Over the past two years, one constant for the Southwest Mississippi Community College men’s basketball team has been the stellar play of guard Damian Dear. Now the Jackson native is on the move over to the state of Arkansas after signing a scholarship with Division II power Henderson State.
“It feels great to know that I have another team and coaching staff that believes in me. It feels great,” Dear said.
And it was that relationship or bond built with the coaching staff that played a huge role in Dear’s decision.
“I chose Henderson (State) because of the relationship with the whole coaching staff with how they treated me like family,” he said. “They kept it real from the jump.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dear was unable to go on a visit to the campus in Arkadelphia, Ark. But he did participate in a FaceTime tour and he fell in love with the campus.
“We did a virtual tour and I love the campus,” Dear said. “It is big and has a lot of space for me and my teammates to just hang around. There are (also) some very nice people on campus.”
Last season, Dear led the Bears in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game while also recording averages of 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
He earned National Junior College Athletics Association Region 23 honors being named to the All-Region team. Dear reflects on his two years in Summit, saying it really helped him improve his game on the court.
“I loved my time at Southwest, it was great,” he said. “It was one of the best decisions in my life going to play for Coach (Bryan) Bender at Southwest. I do not regret it at all. If I could do it again, I would do it again. He always pushed me and made me better everyday. We were always in the gym and he made me better no matter what.”
He is also very thankful for playing with his SMCC teammates over the past two years.
“My teammates, I love them because they made me a better person, every practice, every day,” Dear said. “Whether it was on the court or off the court, they always held me accountable to be the leader.”
On the court, Dear said that he thrived in more of a fast-paced style of offense and he believes he will continue to find that same success next season while suiting up for the Reddies.
Dear was a staple in Bender’s offense over the past two years, leaving a big mark.
“He was a starter for our program for two years,” Bender said. “He’s a kid that if you could mold a student athlete of what you want him to look like and produce, (it’s him). He helped lay this foundation.”