Adversity Hasn't Stop Pollard's Progression

Adversity Hasn't Stop Pollard's Progression

The past few years have been extremely difficult for Devonta Pollard and his mother, Jessie Mae Brown.

The past few years have been extremely difficult for Devonta Pollard and his mother, Jessie Mae Brown.

A close family, Pollard lost his father, Ervin Pollard, in August of 2009 after a battle with cancer. Mr. Pollard was heavily involved in his son's athletic career and his passing was difficult for both Devonta and his mother.

"When my dad was here they were always at my games," said Pollard. "I wouldn't go to a practice, a game, or a tournament without at least one of them there supporting me.

"The first time I went somewhere without them it came when my dad was first diagnosed with cancer. I had a tournament in Tuscaloosa and my mom, she asked if I wanted her to come and she'd try to bring him, but I told her to let him rest up and I would be okay. That was the first time I was without them at something with basketball."

Pollard's mother has now made an effort to attend virtually all of his activities, providing the much-needed support.

"Since he's been gone, it's like she took up the slack for both of them," said Pollard "My mom, she's everywhere now. School, practices, workouts, she's at all of them with me.

"We've become so much closer. She's my motivation, and I think losing my dad has brought us even closer together. Sometimes we just get together and laugh about the old times or cry about the old times, but we're together."

They faced adversity once again recently when in late-April tornadoes ripped through their small town of Portersville, Mississippi. The destruction left Pollard and his mother homeless.

"About the only things we were able to save was our two cars," said Pollard. "It took everything... we've been hanging on ever since then. We've been staying with my aunt, but we just got a condo, a little apartment.

"We've been managing though. My girlfriend's mom, my brother, aunt's and uncle's... they've been there for me and my mom."

The challenges Pollard has had to face off-the-court hasn't prevented his rapid development on the hardwood, as he is one of the top prospects in the 2012 class. Rated the No. 31 player in the country by Scout.com, Pollard led the Southern Phenoms to the Bob Gibbons 2011 Tournament of Champions national title, and he took home the MVP award.

"It was a big tournament for us," he said. "We went up there as underdogs, country boys from Mississippi, but we knew we could do it. We have some of the top players in the state and the country, so it was not a question of if we could do it.

"Winning the MVP was a good feeling for me. It shows me that I impressed some of the people that were there. I really couldn't of got it without my teammates though. We played well together... I thank those guys."

Observers at the tournament couldn't help but notice Jessie Mae Brown cheering loudly for her son from the stands. It was particularly entertaining during the title game when she got into a playful shouting match with a fan of the Florida Panthers, the Phenoms' opponent in the finals.

"That's just her," said Pollard, laughing. "She's been that way ever since I've been playing basketball. She looks for nothing but greatness from me, and that's all I try to give her.

"When I'm not doing what she knows I can do or if I'm doing less than I'm capable of she will be in my ear. I used to lay back and give up when I was little but now I see that she only does it to motivate me and make me better."

Brown was a star hoops player as well, in fact in their hometown she is well-known for her basketball accomplishments. After a standout college career at Delta State and South Alabama she was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1981 Women's Basketball League Draft by the Chicago Hustle. A 6-foot-2 forward, Brown has certainly influenced her son's game.

"I know she was a very good basketball player so I listen to her," said Pollard. "She knows what it takes to be a great player, and I'm working hard for her."

Checking in at nearly 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Pollard is a big-time athlete who can alter and block shots defensively, start and lead fastbreaks, and knock down jumpers. He is developing a nice mid-range game and gives great effort on both ends. It's no surprise that he is a coveted recruit.

"I'm a guy that can take a smaller guy down low and a bigger guy outside," he said. "I try to be an all-around player... a guy that can do a little bit of everything. My man in the pros that I try to put my game to is LeBron [James]. I just have the mentality of attacking. I can do a little bit of everything so I just try to use [my versatility] to my advantage.

"I'm still working on my jump shot and getting bigger... stronger. I also want to work on my footwork and ball handling skills. I want to work on everything a player has to work on to get better and increase his game to a higher level."

Pollard claims offers from all of the programs on his list.

"I'm being recruited by colleges to play small forward," he stated. "They are all the same, but I've got Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgetown, LSU, Kentucky, Missouri, and NC State. I can't think of anymore right off the top."

NC State is one of the latest schools to join the mix, and Pollard was able to take a quick tour of the campus following the Tournament of Champions.

"We stopped by NC State, but I didn't get too stay long," he said. "We looked at the gym, the weight room, and the facilities. I know they are building some more stuff too. Because we had to get back, I talked to the coaches and we're trying to get back up there for another visit.

"The coaches at NC State are nice. It seems like if a player goes there they would be comfortable and the coaches would take care of them. It's a nice place."

Picking a college isn't on Pollard's list of things to do right now. However, he knows that when the time comes distance won't be a factor because his mother will be right there with him, wherever he end sup.

"She said no matter where I go she'd go with me my first year," he said. "After that first year and I'm comfortable she would move back here and then I can visit her.

"I'm still wide open with schools. I want to find a place where I will be comfortable with the athletic programs and know they have a good coaching staff."

Pollard averaged 25 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 4.5 blocks as a junior for De Kalb (MS) Kemper County High School.

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