TERRE HAUTE —
When Mike Saunders first met Dexter Shouse Jr. in late 2011, he figured there was no way the Terre Haute youth could be as great a basketball player as his proud papa claimed.
But one look at young Shouse’s advanced shooting, dribbling and passing proficiency for his age convinced Saunders, president of the Indianapolis-based George Hill Rising Stars Foundation, that this was no hype situation.
Dexter Shouse Jr. is the real deal, Saunders learned.
“He’s a monster on the basketball court and a young gentleman off the court,” Saunders told the Tribune-Star. “He’s one kid who can literally put a team on his back and carry it.”
Saunders continued to praise the attitude of Shouse Jr., who attended fifth grade at Davis Park Elementary School in 2011-12 and grew up developing his hoop skills at the Terre Haute Boys & Girls Club.
“He lets his actions speak louder than his words,” Saunders noted. “No trash talking from him. He never takes plays off. He’s also supportive of his teammates.”
So why make such a big deal out of a basketball player who just turned 12 in May?
Well, the 5-foot-11, 150-pound Shouse Jr. was ranked No. 1 in the nation among incoming sixth-graders (Class of 2019 high school graduates) at the Hoop Scoop All-American Camp in Louisville, Ky., and No. 4 among fifth-graders at the Middle School Elite National Basketball Camp in Indianapolis a few months ago.
His father, Dexter Shouse Sr., said young Dexter was invited to another national camp this year but could not attend because of a prior commitment with the Riley 11-year-old baseball all-stars. But the talented youngster did play for the George Hill Rising Stars 11-year-old basketball team, which placed 11th in the AAU national tournament last week at Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Saunders views young Shouse as a wing as he moves on to higher levels of basketball. “He’ll probably go into next season as the top sixth-grader in the nation,” Saunders proclaimed. “He’ll be like a Kevin Durant, a LeBron James, a big, strong athletic wing.
“He’s done a great job with our program so far. He’s got a great attitude and he’s a special talent. I’ve been doing AAU for three years and I’ve seen a lot of young talent from everywhere … and Dexter’s a very, very special talent. If he stays on the right path, he’s going to be a kid who makes it.”
Dexter Sr. said he isn’t sure which school his son will attend in the fall, although a decision is coming soon. The Shouses live in the Terre Haute South High School district, but Dexter Sr. pointed out that anything can happen before young Dexter — who was born in Indianapolis — enters ninth grade in three years.
“I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I think he can be one of the best ever in the state,” said Dexter Shouse Sr., who played for Terre Haute North High School, Panola Junior College in Texas, the University of South Alabama, several professional overseas teams and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers (three games in 1989-90) when he was younger.
“That’s if he keeps his grades up and he keeps growing. The sky’s the limit. You just never know.”
Longtime Terre Haute basketball fans over 45 might remember big Dexter being able to dunk a basketball on a 10-foot goal when he was in ninth grade.
Right now, “little Dexter” reportedly dunks on a 9-foot goal. “He can run like a grown man down the floor,” Shouse Sr. emphasized.
Shouse Sr. and Saunders agree that little Dexter is grounded and humble, which isn’t always the case with youngsters who constantly receive praise.
“He doesn’t lose his cool,” Dexter Shouse Sr. added.
Big Dexter said he’s taught his son to “respect his elders,” which was evident during an interview last week when the 12-year-old finished many of his answers with “sir.”
Little Dexter credits his dad with helping him in and out of the gym.
“He gives me advice on how to do what he did on the basketball court, but only better,” the well-mannered youth explained. “But he tells me to concentrate on the books too.”
Asked about his adult goals, little Dexter’s response didn’t sound much different than other youngsters his age: “Playing in the NBA and Major League Baseball.”
To accomplish anything close to that, young Shouse realizes he’ll need to keep working hard at basketball against tough competition and make good grades in school so he can be recruited by colleges such as Indiana and Kentucky.
“I like going to these [basketball] camps,” Dexter Shouse Jr. mentioned. “It’s great experience and I enjoy playing with the top prospects in the nation.”