COMPTON — DeMar DeRozan has come a long way from the streets of Compton.
After starring in basketball at Compton High School, DeRozan was a one-and-done player at USC. A first round pick by the Toronto Raptors in the 2009 NBA Draft, DeRozan is now an Olympian and a four-time NBA All-Star.
Yet he remains grounded in his roots back at home.
Nearly every summer, DeRozan can be found perfecting his basketball craft at the Drew League in South Los Angeles. Giving back to his community is not a one-day feat for DeRozan.
While in town to make his second career start as an NBA All-Star, DeRozan and Toronto teammate Kyle Lowry showed up at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Compton Feb. 16, ready to serve students and faculty and assisting in helping build a new playground at the school.
DeRozan was more than a little excited about being part of the NBA Cares event in his hometown.
“It means so much to me,” he said. “This place made me, raised me, gave me my strength that I carry as a man now. So to come back to be a successful individual, to come back and express that same knowledge that I gain here to go on to be successful, means everything to come back here and be able to do that.”
Coming home is not an abbreviated fact on DeRozan’s checklist. Whenever he gets a chance to come home, he does. But usually his getaway from the rigors of pro basketball takes place in the summer when the NBA season has concluded.
“This is nothing new,” DeRozan said. “I’m here all summer. I still workout at my high school all the time. Being around kids. … I grew up right across the tracks from here, so I’m always over here. So it’s nothing new for me to come back here, for sure.”
DeRozan and Lowry got their morning going by painting a U.S. map on an old playground. When they were finished with that task, they made their way to several classrooms and paid students a visit that had some students left in awe as they giggled out loud about having a couple of celebrity personalities in their presence.
As they walked out of the final classroom, the buzz of saws cutting wood, hammers striking nails and cement mixing greeted the teammates as they headed over to where the construction of the new playground, sponsored by KaBoom!, was underway.
It was a busy day for students and faculty at the school as they worked feverishly to try to meet the timeline for the project to be done. Former NBA players Ron Harper and Horace Grant as well as Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris made appearances later in the day to lend their energy to the completion of the playground. But it was DeRozan and Lowry who got things going by showing up early to take part in the all-day festivities.
Helping out in getting a new playground built was not the only thing that DeRozan was excited about. Being named to his fourth NBA All-Star team got him pumped as well.
“It’s always an honor to be able to do that because that was my dream as a kid,” DeRozan said. “I had hoop dreams just like every other kid. So to come back and to be an All-Star, multiple all-star, especially at home, means everything to me.”