Wednesday, October 27

​​Defeating All Odds Through Basketball 

Derrick Washington


Coming from the gritty streets of Washington, DC, your 18th birthday is a blessing. Two kids, a world of trouble awaiting, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity. Coach John Hill, then Lincoln University’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach give me an offer to attend Lincoln University. Taking advantage of this opportunity was all in good faith to set a better example for my children and other kids in my community that looked up to me.

The process of getting back into school was frustrating; admissions was the first hurdle I had to jump over upon my return. With a  late enrollment, not having enough transferable credits, and eventually money problems, I was ready to give up and go back home. However, the one thing that stopped me from giving up was knowing what was back home waiting for me (violence, drugs, etc.) After finally getting accepted, things were easier for me upon meeting my financial aid advisor, Ms. Taneen Legree. She made the transition process more comfortable and gave me the extra boost of confidence I needed to push through the first week. Once I was squared away financially and moved into my dormitory, I began focusing on classwork and proving I belonged on the team.

My first workout with the team was a bit rough. In addition to not knowing anyone, it was clear that I was out of shape as I couldn’t keep up with the play of others. That first day humbled me and made me push myself throughout preseason and the first few games of the regular season. Once I got into college basketball shape and adjusted my play to the team system, it was up from there.

Defeating teams we “weren’t supposed to beat”, bringing excitement to the student body, and ultimately bringing a winning attitude to the campus was our goal as a team. I was excited to be part of what we were accomplishing on and off the court. Those guys I didn’t know my first day of workouts turned into my brothers. Our first season was a success to those who came to watch us play, but we knew we could do better as a whole. Individually I finished my first season with Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) All-Rookie team honors. Receiving that award made me look at basketball in a different light. I began to set my mind on using basketball as a means of feeding my family. The summer after my first season I enrolled in summer school and worked out every day with fellow teammate Kenny Sharpe (Chester, PA) who also had the same intentions.

Over the next two seasons we stacked up more wins, we won championships, and created a new identity for the athletic program at Lincoln. I had the honor of being named Team Captain and was part f the CIAA 2013 All-Tournament Team, 2013-14 Preseason All-CIAA team, 2013-14 1st Team All-CIAA, and was recognized as Team Co-MVP. After walking the stage with the C/O 2014 I began preparing to become a professional basketball player.

That entire summer I worked out with various trainers in Washington, DC, working on my overall game and strength/conditioning. By August, a lot of my friends who played in Europe started to leave for their respective organizations, and I was yet to get any interest from anyone. The waiting game began to make me impatient, and I was almost at the point of just applying for a job and beginning another chapter of my life. Towards the end of August, I received an email from my now agent, Shasta Scott, with a full player and management contract. A few weeks after signing, I received my team contract to play professional basketball in Suhareke, Kosovo (Southeastern Europe).

The 12hr flight to Europe was crazy exciting, I was eager to meet my new team and embrace their culture. When I landed I was greeted by a group of fans as they chanted, “U-S-A!” That moment was one I would never forget. I was excited and ready to help my team win. To make things better, I was partnered with a fellow CIAA player from Bowie State University (Najee White), which made the transition easier as he was already a one year player in Europe. Playing basketball was the easy part of my transition as I had trained extremely hard and was prepared for whatever they through at me. The hardest adjustments were the cultural changes, foreign language, and food. Fortunately, a few of the locals were able to help me bridge the language and culture gap, being my personal translators.

Food was a major issue. The closest Mc Donald’s was a plane ride away. I had to find ways to pick around their local food to find certain meats and rice combinations. This remained an issue for my first month there, until one restaurant began to make food according my liking because of my team’s good performance. Once my concerns surrounding food were resolved, my stay became easier and all I had to worry about was playing the sport I love the most.

Our team was new to the Super League (Top league in the Bulkan Area Region). Winning was not expected as I was a rookie PG and most of the other teams had veterans, including some who played in the NBA previous seasons before. Playing with that chip on my shoulder made me a fan favorite. With constant chants of my last name, loud roars when I dunked or made a three point shot, I was living my dream. We made it to the semifinals of the league playoffs, something our team never accomplished in any league of which they had been a part. I finished my rookie season as the top assist player (9.8 assist per game) and 9th in scoring (15.7 points per game). I also garnered All Import honors and was listed as the second best PG in the league. I would say my rookie season was a success.  After two years in Europe I returned home. That summer, I started to attend my son’s basketball and football practices and that’s where my interest in coaching grew. Seeing him perform and seeing the potential he had, made me want to be part of his growth.


Today I am a mentor in the Washington, DC area, I am a basketball coach for ages 5 – 17, I have started my own skills training company (Be Elite Sports Training), and I owe it all to The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. The guidance and help I received from Lincoln guided me to where I am today.


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