By Rocco Geppi
Denzel Dulin was an easy going teenager who took everything in stride; despite his life circumstances was recruited out of preparatory school at 19-years-old to play basketball at CCBC Essex by then head men’s coach Mike Francis.
Dulin, 21, was raised by his brother, during his high school years, after the death of their mother from colon cancer. Anthony Dulin became a parent to his younger brother, at age 27, with a fiancé and not yet 1-year-old daughter.
His brother, now 33, does not regret having to take on such an enormous responsibility.
“Denzel has always been a great kid,” Anthony said. “He’s never given me any kind of problems. He always listens; he always tries to do the right thing.”
Although separated by more than 10 years, the two brothers have always been close.
“It’s a fun relationship, because that’s your older brother, and then something like [our mother’s passing] happens and the roles kind of change,” the younger Dulin said. “I would say he did a great job as far as bringing me up and making me into the man I am today.”
But what Denzel may not realize is that he too had a similar effect on Anthony.
“Hearing that makes everything worth it,” said Anthony Dulin of his brother’s comments. “But to be honest, I can give him the same credit for making me the man I am as well. I learned a lot just trying to do the best by him, and put him in situations to be successful. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about sacrificing and responsibilities, just dealing with that whole situation, both my wife and I.”
It would have been understandable if Denzel decided to act out in school, shut down emotionally or check out on the court. But that did not happen.
Even when the family moved to Georgia from Queens, N.Y. after Denzel’s freshman year of high school, he did not balk.
He made varsity as a freshman at Forest Hills High School in Queens and would do the same as a sophomore at a new school 879 miles from home.
However, Anthony and his wife recognized that the move was not the way to separate themselves from their loss.
The change of scenery lasted just one year before they returned to the big apple.
Dulin again attended Forest Hills and played varsity basketball his final two years of high school.
The following fall, he enrolled in Southern Tech Academy, a college preparatory school in Charlotte, N.C.
He spent one year not only playing basketball, but becoming better prepared for the transition to college.
Dulin’s college career began in the fall of 2012, when he joined CCBC Essex. A few months later was playing basketball for the Knights and learned valuable lessons during his time with Francis.
“He was a great coach,” Dulin said of his first college coach. “He definitely taught me a lot of things I didn’t know about on the basketball court. Little things, like he was impactful to make sure we were accountable as a team.
“He brought a great energy to practices, so it was always a great practice. Even on days I didn’t feel like practicing, he would pick me up, because just his energy made you want to be there.”
In his first year of college basketball, Dulin averaged 12 points per game (38.2% shooting), 2.6 assists and made 62.2% of his free throw attempts in 14 games.
Dulin also collected three rebounds per game, 14 steals and shot 27.7% on three pointers.
“I first saw Denzel as a high school sophomore,” Francis said. “I was drawn to his ability to score. He was a strong and tough kid that later developed a good jump shot as a senior in high school.
“He never let his [mother’s death] affect him on the court. That may be where his toughness came from; the basketball court was his safe haven.”
The CCBC Essex men’s basketball program was dissolved at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year, so Dulin transferred to CCBC Dundalk to continue his education and basketball career.
There was no sophomore slump for Dulin, as he raised most of his offensive statistics, earning in-season and postseason honors along the way.
In 24 games, he averaged 18.4 points per game (48.5% shooting), made 72.8% of his free throws, pulled down 4.4 rebounds per game, had 40 steals and made 31.6% of his three-point attempts.
“We were never truly dependent on one person,” said
CCBC Dundalk head men’s basketball coach Jaron Taylor.
“But [Denzel] was usually that guy that knew what to do. He
had experience playing in the Maryland JUCO conference, so he was
usually able to step up to the occasion.”
Dulin was the Maryland JUCO Male Student-Athlete of the Month for December and was named to the All NJCAA Division II Region XX Second Team and All Maryland JUCO Conference Second Team.
He was also voted by coaches as CCBC Dundalk’s 2013-2014 Male Athlete of the Year and participated in the Maryland JUCO All-Star Game.
Dulin understands that the road to success is not often smooth and easy. There are detours and obstacles that stand in the way of one’s goals in life.
At an age when most teenagers are figuring out how to navigate high school, Dulin (15-years-old at the time) and his family were grieving the loss of his mother.
The fact that his mother was able to impart such wisdom before departing has not since been lost.
“Of course she was a big impact on my life,” Dulin said. “If anything, my mom taught me a lot as far as values and being accountable as a man and taking care of my responsibilities.”
And it continued with his brother.
Anthony Dulin said he is unsure what kind of man he would have turned out to be were it not for Denzel.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Anthony said. “I don’t know what kind of person I would have been without him.
“Denzel helped prepare my wife and I for having kids. We learned early about responsibility and how to care for someone.”
Denzel wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps and have a career in real estate after college.
He continues to build on the values his mother instilled, while incorporating the life lessons he’s learned from his brother.
On May 31, Dulin graduated from CCBC with an Associate of Arts degree in general studies. Earlier that month, he signed a letter of intent and accepted an athletic scholarship to attend and play basketball at Bethune-Cookman, a Division I university in Dayton Beach, Fla.
Dulin contributes his success – on and off the court – to a caring family, working hard and staying optimistic.
“Of course when you lose your mother it’s one of the toughest things and makes it difficult to stay focused on what you have to do,” Dulin said. “So that was definitely a tough time and with the help of my brother [Anthony], my family and other siblings, they stuck by me and I was able to stay on track and go forward.
“I would say, as hard as it may seem, stay positive,” he continued. “It’s tough to stay positive, have the right mindset, right head on your shoulders to go forward. But I feel like if you can make it through [the death of a loved one], you can make it through anything.”