For many basketball junkies the tragic news of the passing of Kobe Bryant in January 2020 could have been the worst headline of the year, but at that time nobody had any serious idea just how much the world would change in March 2020 as COVID-19 hit the world harder than a combination of a Lawrence Taylor and Jack “assassin”Taum hit could ever a NFL running back back in the day like Franco Harris. For most basketball players their season ended in March as leagues were cancelled world wide. It wasn´t any different for easyCredit BBL center Derek Pardon who´s season actually ended in late February as he was playing his rookie season in Italy with Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (Italy-Serie A) and broke his hand in a friendly game. From that point on 2020 would be like a nasty dream that didn´t have any future of ending as COVID-19 affected everybody´s lives in some way or another. The American was lucky to get on a plane just before Italy went on complete lock down. He came home with a bad injury and had to deal with isolation and quarantine. The doctors decided not to perform surgery, because of the unsureness of the virus. He was lucky that despite not getting surgery, he was still able to fully recover, but it wasn´t easy. He had to rehab alone at home for 9 weeks. The off season was a struggle for him, but he was fortunate to find a new club in Germany with medi Bayreuth. But COVID-19 didn´t just disappear the way a Isiah Thomas has from the NBA, but remained. COVID-19 didn´t make life on and off the court any easier for him in Germany as the 20-21 season began. “ In Germany, they are very strict with the Covid protocols on and off the court. On the court, we have to take several Covid tests a week, and follow the social distancing rules while not directly on the court. Early on in the season, a lot of teams in the league were being exposed to covid so they would have to quarantine for weeks. In November we were one of those teams. It was extremely hard to go from two weeks of house workouts to playing live BBL games. This frustrated me a lot because it felt like I couldn’t really get in a rhythm. Since the beginning of 2021 the league has done a great job of keeping us protected and safe as possible. Off the court has been a struggle for me. We can’t really interact with our teammates off the court and Bayreuth has been on lockdown for most of the year so I have not been able to explore the city and surrounding towns. Also with the travel restrictions seeing family and friends were not an option. This took a toll on me mentally especially during the holidays. I can definitely say it was one of the hardest years of my life. That’s what makes finishing the season so satisfying because I know I did not quit and I actually because a more mature and stronger person”, stressed Dererk Pardon. Despite all the hardships that he has endured in the last year, it hasn´t effected his game on the court as he has ben able to be that basketball motor and heightened his game from his average rookie season in Italy. Covid-19 in a way has also helped him mature as a player and person off the court. “Covid 19- has made me a stronger person because I had to be resilient and extremely focused on my goals even while being in the middle of a pandemic. I feel if an athlete can endure and get through a year overseas during this time they can get through a lot in anything in life”, warned Dererk Pardon.
Dererk Pardon was born on October 1st, 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio. One thing I never noticed until my basketball buddy Fabian Beierlein told was that Pardon´s first name isn´t written Derrick or Derek, but Dererk. Eurobasket.com hasn´t realized it either as Derek is how his first name is presented on his profile. He didn´t begin to play basketball until seventh grade. He attended Villa Angela-St Joseph high school. He played basketball, but was also talented in football. He made the varsity team in tenth grade and won a division 3 state title. In his junior season he averaged 11,5ppg and 10,5rpg and as a senior recorded 12,3ppg and 11,5rpg while setting a school record 101 blocks and won his second division 3 title. In the title game he just missed getting a triple double as he had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks. The three star recruit then committed to Northwestern despite having offers from Pittsburgh and Xavier. He was going to redshirt his freshman year, but due to injuries began his NCAA career in December. He already showed his abilities recording 28 points and 12 rebounds in a 81-72 win over Nebraska. This was a team where he would have their number for many years All in all his freshman year was one to remember as the club also reached the NCAA tournament losing to Gonzaga. He made the game winning lay up in the crucial and thrilling 67-65 win over Michigan that sent Northwestern to their first ever NCAA tournament. “Beside the Tournament itself that is definitely my favorite moment. It felt like a movie. Seeing all those people cheer for us and getting to share that moment with my teammates was priceless”, stressed Dererk Pardon. As a freshman he played 20 games and averaged : 6.7ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 64.6%, FT: 52.9%
. In his sophomore season, the American who jokes that ex teammate and NBA player Vic Law was too scared to play him in one on one was able to make another jump in his game playing 28 games averaging 8.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.1apg, 1.8bpg, FGP: 61.1%, FT: 54.4%. He had another great performance against Nebraska as he exploded for 19 points and 22 boards in a 73-61 victory which at that time had been the most rebounds since Jim Pitts in 1965. It was obviously one of those times where he felt invincible. “, It was one of those moments where you just felt like the ball was falling in your hands after a while. I got every right bounce”, remembered Dererk Pardon. He also scored 14 points against Iowa and Vanderbilt. He also had a spectacular game against Rutgers as he posted 8 points, 11 boards and 8 blocks in the 69-60 win. His game made another jump his junior year as he played 32 games averaging 11.3ppg, 7.1rpg, 1.2apg, 1.8bpg, FGP: 62.2%, FT: 61.5%. He scored in double figures in 19 games and had four double doubles. He scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against Nebraska and had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks in a win against Minnesota.
He finished his NCAA career improving his scoring again as a senior playing 32 games averaging 14.0ppg, 7.8rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 60.7%, 3PT: 21.4%, FT: 68.3%. When he looks back at his NCAA career at Northwestern(NCAA), he is very pleased of how his game grew. “My game developed a lot at Northwestern. I learned how to actually play the game of basketball. My game was raw coming out of high school and NU allowed me to develop my skills over my four years”, stated Dererk Pardon. He scored in double figures in 28 games and had 8 double doubles. Some of his most memorable games included a 24 point and 10 rebound game in a tough 68-66 loss against Indiana, 20 points in a loss to Michigan and 20 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Ohio State. He knows that he is very blessed for having Chris Collins at Northwestern as his coach. “Coach Collins along with my high school coach just taught me how to be a professional on and off the court. To do things the right way and give your all. they were also very tough coaches so that help me have tough skin in my profession career”, warned Dererk Pardon. He also will never forget his special relationship to teammate Vic Law who would reach the NBA. “It was great playing with Vic. He’s an extremely competitive and talented player. We both are high energy guys so I think that’s where we connected on the court. I knew he was going to give his all and he knew I would do the same. Off the court he’s a funny and enthusiastic dude. We would always hang out together and quickly became the best of friends. My fondest memory with him on the court would have to be the NCAA tournament in 2017. It was a great experience I got to share with my brother. Off the court he would just say the times we would hang out at each others apartments”, expressed Derek Pardon. He departed from Northwestern as the school´s all-time leader in career field goal percentage at 603. He also reached the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals in 2017 and was a All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2019 and made the Big Ten All-Sportsmanship Team in 2019.
Before turning professional the American who last watched Seven starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman played at the well known Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (Pre-NBA Draft) playing 3 games averaging 10.7ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.3apg. He then got the special opportunity to play NBA Summer League with the Orlando Magic (MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas) playing 3 games averaging 5.7ppg, 2.3rpg, FGP: 53.8%, FT: 60.0%. “The summer league was a great experience for me. I enjoyed being around all those great players and coaches. being there gave me the confidence that I could one day play in that league”, stressed Derek Pardon. The NBA is a dream for every basketball player and for the American getting to the highest level is one that he sees being able to be reality one day. “I feel like I keep up good with those guys. I don’t feel like I’m too far removed from the NBA. if I have a great summer and an opportunity anything can happen”, warned Dererk Pardon. He was teammates with ex NBA player Amile Jefferson and current ratiopharm Ulm big man John Petrucelli. In his first BBL game, he suffered a brutal 101-76 loss against ratiopharm Ulm scoring 7 points and hauling down 9 rebounds while his counterpart also played his first BBL game scoring 16 points grabbing 8 boards and dishing out 7 assists. “Both were really good dudes. They played very hard especially for it being summer league. You could tell those two from playing there already were the heart and soul of that Lakeland Magic team”, remembered Dererk Pardon. He then began his professional season in Italy with Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia (Serie A) playing 21 games and averaging 6.1ppg, 5.2rpg, FGP: 54.3%, FT: 74.4%. He scored in double figures in four games and registered one double double. He had 16 points against Virtus Rome and 11 assists against Cantu. Overall it wasn´t an easy rookie season as the club was stacked with a lot of talent. He remembered that he had a lot of soul searching to do as he was very far away from home. “I realized that I was actually by myself. Yes, after a while I developed relationships with teammates but they still had their own lives. I had a lot of time to think about who I was as a person and I had to mature on and off the court quickly”, said Dererk Pardon. A plus often when playing on a deep talented team is that you will have many veterans by your side. One of those was American Josh Owens. He had won a NIT title at Stanford(NCAA), won a title in Israel and played four years in Italy and knew the ropes. “ I had a great relationship with Josh. He is truly a vet’s vet and knows how to get things done the right way. He taught me a lot on the court and getting to train with him everyday only sharpened my game. Off the court he is also someone I look up to because he handles his business as a true professional”, stated Dererk Pardon.
The American who lists NBA legends MJ, Lebron, Kobe, and Magic Johnson in his personal NBA Mount Rushmore moved to Germany in his second professional season with medi Bayreuth. Despite having a tough rookie season in Italy, he flourished in Germany and is thankful for his stay in Italy. “It has been a great experience playing in the BBL. There are a lot of great teams and players in this league so I was very excited to play against top notch competition. I feel like Italy prepared me for the physicality of the BBL so it was definitely an easier transition. As far as Medi I am extremely happy with the club and have enjoyed all the staff and playing with my teammates”, said Dererk Pardon. The team had been playing better basketball as of late and the playoffs were a realistic goal in April 2021. “I am very confident that we can accomplish that goal. We just have to continue to compete every game on both ends of the floor and take it one game at a time”, warned Dererk Pardon. He and German big man Andreas Seiferth form a very potent duo under the basket. They are a bit off the radar in the league in terms of their worth to the team, but the American knows what they bring to the table and is blessed having him as a teammate. “It has been great playing with Andreas. Having a vet that has 10 plus years of experience that you can go against every day is priceless. He taught me a lot of little things that can make me a great pro. He’s extremely skilled and just knows how to play the game on both ends. Andreas and I hold down the fort and are the anchors at both ends of the court. We just try to bring what the team needs most that night if it means scoring more or making an impact on the defensive end”, stressed Dererk Pardon. Even if he has a lot of American teammates, he has found a big respect for his German teammates like captain and German national player Bastian Doreth. “Basti is just an absolute leader. He gets people in the right spots, holds his teammates accountable and just makes the games easier for everybody around him. He never takes a play off and as his teammate you just know he will give his all every game”, warned Dererk Pardon.
His toughest opponent that he dueled in the NCAA was current Atlanta Hawk John Collins a guy he remembers as being very special and having a motor like he has. He is an undersized 203cm center that compares his game to current Los Angeles Laker Montrezl Harrell who is also undersized but is strong, athletic and tough enough to guard players 3 or 4 inches taller than him. He also has the speed and mobility to get around bigger defenders. “I feel like we have similar motors. He gives 110% every game and that’s something I pride myself in”, warned Dererk Pardon. He finished his season in Germany with medi Bayreuth averaging 11,2ppg, 6,0rpg, 1,2apg and 1,1bpg. The lefty rarely shoots from farther away than 14 feet thus giving him a high field goal percentage. He shot 60% or better in all four years in the NCAA, but last season dropped to 54% in Italy. In Germany he shot at a high rate again at 67%. He got a big laugh when I asked him how realistic 70% is. “ I’m not sure honestly, I’m just trying to improve every year to become a better ball player. if 70% from the field ends up being a by product from that then I’ll be very happy”, added Dererk Pardon. He is a guy that can score, rebound and block shots, but sees his biggest strength somewhere else. “I think my biggest asset is my motor. When I’m grabbing rebounds and flying around on defense, that’s when my offense comes into play”, warned Dererk Pardon. He is a very ambitious defender that knows how to block shots. For him it´s all about timing and has learned when to go for the ball and when to keep his hands up when defending in the paint. He is also ready to make the next step on defense. “ To me, a lot of defense is effort and effort is one thing you can always control on the court. you can’t always control your shots, playing time or how many times you get the ball but you can dictate how hard you play. My next step would be to be able to defend the guard spot. Becoming a more versatile defender would make me more valuable to teams”, stressed Dererk Pardon. But he also wants to continue to become a better offensive player. “Definitely shooting is a part of my game I will constantly work on. It’s a big topic for me this summer and hopefully it will become a part of me in the future”, added Dererk Pardon. He is just at the start of his professional career and he continues to get better each game. He is a player that will always find a way to get points. He also knows that if he can continue to give the needed energy and play defense, that that will help spark his offense. As long as his motivation and love for the game is always present, his motor will always be on. That is something that any club at any level will be more than happy to experience on a daily basis.