April 24, 2012
By Lia Crawford & Joe Kotoch
If you have yet to hear of Darrion Pellum, all it takes to be impressed is a search of his name on YouTube. His alley-oop dunk off the backboard to himself over a Maryland Eastern Shore defender not only made Sports Center Top 10, but also came in at the number one spot. Coming from a smaller school, Darrion Pellum hopes to be the beginning of a long line of basketball players from smaller programs opening eyes in the NBA.
Pellum’s journey has not always been an easy one. Coming out of high school at the Massanutten Military Academy, he was originally committed to Virginia Tech but when he arrived at the school, he was soon given the news that he was declared ineligible by the NCAA and would have to leave. Pellum’s ACC hopes were crushed as he later headed back to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia to play basketball at Hampton University. Despite all of this adversity before he even logged one minute as a freshman, Pellum was even more motivated to succeed and prove his doubters wrong.
Heading back home to Hampton, Pellum said, “It really hit me, and I just kept thinking this could be snatched at anytime.” He went into Hampton University with the mindset of nothing but basketball. The gym soon became a place of solitude where he spent most of his free time and where he would let out all frustrations of outside aspects of his life. Pellum would listen to coaches’ critiques after games, highlighting what he could do better so that he could go to the gym to work on that specific skill. He would study film of himself to tweak small parts of his game and he said the great coaching staffs’ critiques led him to become a better player everyday on his own time. Playing at a smaller school close to home became a positive thing for Pellum, his family could now see him play and the gym would be open for him whenever he desired. Being close to home also led Pellum to gain the understanding that there was work to be done. He separated his hometown from school because he knew that succeeding in basketball and academics was a job to be finished without interference from outside distractions.
With many big name college players from popular basketball programs entering the draft, talented players coming from smaller schools can become overshadowed at times. This does not seem to be the case for Pellum because the experience of playing at a smaller school as compared to other draft prospects does not faze him. Instead he said, “I was always told one thing, that no matter what school you play at ‘If you can play, you can play.’ People will find you wherever you are.” His time at Hampton University became a way for his basketball skills to grow. After contemplating early entry in the 2011 draft, and playing with big name players at the LeBron James and Kevin Durant Nike camps last summer, Pellum decided to return to Hampton University for his senior year. Going through the NBA workouts, he felt as though there was more that he had to offer. Pellum went back to school to become a bigger and stronger player to give him a better chance of being drafted into the NBA. He said that the difference in the draft this year will be that he has matured as a basketball player and worked on aspects of his game to make him an even better athlete. Pellum currently trains with renown skills coach, David Thorpe, who has been putting Pellum through an NBA-like skills course.
As the school year comes to an end and pre-draft workouts begins, Pellum knows what he needs to work on and what part of his game he wants the NBA scouts to see. His long range, defensive skills, and ball handling abilities are just a few of the many parts of Pellum’s game that he is eager to show off. Explaining what he could bring to the table for an NBA team he said, “I’m willing to work, I’m willing to learn things and see how I can make the team better, I’m coming in with ‘all ears’.” Pellum hopes to bring a strong work ethic to an NBA team, where he would practice hard to become the player that they need. He is a skilled basketball player who will be able to step into his role right away on any team that he could potentially be drafted to.
Though Darrion Pellum has not been the most talked about name thus far, it's safe to say that this won’t be the case for much longer. As a small school standout steps into the spotlight, NBA coaches will be encouraged to open their eyes and see that this talented player deserves not to be overlooked.