While playing in big games and in front of big crowds is a common occurrence for the Grade 12 athlete, De Ciman admitted to feeling the pressure early on in the tournament.
He knew one wrong pass, shot or dribble could predict the outcome of his playing career. A scout from the University of Utah was in the stands.
“At first it was a little nerve-wracking, but when things get going too fast you just have to slow yourself down and say I don’t need to do anything special,” said De Ciman. “Right now, getting a Division 1 NCAA scholarship is the ultimate goal.”
His 6 foot 4 frame towers above his competitors. He wears white knee-high socks and his yellow and purple jersey hangs off his robust body. Sweat drips off his rippling arm muscles and his eyes shift around the court anticipating the next play before it happens.
De Ciman is hard to miss.
“He’s so much above the other kids, it’s not nice to say but it’s the truth,” said Wade Bartlet, head coach of the LeBoldus Golden Suns. “It’s almost to his detriment because we can’t work on the fundamentals that he needs.”
De Ciman’s gifted abilities on the hard wood have drawn the attention of universities and colleges across North America. While he doesn’t mind the attention, scouts have been walking a fine line when it comes to luring him into their program. Due to NCAA recruiting rules, any face-to-face contact between scout and player before scouting eligibility can lead to punishment as harsh as the scout’s termination from the athletics program at a university.
For this reason, the scout watching De Ciman asked to remain anonymous. However, he did say the young athlete is on their radar.
“We look for talent and character,” said the scout. “We only recruit good students. Academics must be a priority. There is a strong correlation between a good student and a good player.”
De Ciman seems to fit the bill. With close to a 90 per cent average overall in his classes, he is striking a fine balance between academics and athletics.
It hasn’t been easyhowever, as last year he tore his Achilles tendon and had to miss most of the season. While at the time he struggled to find positives, during his time away from the game he focused on fundamentals. De Ciman admits to being a better player today because of it.
“I got the chance to understand that NBA players get better by slowing the game down and spending time in the gym and working on the fundamentals,” he said. “I’ve been seeing my physiotherapist once a month and he says I have about 20 per cent to go so I’m feeling good about that.”
And his coach agrees.
“He makes our team better and makes the coach look better,” said Bartlet.
There’s still a lot of work ahead for De Ciman if he has NCAA aspirations, Barlet says, but with scouts continuing to phone, email and even make trips from the United States to show their interest, his dream of playing south seems inevitable. But talks between the young player and those scouts continue to be whispers in the hallways until he finishes his high school playing days.