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Deshawn Delaney's Son Helps Steer His Path to College, Possible NBA Future

By Justin Breen | March 20, 2014 8:01am
 Carver Military Academy graduate Deshawn Delaney is a 6-foot-5 guard on NCAA tournament-bound New Mexico.
Deshawn Delaney
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ALTGELD GARDENS — As a junior at Carver Military Academy in 2010, Deshawn Delaney found out his girlfriend was having a baby.

Delaney, a basketball star with immense potential but who was on the verge of flunking out, walked into the office of his head coach, Johnnail Evans, to share the news.

That's when his life changed.

"He said he wanted to keep the baby, and I told him that's a big responsibility, and it meant he had to go to school," Evans said. "That's when he really made up his mind to do things right."

Deshawn Delaney Jr., the "spitting image" of his dad, according to the hoops standout's mother, was born Sept. 13, 2010.

Delaney, 21, has rarely seen his now 3-year-old son since, but that is part of his coach's plan. He wants Delaney to focus on academics and basketball, while Junior is being raised by Delaney's girlfriend, Jasmine Massey, and his mother, Tracy Brooks. Both women support the plan, which they know means he will better be able to provide for his family when he graduates.

 Deshawn Delaney kisses his 3-year-old son Deshawn Delaney Jr. Delaney, a junior at New Mexico and Carver Military Academy graduate, said he gets to see his son only a few times a year. He said his son lives with his girlfriend, Jasmine Massey, and Delaney's mom, Tracy Brooks.
Deshawn Delaney kisses his 3-year-old son Deshawn Delaney Jr. Delaney, a junior at New Mexico and Carver Military Academy graduate, said he gets to see his son only a few times a year. He said his son lives with his girlfriend, Jasmine Massey, and Delaney's mom, Tracy Brooks.
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And Delaney has done well with both sports and school. After two years of superb play at Vincennes University, where he was a junior college All-American, his grades improved enough to land a scholarship at New Mexico (27-6), which will face Stanford (21-12) on Friday in an NCAA tournament second-round matchup in St. Louis.

Delaney's child is not even mentioned in his official New Mexico bio, but make no mistake: His son is his No. 1 priority.

"Everything I do, it's for him," Delaney said.

Following His Coach's Life Plan

Evans is 51 years old and has been a coach for 33 of those years. At the elementary or high school level, Evans has coached several NBA players, including Renaldo Major, Leon Smith, Bobby Simmons and Priest Lauderdale.

He said Delaney is among the top five ballers he's ever tutored.

"He's instant offense," Evans said of Delaney. "He's definitely an NBA player."

Evans, who has known Delaney since he was 5 years old, said that star power was evident early on. The 6-foot-5 guard suited up for varsity all four years, averaging a ridiculous 25 points and 14 rebounds per game as a senior, when he was nominated for the 2011 McDonald's All-American game.

But prior to his senior year, Delaney didn't like going to class. At times Evans said he had to drive to Delaney's Altgeld Gardens apartment and drag him out of bed to school.

"He wanted to drop out of school, but I wouldn't let that happen," Evans said.

Said Delaney: "He pushed me every day. I wanted to give up, but my coach got me through everything."

When Delaney discovered he was going to be a father, Evans said there was an "immediate" transformation.

If anyone could understand why, it was Evans. After all, like Delaney, he had grown up in Altgeld Gardens. And, when he was a senior at Carver, Evans became a father, to Johnnail Evans Jr.

"I know what he's been through," Evans said. "When you see a kid who really wants to make it, you have to find a way to help him."

Evans would share his life story with Delaney: How he would leave his son with family members in Chicago while playing basketball and graduating with a degree in communications from Philander Smith College, a historically black school in Little Rock, Ark.

While a college student, Evans returned home only twice a year, during the summer and Christmas, to see his son. When he graduated, he assumed fatherly duties, and Johnnail Jr. is now 24.

Since departing for Vincennes before the summer of 2011, it's been a similar plot for Delaney. He visits Junior, whom he calls "Stink" — "because when he was young, he would stink up the place" — a few days in the summer and around Christmas.

His other time has been spent at Vincennes and New Mexico, including summer school sessions, to ensure he maintains his grades.

"It's horrible not seeing him, but we are able to FaceTime a lot," Delaney said. "I miss him a lot."

Brooks said her son and grandson have a common topic of discussion during their conversations.

"All they talk about is basketball," she said. "That's all my son talked about when he was younger, too. My grandson is every bit of my son when he was a little boy.

"It's very hard for him," she added. "But his son is OK."

Massey, a Fenger High School graduate, said she's brought Junior on a few occasions to see his dad play at New Mexico. She also noted that their son loves seeing his daddy perform on TV.

"He always wants to watch the game and watch the plays over and over, so we'll have to record the games," Massey said.

Massey stressed she supports Delaney's decision to leave her and their son for the time being to concentrate on basketball and books.

"He's really strong minded, and I kind of look up to him because of that," Massey said. "It's hard with him being so far away and not being able to see his son, but we know that's what he needed to do."

"He'll Be The Man"

New Mexico head coach Craig Neal said Delaney gives the Lobos "another rebounding guard, and a guy who can score the ball."

"Deshawn has done some good things for us," Neal said.

Mostly coming off the bench, Delaney has averaged 19.6 minutes and 5.1 points per game this season for the Lobos.

Evans said those numbers should improve immensely when Delaney is a senior.

"He understands his role right now," Evans said. "Next year, they will probably turn him loose, and he'll be The Man."

Evans said he and Brooks are headed to St. Louis to attend the Lobos' first game. Brooks said watching her son excel on the court makes her proud, but not as much as knowing he has prioritized his goals around his son.

"Deshawn's dream is to be successful in life and to be a better person," Brooks said.

Delaney said he simply wants to "graduate and continue to play ball."

And he considers his son a true blessing.

"It's life," he said. "Everybody goes through something, and God put me in this situation for a reason."