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Wasn’t that exactly what Alvin Gentry, his coach with the New Orleans Pelicans, had told the 6’6” rookie shooting guard just a few weeks earlier? What with his goofy laugh, what with his devotion to signing autographs, what with his cravings for Chipotle burritos and pineapple-topped pizza, what with his talent for chess and his obsession with Xbox.“He was a really good kid,” says Justin Hawkins, his teammate in high school and then at UNLV. On the basketball court, it revealed itself when Dejean-Jones felt his teammates weren’t hustling, or a play wasn’t designed correctly, or his unit wasn’t living up to its potential, or a practice felt disheveled.
If he trusted you, he could open up and really let himself go.”But there was also this —this Bruce Banner-morphs-into-the-Incredible Hulk kind of rage that, upon reaching its boiling point, sent people running.
His birth father, Walter Dejean, re-emerged when Bryce was in ninth grade—a complicated period of divergent adult voices telling him what was best. One afternoon, he fractured teammate Garrett Jackson’s nose after being led to believe the freshman forward had spiked his drink.“He was a good kid,” says Kevin O’Neill, the Trojans coach, “who made some bad mistakes.”Bryce moved on to UNLV the following year and remained there for three seasons. After sitting out the requisite redshirt year, he averaged 10.3 points and 2.3 assists in 2012-13. “I don’t think I’ve ever coached someone who wanted to win so badly.” Yet Rice, too, had to boot Dejean-Jones from multiple practices—sometimes forcibly.“He definitely had moods, and there were times you’d need help from assistants getting him off the floor,” Rice says.According to witness reports, he proceeded to kick and punch the metal front door, repeatedly and with such force that he broke through a pair of deadbolts.Once inside, he tried opening the bedroom door, only to find that it too was locked.“This is not an embellishment: Bryce would dive on the floor five, six, seven times per game. There are guys who don’t dive that often in a full season. There were no fights, no punches, no complaints.“I like it here,” Dejean-Jones told the Unlike other NBA head coaches, who consider D-League refugees little more than sideline filler, Gentry wanted to see what the kid could do.Dejean-Jones averaged 19.2 points in nine games with Boise, and while many of his teammates found his competitiveness insufferable, he could not have cared less. “He was chasing it with everything he had.”That’s why, when Dell Demps, general manager of the Pelicans, called with a 10-day contract offer Jan. So after coming in off the bench for his first three games, Dejean-Jones moved into the starting lineup.
But, as O’Neill did at USC, UNLV coach Dave Rice found Dejean-Jones difficult to handle. “But I’m telling you, he didn’t want to hurt people. If he trusted you, he could open up and really let himself go.”Kendrick declined to comment about the incident, but according to a source close to the UNLV program, Kendrick threatened to “bust” Dejean-Jones “in the head”—which Bryce interpreted as a death threat.