When a defender is looking at Darius Spates from this angle, he’s either going to watch Spates drive right by him, or hit a jump shot in his face. Photo by Jason Lewis
Spates two favorite basketball players are Carmelo Anthony and Ray Allen, both scorers. Spates averaged 20 points per game this past season. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Darius Spates likes to put the ball in the basket, and the senior shooting guard has figured out how to do just that, and he does it a lot. Look him up on Youtube.com (video below) and you’ll see him scoring from the outside, the inside, off screens, and at times just creating his own shot.
Spates, standing at 6-1, quickly moved up the ranks at Verbum Dei High School. He was one of only two freshmen to play on the varsity team, and the same was true during his sophomore season. As a junior and a senior he was a team captain and he was named the team’s MVP both years. He also made the All League team in both of those seasons, and this past year he was a few votes shy of being named the Santa Fe League MVP after he averaged 20 points a game.
Spates can be considered a combo guard, but he did the bulk of his damage as a shooting guard.
“I feel more relaxed from the shooting guard position,” Spates said. “I look at the game a bit differently. At the point guard position you need to see everything. At shooting guard, you still have to see everything, but it’s just a different view, and I love to score.”
Spates had a smile on his face when he said that he loves to score.
“My main strength is my shooting, and I believe that I’m a great shooter,” Spates said. “I depend on it a lot. I love the midrange, from 13’ to 17’. From inside to out, I’m pretty pure.”
Spates likes to come off of screens and take the open jump shot, but if a defender is in his face, he has the quickness and ball handling skills to drive to the basket.
“To average 20 you need to be able to create your own shot,” Spates said.
Spates has the abilities to operate within a system, but at times he has to freelance a bit when the opposing defense is playing well.
“I don’t want to preplan too much, because I still want to be able to react to the defense, but what’s basically on my mind is that I feel bad for the person that’s guarding me,” Spates said.
Spates usually lights up his defender, but in his mind, that is only half of the job.
“It’s time to get back on defense, no time to celebrate,” Spates said. “Defense is important to me. You can’t win games without defense. I can do all the scoring that I want, but if I let the man I’m guarding score just as much or even more, than the ratio, I’m down. I don’t like cutting even, or being down when it comes to the ratio. I need to be winning, so I have to defend my man to the best of my abilities.”
There are a few colleges that are recruiting Spates for a basketball scholarship, and with a 3.0 grade point average, it will be easy for most colleges to get him in. He worked hard in the classroom to make sure that colleges will not pass him up.
“First off it is student before athlete,” Spates said. “I want to go to college, and I hope that I can use basketball as a way to pay for college. I want basketball to take me as far as it can, but first comes the books.”
Spates has already been accepted into six schools. A few of them Cal State universities, and a couple Historically Black Colleges and Universities, such as Howard and Hampton. His plan is to major in physical theopy, and he wants to be the head athletic trainer for a professional or college team, or open his own business where athletes can be treated.
“I know as an athlete that being hurt is no fun at all,” Spates said.
Spates has been active in a few organizations outside of basketball. At Verbum Dei, he is on the campus ministry team, he is the president of the black student union, and he is an ambassador for the school.
“The one I like the most is being an ambassador,” Spates said. “Even though I’m graduating, I’d still like to see the school improve. If I’m able to put my two cents into seeing who is coming to this schools, I’d take that opportunity at any time.”
His father, Marshall Spates, believes that his son is going to make it on the next level. At this point they are just trying to figure out how his college education will be paid for.
“As a basketball player, the thing that separates him from most players is that he is a really good shooter,” his father said. “He’s better than most kids. A lot of collegiate players do not shoot the ball as well as he does, and he can get his own shot. Most guards need somebody to set them up, but he can get a shot off over anybody. But the thing that I’m most proud about is that he’s learned how to manage his time,”
Spates has work-study, where he goes to school for four days and to work for one. So he has to do five days of school work in four days. He manages his time by starting his homework in class after he finishes his class work. That frees up time in the evening to work on his basketball skills.
Also working in Spates favor is that his younger brother, Nicholas, is the starting point guard on the team. Nicholas is just a freshman, and he knows who to feed the ball to. But he gets rewarded for that by getting guidance from his older brother.
“He gives me a goal to reach, and even pass if I can,” Nicholas said. “I’m very thankful for that.”
Both brothers are following similar paths by playing varsity as freshmen, but Nicholas does admit that his brother beats him at this point, because he is three years older. But when Nicholas catches up to his older brother in height and speed, he has a simple statement.
“He’s going to have some problems.”
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