The basketball went “whoosh”” and Johnny Dee went “whew.”
“I’m definitely happy it is over with,’’ said Dee, the University of San Diego guard.
Dee’s 3-pointer against the University of Santa Clara last week was more than drop in the bucket.
It made Dee the Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and how did we get here again?
“When he came out of high school there weren’t many people that thought he could play at his level,’’ USD coach Bill Grier said.
Strange, because Dee was All-Everything at Rancho Buena Vista, a sharpshooter with no worries, then or now.
“He could miss 10 straight shots and think No. 11 was going to go in,’’ Grier said. “That’s why he’s become such a good scorer.’’
But this game which leans toward giants didn’t show much love for the undersized Dee. After lassoing one win after another for the Longhorns, most colleges were reluctant to saddle up with the wish-I-was-6-foot Dee.
All of which made Dee a very balanced player: he had chips on both shoulders.
“I wasn’t bitter,’’ Dee said. “But I wanted to prove that I could play at this level.’’
Dee, a senior, does his level-best to deflect praise. He never fails to mention contributions from teammates, coaches and his family in how he reached such a pinnacle in USD sports.
“I’m definitely proud and humbled by it,’’ said Dee, who’s paced the Toreros in scoring in 13 of their 16 games.
His modesty matches his long-range jumper, which he’s poised to launch from just inside the Jenny Craig Pavilion parking lot. Dee, though, expanded his game which is why his it flourished.
“He’s earned everything that he has accomplished because he worked very hard,’’ Grier said. “He’s become more than just a shooter; working off screens, hitting floaters and running the court. I’m blessed to be able to coach him.’’
Lord knows few tears were shed over Dee supplanting Brandon Johnson atop the USD scoring heap. Johnson was involved in a gambling scandal which rocked USD athletics and threatened the integrity of the basketball program.
But Dee, who likely helps little old ladies cross the street when no one is looking, is an example of what’s good about college sports.
“He’s the type of student-athlete you want to represent your school,’’ Dee said. “Maybe now we can put Brandon behind us.’’
What’s up front for USD is two visitors from the Los Angeles area.
It’s a critical week for the Toreros (8-8, 1-3 in West Coast Conference) as they host Loyola Marymount on Thursday night and Pepperdine two days later.
“Now I can focus 100 percent on making the team better the rest of the year,’’ said Dee, who averages a team-high 18 points per game. “I’ll do whatever I can.’’
It was that drive which landed Dee at USD. Dee walked on as a freshman and before his first season, he was awarded a scholarship.
“Coach Grier always believed in me,’’ Dee said.
Now Dee can’t fathom his college basketball career winding down. He is embracing each memory, not wanting to let go of something so dear.
“It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life,’’ he said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I don’t want it to end.’’
From start to finish, Dee has been a joy. His team-first approach always took a backseat to him spinning the scoreboard.
“Honestly it wasn’t until this year,’’ Dee said, “that I realized where I was points-wise.’’
The point is he’s at 1,808. A bigger point is Dee is the type of man Grier hopes his two daughters bring home some day.
“We couldn’t have anyone better to represent the program.’’ Grier said. “I’m more proud of what he’s done off the court than on it.’’
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow his on Twitter at paris_sports at the mighty1090.com
This post has been corrected since its original posting.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports