Duke-bound Dereck Lively is Ready to Make His Teammates Better at Upcoming Nike Hoop Summit
Lively, ESPN’s No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2022, will be playing alongside two future Duke teammates on April 8
Dereck Lively is the No. 1-ranked basketball player in the Class of 2022, according to ESPN. Yet as impressive as that sounds, Lively doesn’t particularly care.
“I don’t think I’m the best player in America,” Lively said. “I don’t feel the weight of that title.”
So, what does Lively care about?
The 7-foot-1-inch center cares about maximizing his skills on the court and his leadership abilities off the court. He cares about making his teammates better. And above all, he cares about winning.
“I just try to be the best possible player I can be,” Lively said. “I put the weight of expectations on myself, so I just try to help my teammates get better and focus on the areas where I can affect the game.”
There certainly are a lot of areas on that list.
“Instead of being a player who always tried to score,” Lively said, “I’ve learned to affect the game by rebounding, passing, blocking shots, defense on and off the ball, and just being the most versatile player I can be.”
It didn’t always used to be this way. The 18-year-old notes that as a sophomore at Westtown School in West Chester, Pennsylvania, he was a much more limited player.
“I used to play more in the dunker spot,” Lively said. “I would just catch dunks and set screens and roll to the basket. Now I’m more involved in offense, defense and the entire game.”
Lively’s versatility and blossoming skill set has attracted the eyes of basketball pundits across the country. The Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, native drew the attention of Duke University, where he will begin playing in the fall. And he has caught the eye of USA Basketball, which selected him to play in this year’s Nike Hoop Summit.
“The Hoop Summit definitely is an accolade that I’m really grateful for,” Lively said. “It’s something I’m very excited for – to play for my country, to show everything I can do, and to show that the top U.S. high school players are on a different level.”
The Nike Hoop Summit will pit 12 of the top American high schoolers against a team of elite international teens. The showdown will take place in Portland, Oregon, on April 8.
For Lively, it also will mark an opportunity to suit up with two of his future Duke teammates – versatile big man Kyle Filipowski and talented swingman Dariq Whitehead.
As for the current version of the Blue Devils, Lively has been watching closely this month as Duke has advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s been a bunch of very entertaining games,” Lively said. “I’m very glad to see them move on, and I’m excited to be a part of March Madness next year.”
Lively acknowledged that even though Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is retiring at season’s end, he still participated in the recruiting process in a complementary role to coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer.
“Just because he’s retiring doesn’t mean that Duke basketball is going to change,” Lively said.
Meanwhile, as Duke’s leadership begins to shift from coach K to coach Scheyer, the leadership in Lively’s world remains as steady as ever. His mother, Kathy Drysdale, continues to be a fixture in his basketball career and his life.
“She’s always been someone I’ve been able to turn to – on and off the court,” Lively said of Drysdale, who scored 1,295 points at Penn State from 1988-92. “I can ask her a question about anything – about footwork, about why a call was made, about how I played or just life skills. My mom is mainly the reason I play basketball anyway.”
Drysdale’s guidance has paid off as Lively led Westtown School to a Pennsylvania state title this season for the second time in three years.
“It was amazing to watch my team grow and watch us compete and build toughness,” Lively said. “There were ups and downs, but each game led to that state title.”
Yet don’t expect the state championships, the gaudy stats or the prestigious rankings to change Lively. He’s come too far for that.
“Even though I’ve been gifted all the accolades and achievements, I’m a humble guy,” he said. “I keep things to myself. I don’t like going out and showing off. I like to stay humble.”
That’s quite a statement from the No. 1 recruit in America.
“That mindset came from my mom,” Lively said. “It definitely came from her. She raised me right.”