Funny how life works out, DeShawn Painter said he told Old Dominion basketball coach Blaine Taylor in a recent conversation.
"You try so hard to get away from the place you were born and raised and you end up coming back to it," Painter said Monday, discussing his decision to transfer from North Carolina State to ODU.
Painter, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward, will come back to his native Norfolk in order to be closer to his family -- specifically his ailing great-grandmother.
"It was really tough," Painter said of the decision to transfer. "I played the majority of my career at N.C. State. We had a Sweet 16 team this year. I feel like we have a chance at the Final Four (next year). That makes it tough. But at this point, I think it's more important that I spend time with my family, and I want to be close to them."
Painter is a junior with one year of eligibility remaining. He averaged 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season, while averaging 20 minutes per game for the Wolfpack's Sweet 16 team.
Taylor said that there was no hesitation about bringing in Painter, despite just one year remaining.
"The kind of student he is, the kind of kid he is," Taylor said, "there's no reason that you wouldn't have him in your program for multiple years, if that was the case."
Painter and the ODU program will apply to the NCAA so that he can play right away and not sit out a year, standard procedure for Division I football, basketball and ice hockey transfers.
"Right now, that's not my main focal point," Painter said. "It's a big deal, but my focal point is my family. Me being eligible right away is out of my control. What I can control is being there for my family."
The NCAA sometimes grants transfers immediate eligibility in the event of family illness or emergency. For example, last year Harlem, N.Y., native Lamont "Momo" Jones transferred from Arizona to Iona to be closer to his ailing grandmother. He helped the Gaels to the NCAA tournament.
"There's a possibility that he can play sooner rather than later," Taylor said, "but we're not banking on that."
If Painter can play immediately, he will provide a boost for a team that lost four key seniors from a 22-win squad and that brings in a five-man freshmen class. The former Booker T. Washington standout improved each year he was at N.C. State. He started seven games last season and flourished in his role as sixth man.
"The term that I would use is, he's been down the trail a'ways," Taylor said. "For a relatively young, new and different roster to add a player who has been exposed to Division I basketball, to very good competition, to a meaningful role on a good team, I think that's nice Kool-Aid to add to the punch.
"One thing about DeShawn, he's been around a lot of really good basketball players, but I think he has a strong feeling about being part of a good team. He was just on a good team, and I think that's important to him. I think our program represents good teams and people that enjoy one another and work toward a common cause, and I think he'll add to that and embrace that."
But Painter said that his maternal great-grandmother's declining health pulled him home.
"She's doing well for the moment, and I want to spend time with her," Painter said. "It's not just about her. It's about my mother and my whole family. I want to be there for all of them. But with my (great-)grandmother, she helped raise me and I want to be there for her."
Taylor said, "Those of us who have had severe illness in their families and have been at a distance can certainly identify with the gravity of his situation and how strong a pull it is to not know how they're doing and not be there."
Old Dominion recruited him heavily in high school, so he is well aware of the program, level of play and recent tradition.
"It's a blessing," he said of the opportunity to play at ODU. "They have a lot of talent. Some of the guys in the program I played against and grew up with. It's a great situation for me, a great fit. I feel like I can help because I have some experience and I'll fit in with them because I know a lot of the guys."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times