October 16, 2015

Bassett's metamorphosis

Kevin McCarthy

Just a few short years ago, Dontay Bassett was a 6-foot-4 young man in the East Bay with no connection to formalized basketball. A little more than 12 months from now, he'll be playing for one of the fast-rising coaches in the country and in the Southeastern Conference SEC).

photo of Dontay Bassett

Now a 6-foot-9 senior attending Oldsmar Christian High, Bassett tripped to Gainesville, Florida this past weekend and became enamored with what he found. Gator Coach Mike White has filled the spot vacated by Billy Donovan's move to the Oklahoma City Thunder and brings a very successful reign, 101-40, from his four-year tenure at Louisiana Tech. White's teams play very uptempo offensively and defensively which suits the athletic Bassett well. Being able to remain in his 'adopted' state also acted as a plus. So he committed to sign in November. “I really liked the vibe around the program and school and the level is good.”

That's the latest chapter in Bassett's story yet, at times, he can't believe the turns his life has taken. “Three years ago, I wasn't playing organized basketball. My brother, cousin and I would shoot at a milk crate we were using for a basket. Sometimes, we would take a long walk to a park to play but I didn't know anything about basketball. There's no way back then that I was dreaming I'd be in the position I'm in now.”

Obviously his own hard work needs to be credited but Bassett also nominated other individuals as critical to his current status. Oakland Rebels Coach Raymond Young is one. “He took me under his wing and became a father figure for me.” Young's connection to and concern for Bassett extended far beyond the basketball court and the Rebels have remained his spring and summer squad. Bassett was accompanied on the trip to Gainesville by his parents as well as Young. Phil Taylor, Damon Jones and Anthony Taplin, each a coach with the Rebels, also assisted in his development both as a player and person.

“My San Lorenzo High Coach Brandon Parks contributed a lot,” Bassett offered, “as well as Jason Dillard.”

What's fascinating is that even as recent as last year Bassett's recruiting status was at maybe a 'one-to-watch' level. So how did he go from such a benchmark to a national-level recruit, one with offers from Colorado, Oregon State, Arkansas, Kansas State and others? “I really worked on my foot movement and began shooting better and with a softer touch.” This development plays into Florida's plan to use him as a stretch four.

Standing 5-foot-6 at the juncture between eighth and ninth grade, there's no telling when Bassett's inching up will conclude. His fit with Florida, still being a relative basketball neophyte plus someone who has demonstrated the drive to get better, combine to make him quite the promising prospect.