting tremendous support on and off the court.”
DeJulius also rid himself of an unflattering nickname given to him when he first came to East English.
“They called me ‘the watcher’ when I first got here,” he said. “As far as rebounding and playing off-the-ball defense, I used to watch a lot. (Rickman) told me I’m too strong, too fast not to rebound.
“Now, as a senior, I’m much better. I’m a senior. I have to get it done now. Physically, I’ve improved my jump shot and I rebound better. My passing has improved. I see the floor much better now, and I’m able to create for my teammates.”
Two current players have had a significant impact on DeJulius and his maturation process. One is his former East English teammate Greg Elliott, who plays for coach Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette University. The other is former U-M point guard Derrick Walton, Jr., who played at Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, located just a few miles from East English.
As a junior at East English, Elliott helped the Bulldogs capture the school’s first PSL title.
“I learned a lot from Greg,” DeJulius said. “It’s the intangibles. At Marquette, he’s not their first option (offensively) but he’s their best defender. Derrick and I talked about a week ago. I can be that type of player at Michigan. He passes the ball better than I do. I shoot it better. I think I can affect Michigan much the same way he did.”
Should DeJulius win Mr. Basketball, he would be the first player from the PSL to win the award since Pershing’s Keith Appling in 2010.
Riding an 11-game winning streak, East English is 12-2 overall and, at 7-1, has clinched first place in the PSL East Division 1. The Bulldogs will have one of the top two seeds when the PSL playoffs begin next week.
“I believe my chances are very good,” DeJulius said of the possibility of winning the award. “First of all, we’re winning. There’s the stat line I’m putting up against some of the best competition.
“It would mean a lot to me. It would mean a lot to me and the school.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTO: Detroit East English’s David DeJulius pushes the ball upcourt this season. (Photo by David Donoher.)