Dallas Lauderdale: Solon's Own

Solon, Ohio has had plenty of outstanding sports teams and athletes, one of whom -- wide receiver Drew Carter -- played at Ohio State and now plays for the Carolina Panthers. The latest is national basketball recruit Dallas Lauderdale, who is getting attention from the top programs in America. Learn more about Lauderdale in this feature.

Undoubtedly a host of sports fans gathered Sunday evening at any random sports bar, such as the Slam Jam Sports Bar & Grill in Solon, and cheered as hometown hero Drew Carter scored on a 47-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship.

However, at least one man in town was probably not watching the former Ohio State wide receiver etch himself in NFL history with 88 yards for the Carolina Panthers in a 34-14 loss to Seatle.

It's not that Dallas Lauderdale, a 6-9 junior center at Solon High School, probably wasn't interested in Carter, the former Solon High School star. But he was probably in the high school gymnasium on Inwood Drive, a familiar place for the developing prospect.

Lauderdale has already captured the interested eyes of the community in his own right. Friday nights in Solon are usually spent packing a couple of thousand interested observers into Solon High School to see the town's next big star.

College basketball's elite coaches are among many that have come along to see him. Ohio State's Thad Matta, Michigan's Tommy Amaker, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and North Carolina's Roy Williams are just some of the names.

Williams said of Lauderdale last February, following a visit to one of Solon's playoff games that he had, "never seen someone as long as Dallas," according to his AAU coach of the Cleveland Titans, Tim Hewitt.

His 6-foot, 9-inch frame carries almost a 7-1 wingspan.

On the court, these coaches see an animal that takes no prisoners. They see a center scoring 23 points and averaging 14 rebounds a game for the state's No. 4-ranked team in Division I.

But off the court, autograph seekers and young Solon residents see a humble, polite kid – the son of a preacher.

They see a local celebrity of sorts in their own town, their own school and in their own lives. Carter is seen through big screen televisions and satellite but Lauderdale is living the fame right in front of them.

"It's also something that's quite hard to keep a level head," Lauderdale says of playing role model, "but my family helps me. I love giving back to the community."

He can only give so much.

"Really, I'm still learning the game myself," he added. "So I just take what I learn and pass it on."

The level head would be hard to keep considering the company he keeps.

An ego boost from Williams or Matta would be enough of a test in humility, but so too would the highest compliments from King James – an honor Lauderdale received last spring following their season.

He and his father, Dallas Sr., met LeBron at a Cavaliers game when Lauderdale's cousin had a mutual friend of James', and the experience stuck with him.

"We just talked before the game and he just said, ‘keep doing what you're doing,'" Lauderdale recalled. "I guess someone told him about me or he read about me in the Plain Dealer or whatever."

What he's doing, on and off the court, has not only caught the attention of college recruiters, Solon basketball fans and LeBron James, but also the curiosity of many college basketball fans that follow the recruiting process.

That's the same process that Lauderdale doesn't particularly want to deal with. He knowingly concentrates on his team, his friends, faith and family as his father handles the rest.

"I'm showing interest in everybody," Lauderdale explained. "I haven't taken anybody out of the equation yet and I'm still keeping in contact with all the coaches that keep in contact with me – coaches from Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Syracuse, North Carolina, Louisville and a couple more of them."

He knows that time will eventually come where he can't avoid it.

"Maybe after the season, maybe after the season," Lauderdale explained. "That's my goal."

There is precedent both in Solon and in his life of Lauderdale possibly deciding to become a Buckeye when inevitably he deals with that decision, currently handled by his father.

While Solon's Carter was a Buckeye, Lauderdale's friend and AAU teammate David Lighty is also signed to play for Matta's Buckeyes next season. For the moment, however, Lauderdale slyly avoids that speculation and smiles.

He knows he can't avoid hearing about it from anyone around, even other college coaches. But even those coaches have given him positive reports on the in-state school and other schools hoping to land his services.

"If anything, schools have given me plusses about other teams," Lauderdale noted. "Like schools that aren't Ohio State have said that ‘Ohio State is an excellent choice for you because it's at home, it's close to home.'"

"Most schools have not downgraded the other schools."

Many people wonder how Lauderdale does it. He handles the media attention, the autographs, the questions of where he will go to school and everything else associated with being Solon's next hero.

Above everything, one could reasonably assume the quiet, humble 17-year old who has successfully led by example in dealing with his mother Carol's multiple sclerosis must have a dual personality as he turns into an aggressive force on the basketball floor.

Hewitt, the man who sees him as much as anyone during the summer, including his family, has likened Lauderdale to someone with the same characteristics.

"He reminds me at this young age of a Patrick Ewing," Hewitt said in February of 2005.

It's this younger Ewing that the Comets must count on to streak to a possible state championship.

Last season, Solon rode Lauderdale's 20 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks a game to a 25-0 record before falling on a last-second 3-pointer in the regional finals to Mansfield Senior.

This year, the Comets, 10-0 as of this past weekend, are hoping for similar results, but hope to play a few more games. Teams are doing everything in their power to deflect the Comets' star power, including double and triple teaming Lauderdale.

"It has really helped my passing ability," he explained. "I've been able to see open players and make passes a lot more out of traps and double and triple teams. I've had a lot more assists these first 10 games than any time last season."

In addition to the double and triple teams, opponents have often resorted to fouling Lauderdale intentionally – hoping he will miss foul shots from the charity stripe.

Lauderdale says he has prepared more for that mentality in practice by playing 5-against-8 with the three extra players guarding – and also fouling – him.

"That's a compliment when other teams are saying the only way we can stop you is by fouling," the composed kid concluded.

Carter's Panthers are out of the playoffs, meaning the focus will once again be totally on Lauderdale. For all intents and purposes, as well as clichés, he will be the center of Solon's attention.

There will be no sports bars with televised coverage of Solon, so they will pack the stands to see their beloved Comets.

Young Solon fans will watch their emerging hero as he carries on the community tradition of excellence. And a team will put Lauderdale at the line on purpose.

He must compose himself and show a little bit of discipline, patience and humility tough to him by his family and expected of this particular role model.

"I just smile and keep playing," Lauderdale says of those situations.

And such is the life of Solon's newest hero.

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