By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE March 27, 2001 Justin Dawson of Monticello is out of the proverbial doghouse.
On March 17, the Generals of Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) took a pounding as they lost 78-55 to Cedar Valley (TX) during the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) mens basketball championships at SUNY Delhi.
During the hotly contested game, Dawson, the only local player on the team, picked up a couple of technical fouls and sat out the closing seconds after fouling out.
Dawson, who graduated from Monticello High School in 1999, lost his temper in frustration at not being able to stop his defensive assignment, Cedar Valleys star forward Reggie Griffin (the national tourneys MVP).
Dawson lost his cool after being substituted in the first half, knocked over a chair, but was quickly chilled out by SCCC assistant mens basketball coach Chris DePew.
Justin is an athlete who takes a lot of pride in the way he plays, said DePew. We were up there facing a player (Griffin) who was having the day of his life
and Justin was getting frustrated with the fact that he was having trouble as the whole team was keeping that kid away from the ball.
According to DePew, he took Dawson back to the locker room, where the 6-foot-7 guard/forward said, Coach, Im sorry. We just cant stop that kid.
A lot of people thought Dawson was mad because we were losing, added DePew. But it was because he was so frustrated that [Griffin] was doing anything he wanted to, and we couldnt stop him.
Asked what he thought about playing for the Generals this season, the sophomore swingman replied, I liked it, because it was a lot of fun and we played up and down basketball. Thats the style Im used to.
It was difficult because we had seventeen guys, added Dawson. We had to practice every day [and] there was no day to relax, [but] that got me prepared to move on like Im going to in a couple of months.
Dawson, who was tabbed Region XV Championship Tournament MVP on March 4, earned 48 transferable credits from the local community college and has a better than 2.0 grade point average.
He is considering several Division II offers. According to Dawson, hes planning visits to a couple of Division II schools on Long Island (New York Institute of Technology and C.W. Post), followed by trips to California University (PA), a big-time basketball school and Barton College in North Carolina.
Dawson had his own take on the final game at SUNY Delhi, and the flurry of media reports of his questionable behavior on the court.
I dont really think I lost my cool, it was just a hard battle, he said. To me, everyone blew it out of proportion. I didnt want to hurt that guy (Dawson was hit with a technical after he slammed into Cedar Valleys Chris Tunstall under the basket in the finals closing moments), I went for the ball real hard
I was trying to block the ball out of frustration. I wasnt swinging for the kid.
The kid knew there was no harm intended, [and] he came up to me after the game, added Dawson, who declined comment to the press after the championship battle.
His view on the final? It was a great experience, said Dawson. Most people who play basketball never get a chance to play for a national championship. We played well as a team, but we got beat.
I hope the guys next year can do what we didnt get to do this year, he added.
According to the 19-year old hoopster, he picked up the game of hoops from seeing Michael Jordan on the tube and watching the local guys play.
It keeps you busy, and gives you something to do, said Dawson of his love of putting a ball through a rim. If I play ball, it helps me keep my head straight.
Without basketball, I dont think Id ever be in school, added Dawson. My whole life is basketball.