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P.J. Dozier: Emerging from the shadows
A local sixth-grader is already making a huge splash on the national hoops scene
March 22, 2009
By AKILAH IMANI NELSON - ainelson(at)thestate.com (Original Article)
Columbia, SC - The video is fuzzy and dim, but in Perry
Dozier Sr.’s mind, the images are clear and bright.
In home-video footage, 5-year-old Perry Dozier Jr. dribbles
through a crowd of 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds toward the basket as
his parents, Perry Sr. and Theresa, cheer him on from behind the
The basketball is twice the size of his head but putty in his
small hands. PJ, as his parents call him, displays a mean
crossover dribble and a spot-on jump shot. He handles the ball
At 12, Perry Dozier Jr. is the No. 1 sixth grader in the
nation. This week, he was featured in the New York
Times. With the help of his former USC basketball
players, father Perry and uncle Terry Dozier, he P.J.
hopes to be one of the nation's best when his class of
2015 heads to the NCAA.
- Tim Dominick/tdominick(at)thestate.com
Perry ‘PJ’ Dozier Jr.
The nation’s best sixth-grade basketball player and top
prospect in the recruiting class of 2015, according to
one recruiting site
Parents: Theresa and Perry Dozier Sr.
School: E.L. Wright Middle
AAU travel team: Columbia Slammers
Position: Point guard
Height: 5 feet 6
National ranking: No. 1 sixth-grade basketball
player in the United States, by Hoop Scoop, an online
Accomplishments: With the Slammers, won the 2009
14U S.C. state championship. At NBA All-Star weekend,
earned the MVP award in the Junior NBA national team
exhibition game with 13 points, six blocks, five assists
and seven rebounds.
“When he had the basketball in his hands, really,
even at 2 years old, I could see that this was a game he
was going to love, that he had a natural talent for,”
Perry said. “When you see that your child has a gift and
a desire to do something with it, you don’t necessarily
push them, but you want to make ways for them to do
Fast-forward seven years.
PJ is 12 now, and the images are not in only his
father’s mind — the 5-foot-6 point guard is receiving
national media attention.
In February, he played in the NBA Junior National game,
spending All-Star Weekend in Phoenix at the hips of
Earlier this month, PJ was featured in an article in The
New York Times after he was ranked the nation’s best
sixth-grade player, tops in the class of 2015, by Hoop
Fast-forward another seven years, and Hoop Scoop editor
Craig Francis says it might be PJ we’re watching create
magical moments during the NCAA tournament.
Francis is one of the few, if not the only, basketball
authorities to rank sixth-graders. He was impressed with
PJ’s performance at two summer camps in 2008.
“When he turns it up, he’s just flat out better than
everybody,” he said. “It may sound crazy, but a lot of
times you can tell who’s going to make it.”
PJ daydreams about his potential playing career as he
watches the madness of March. “I knew I wanted to play
that sport from the get-go, so it’s fun to think that
that could be my future,” he said.
But both Francis and the Doziers recognize early success
is no guarantee of future greatness.
“If I do the best that I can do and I don’t make it,
I’ll still be satisfied,” said PJ, who hopes to earn a
law degree in case basketball does not pan out.
Said Francis: “He’s got what it takes to become a great
player. A lot of things could happen between now and
then, but he’s got a good support system, and that’s
half the battle.”
‘YOU CAN’T JUST LET GOD’S GIFT SIT THERE’
Perry Dozier and his twin brother, Terry, played for the
South Carolina Gamecocks in the 1980s. Terry went on to
play with the former Charlotte Hornets in 1989-90. The
brothers have been setting up PJ for success from the
time they recognized his talent.
“My dad’s advice and my uncle’s, I trust that,” PJ said.
“They have already been where I’m trying to get to and
By the time PJ was 5, Perry and Terry were working with
him on the fundamentals.
Perry always signs up PJ to play on teams with bigger,
older boys to make him stronger and faster. For the past
year, PJ has practiced with the Spring Valley boys
varsity team, which Perry coaches, along with PJ’s AAU
team, the Columbia Slammers.
Terry handles PJ’s training, which consists of sit-ups,
push-ups, toe raises and a lot of running.
PJ takes his training seriously.
“I see my basketball talent as a gift from God, and you
can’t just let God’s gift sit there,” he said.
As much as Perry and Theresa want to help their son
maximize his talent, they want to safeguard his
childhood from the pressures that accompany stardom.
Theresa is not worried about how her son will handle the
attention, which only will increase if he continues to
“He’s very mature for his age, so he has handled it very
well,” she said.
Margaret Shackelford can attest to that.
PJ’s honors pre-algebra teacher knew he was a strong
math student, but she had no clue he was a top athlete
until an administrator at E.L. Wright Middle School
e-mailed her a link to the Times article.
“At this age, they all want to be the most important
person, for some reason. And here, Perry has got all
this talent, but he does not play up on it at all,”
Helping keep PJ grounded is that he does not have a
monopoly on basketball talent in the Dozier household.
Older sisters Amelia and Asia recently won the Class 4A
girls basketball championship with Spring Valley.
Saturday, Amelia played in the S.C.-N.C. All-Star game.
In 2007, Asia, then in seventh grade, earned MVP honors
in the Junior NBA/WNBA National game during All-Star
Theresa does her part to keep her basketball prodigies
“I give him the praise because I want him to feel good
about his accomplishments, but I try to balance it,” she
said. “When he knows I’m proud of him and I’ve told him
he did a great job, then it’s back to, ‘Where’s your
homework,’ and ‘Did you clean your room?’ “
FOR A 12-YEAR-OLD, POSSIBILITIES ARE ...
Beginning this fall, PJ will be off limits to college
recruiters until the summer before his senior year of
In that time, dozens of analysts, coaches and fans
likely will track PJ’s career. With his athleticism and
basketball IQ, if he reaches his doctor’s height
projection of 6-8, PJ could develop into one of the most
prized college recruits in the country.
And then, maybe ....
Fast-forward another seven years.
PJ is 26, running the floor for the Los Angeles Lakers.
He is among the NBA’s best point guards and draws
comparisons to Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
That kind of greatness is not promised.
But for a 12-year-old basketball prodigy, the
possibilities are endless.
Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419.