Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant
Favorite team: Los Angeles Lakers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Going to the playoffs and almost beating the number one seed.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When I shot the ball and it bounced off (a player’s) head after it hit the rim.
Music on iPod: Rap/R&B
Future plans: Go to college for basketball and get my degree.
Words to live by: “Never give up.”
One goal before turning 30: To have a family and a house, also being able to provide for my family.
One thing people don’t know about me: I’ve been through a lot, but I don’t really show it.
By GORDON GLANTZ
In spite of some tough times, Bensalem senior captain Richard Dean has always found his way back to his home away from home – the basketball court.
Such was the case recently for the Univest Featured Male Athlete of the Week when he received an unexpected Christmas present in a game against Council Rock North.
“I got elbowed in the jar really hard,” he said. “He elbowed me after the whistle, and the ref called a foul on me. I have no idea why. I was watching film, and the one ref saw him elbow me and didn’t even do anything.”
While the Owls went on to win the Dick Dougherty Holiday Tournament without their captain, Dean went into mandatory concussion protocol.
“They’re no joke -- headaches, sensitive to brightness and loudness” he said of concussions, an injury more commonly associated with football and soccer. “Also, my jaw was sore but everything is way better now.”
On Tuesday, prior to taking on CB South, Dean was cleared to return to action and played limited minutes while the Owls picked up a W.
While life has dealt Dean some other wounds, the kind not seen, he has emerged stronger and more focused for it.
With the scourge of drug addiction hitting close to home, Dean had understandable moments where his passion for anything – including basketball – was lost.
“One of my family members was involved with drugs,” he said. “I got depressed. I didn’t want to play basketball anymore, or even go to school.”
And that’s when head coach Mike McCabe and assistant coach Ron Morris, who McCabe calls his “eyes and ears” and his “lifeline” at the high school (McCabe teaches at Robert K. Shafer Middle School) stepped in.
“Coach McCabe and Coach Morris really helped me get through it,” said Dean. “Last year, when I was going through the family stuff, Coach Morris was always there. He told me to keep my head up and to call him if I ever needed anything.”
Dean took Morris up on the offer and has become like a member of his family in the process.
“I have become close with Rich over the last two years,” said Morris. “We have had many conversations about basketball and about life. Our first real conversation was at the end of his sophomore year. Rich was going to transfer to a Catholic school in New Jersey. I found him in the hallway and had a discussion about his situation. We then had a conversation with the athletic director at a later time. Rich was unsure what he wanted to do. He, at first, was set on transferring. He ended up staying here at Bensalem. From that point on, our relationship flourished.”
In addition to the basketball connection, Morris has had Dean in class.
“I have been able to build a bond with him, kind of like a father and a son,” Morris said. “We would have many conversations about basketball, school and life. I would drive Rich to and from practice, and we would have Rich over for dinner at our house all the time. He is a pleasure to be around as he is a great kid.
“Rich has had to overcome some tough times. Unfortunately, addiction has affected his family. It is not an easy situation to be in. In my time in education, I have come across a number of kids who have been in this type of situation. Many of the kids that are in that type of situation will act out in a negative way. Rich is the total opposite. He is a quiet, well-mannered all-around good person. He has used his tough situation as motivation to do well on the court as well as in the classroom.”
More than a Team
Dean said the ultimate decision to ride out the storm at Bensalem was “because that’s where I’ve been my whole high school career and all my friends were there.”
Regrets? None. Explaining that basketball “takes a lot of the pain away,” he learned early in life that some of the best moves we make are the ones we don’t make.
“Definitely,” he confirmed. “I love it (at Bensalem). We aren’t just a team. We are a family. We aren’t just players. We are brothers.”
Entering the season, Dean – with aspirations of being either a nurse or a social studies teacher because he “likes helping people” – was mostly on the radar of Division III programs but McCabe believes that, with some improvement on the defensive end of the floor, his versatile team captain could find a place at a higher level.
“He could be a two guard – or a three possibly,” said McCabe. “He is so versatile. One Division II school, Chestnut Hill College, even mentioned him playing some point guard. I think he can play Division II, no problem – maybe even low Division I.”
McCabe coached Dean in middle school and says that while he had some skills, he has “grown by leaps and bounds” since then.
“He had 30 against Wissahickon, and he made it look easy,” said McCabe. “He really mixes up his game and is so quick of his feet. I thought he was so good last year, and he is so much better now.
“The thing about Richard is that he looks like he’s not even working hard.”
In reality, Dean has put in a tremendous amount of effort to make his skill set look effortless.
“He lives, eats and sleeps the game,” said McCabe. “I knew he had the ability to be a very good player. It was just a matter of how much he wanted it, and he got hungrier and hungrier.”
Added Dean, “I always had skills, but hard work helped also. Ever since my freshman year, every offseason, I try to make some more progress.”
With McCabe and Morris doing the preaching, Dean has been a willing member of the choir, as he is putting forth the same effort in the classroom in an attempt to improve his GPA from around 2.6 to the 3.0 range.
Morris teaches classes in marketing, entrepreneurship and web design in Bensalem’s Business Department and is as impressed with Dean’s improvement in the classroom as much as on the basketball court.
“Rich has become a better student over the last two years,” said Morris. “Last year his grades were okay. This year, he is doing well. Rich's first two years of high school he did not do well in the classroom. It was a combination of his rough home life at the time and not taking school serious enough.
“Although Rich was a great kid and didn't show his troubled home life through his emotions, this is one place it affected him, the classroom, but he has turned it around academically. His success on the court and newfound success in the classroom should definitely propel him at the next level. Any coach that will get Rich next year will be very impressed with the whole package.”
Over the course of the development of their close personal relationship, Morris completely understands what drives Dean.
“Rich has worked extremely hard this whole offseason,” said Morris. “Last year, Rich had a good junior year. He earned second-team all-league and we almost pulled off the biggest upset in District 1 history. Rich was a big part of that. Rich is the type of person that was not satisfied with the little bit of success.”
During the past offseason, Dean, according to Morris, changed his diet and is in even better shape than last season.
“We had many talks about drinking more water and not eating bad,” Morris said. “Rich loved drinking juice. He started drinking water and even has said, ‘Coach you are right, water isn't that bad.’ He also worked hard on his ball-handling skills this past season. He knew he would be playing on the wing and possibly sometimes at the point. He will do whatever it takes for our team to go further in the playoffs.
“In addition to working on his ball handling, there were many repetitions on his jump shot, including changing his release point, working on sliding quicker side to side when you are guarding the perimeter more as well as getting stronger to defend and rebound underneath. Rich was going on runs around his neighborhood on our off days in the offseason.
“What makes Rich tick is the vision of success. Rich works hard because he knows that will ultimately give him an advantage when he steps on the court. Rich came into the season in the best shape of his life. His willingness to work hard is what leads him to success.”
Dean is the team captain and, although quiet by nature, he understands the role and is coming out of his shell.
“He leads with his play,” said McCabe. “I’ve definitely seen him try to get more vocal this year.”
Try? Dean may take umbrage with that assessment.
“This year, I’m starting to talk more,” said Dean, adding he is one of six or seven seniors and three returning starters on the roster. “I give the before-the-game speech and talk to the young players. Still, I try to lead more by example than by my words.”
A year ago, Bensalem slipped into the district playoffs as the 32nd – and final seed – and nearly shocked the world by taking top-seed Coatesville to the wire.
Dean is looking to put his concussion in the rearview mirror and have a senior year to remember. While he aspires to be a first-team all-league choice, he is driven most by the team goals.
“This year, I hope we can get farther,” he said. “I’d like for us to go all the way to states.
“I just want our record to look good, and just get us up there in the rankings and make other people notice us.”
Killing with Kindness
While he might have a chip on his shoulder about how the Bensalem program is viewed from a historical perspective, it is far from who the real Richard Dean is in his heart.
“He is quiet, respectful and kind,” said McCabe. “He was a pleasure to teach, and is a pleasure to coach. More than basketball, he is a great person. He cares – genuinely cares – about people. I think, because of his own hardships, he sees other people and wants to talk to them and help them.”
“I agree with that,” said Dean. “Being mean doesn’t get you anywhere.”
And it would not suit him too well anyway.
“Rich is an extremely kind person. I notice it when I see him around his peers,” said Morris. “He is always there for them, willing to give up what he has for others. I also see it when he is around my family. The way he interacts with my kids is like he was a part of our family for years. He leaves a good impression on everyone he meets. He has come with our family to gatherings at our neighbors’ house where they have noticed his kindness as well.
“He is very polite and is a great role model for my own kids. All three of my kids love when Rich comes over. When he is not around, they always ask for him. He genuinely cares about them. He always plays basketball and football with my kids when he is over, makes sure they get their homework done and jokes around. Anyone you talk to about Rich, they will say he is a very nice person.”
When it’s game time, Dean says he puts on a game face “a little bit,” but it is more about maintaining focus.
“I have to stay focused on what I’ve got to do,” he said.
Dean’s persona can be attributed to his belief in a higher power.
“I’d like to thank God,” he said. “Even when I was at my lowest point, he always brought me up. I always believed in God, and my mom always talked about God. Now, after I went through all that, I started praying – praying every night and hoping things would get better.”