Jonathan Stark and Demetrius Denzel-Dyson have known each other most of their lives.
The played on the same team in middle school and summer league teams and then played three seasons together at Brighton High School. Stark transfered to Munford for his senior year and Denzel-Dyson played his final high school season at Covington.
Last Friday they were at their respective homes watching the NBA draft with their families. Stark wrapped a very successful senior season at Murray State and Denzel-Dyson was coming of a strong season at Samford.
When the last draft pick was announced, neither of their names had been called. But good news was coming.
Stark got a call from his agent five minutes after the draft ended. He told him he had been invited to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA Summer League.
The following day Denzel-Dyson was informed he was invited to play on the Memphis Grizzlies Summer League squad.
“I was very excited,” Stark said. “It just shows that hard work pays off. Just to have the opportunity to be playing professionally in the NBA is great. It’s always been my dream. Now that I have that opportunity I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
“It just doesn’t seem real,” Denzel-Dyson said.
Both players took winding paths to get to where they are.
Stark signed with Tulane after graduating from Munford in 2013. After averaging 11 points per game his sophomore year he sat out a season and transferred to Murray State, where he really blossomed. Stark averaged 21 points per game as a senior and was named the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year.
Upon graduation from Covington, Denzel-Dyson signed with the University of Massachusetts. His playing time there was limited and he transferred to Samford. Like Stark, the change of scenery served him well. He averaged 15 points per game his senior year and showed some range from the 3-point line.
Both players did enough to earn pre-draft workouts with some NBA teams. Stark worked out with Minnesota, the New York Knicks, the Orlando Magic and the Grizzlies and Denze-Dyson with the Grizzlies.
Now they will both have a shot to see a dream come true that most colleges players do not have.
Stark will head to Minnesota on Monday then begin play in the Summer League in Las Vegas July 5. Denzel-Dyson will hop on a plane to Utah next week and then begin Summer League play in Sacramento, Calif.
Most players from the Summer League do not make NBA rosters, but neither player is letting that deter them from their ultimate goal. Some who do not make NBA rosers are assigned to the G-League, minor league teams that are affiliated with NBA teams.
Those who shine in the Summer League will be invited to NBA training camps later in the summer.
“Hopefully I’ll get invited to training camp,” Stark said. “I have a lot of opportunities ahead of me. It just depends how I play.”
Denzel-Dyson, who made a point to thank his parents, grandparents, sister and other family members for all the support they gave him over the years, is especially excited to play for Memphis, which is like a second home town. He served as a ball boy for the Memphis Tigers when his cousin, Rodney Carney, was a player there.
He, along with Stark, played together on a summer team that was coached by the late Lorenzen Wright, a former Tiger and Grizzly.
“It’s great for me, especially coming from a small town like Covington. I know I have the community behind me,” he said. “I just want to stay humble because that’s how I got here ... It just felt amazing walking into a locker room where Lorenzen Wright played ... I’m just very thankful for the opportunity.”
Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email email@example.com.