“He always dreamed of having a foundation where he could give back to the youth,” said Walter Dejean, father of the late New Orleans Pelican player Bryce Dejean-Jones.
Dejean and Franchesca Jones, mother of Dejean-Jones will honor the legacy of their son by carrying on his dream with the Bryce Dejean-Jones Foundation. Dejean-Jones had a mantra: Dreaming and Believing. He lived by it and wanted to help others achieve their aspirations.
Throughout his life, Dejean-Jones spent time doing community service projects with different family members. Growing up, he would accompany his grandfather to serve lunches and play games with people living in convalescent homes. Dejean-Jones also helped the youth both on the court and off by mentoring at youth camps and visiting schools.
“He went to a preschool here in the area when he was small,” Jones said. “During the summer, he and one of his brothers, they would go over and read to the kids.”
The city of Inglewood and Los Angeles honored Dejean-Jones posthumously for his community service. Dejean-Jones wanted to use his college education and his professional basketball career to help empower children.
Basketball came to Dejean-Jones early in his childhood. He played for the elementary and middle schools he attended as well as the YMCA in Inglewood and Westchester.
Dejean-Jones played one year of Varsity basketball at Taft High School, averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. That year, Taft reached round three of the division I state playoffs. Dejean-Jones became CIF L.A. City Section John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year.
During their state regional quarterfinals match against Leuzinger, Dejean-Jones launched a buzzer beating shot that would win the game 66-63. He earned 21 points that game.
“The coach called the play and Bryce got the inbound pass,” Dejean said. “Bryce had a favorite move where he would do a crossover and a left cut and comeback and shoot.”
When it came time to choose a college, Dejean-Jones entrusted the choice with his parents. They decided to have Dejean-Jones play at USC. After one season, Dejean-Jones transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he graduated with a bachelor of science in sociology.
Dejean-Jones continued his studies at Iowa State. He was a semester away from completing his Masters in Human Development.
“He would always say ‘Mom, on the off season, I’m [going to] go back and get it done’ and I’m like ‘that’s great’.” Jones said.
Last year, Dejean-Jones declared for the 2015 draft, but went undrafted. He started seven out of nine games with the Idaho Stampede in the NBA Development League. After signing two 10-day contracts, Dejean-Jones had signed a 3-year contract with the Pelicans in February.
He started in 11 out of the 14 games he played for New Orleans. A broken right wrist would force Dejean-Jones to sit out the rest of the season. Dejean-Jones was gunned down in May when visiting his girlfriend for their daughter’s first birthday.