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ANC's Deywilk Tavarez concludes difficult journey with Delaware State commitment

06/03/2023, 1:00pm EDT
By Jared Leveson

Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)

Playing Division I basketball seemed like a longshot for Deywilk Tavarez after tearing his left and right meniscus during his sophomore and junior seasons at Academy of the New Church.

Even during his senior season, when he led ANC in scoring, rebounds, and steals and appeared in the Friends School League title game, Division I schools were reluctant to offer roster spots because of past injuries and the transfer portal. 

But that didn’t stop Tavarez. 

ANC's Deywilk Tavarez recently committed to Delaware State to continue his academic and athletic careers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

He worked, stayed patient, and waited for an opportunity. He won the Donofrio Classic Championship with Love Basketball. Then he played AAU ball with Philly Pride Select, looking for any opportunity for coaches to see him play. 

Then everything finally came together for Tavarez on May 7 when he announced his commitment to the MEAC’s Delaware State University. The senior guard made it official on May 26, signing his National Letter of Intent.

Tavarez plans on studying kinesiology, hoping to have the same impact his athletic trainers, physical therapists, and doctors had on him when recovering from two knee surgeries. 

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” the 6-foot-2 guard said over the phone. “It’s something that I worked very hard for and something that I felt like was destined to happen regardless of where I was.” 

Delaware State first saw Tavarez on Dec. 21 at the Play-By-Play Classic at Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Del. They told him to expect a phone call sometime after the game. On Dec. 23, Tavarez got a call from Delaware State head coach Stan Waterman.

Tavarez was at a 76ers game at the time. 

“I was expecting a call sometime in the day so when I didn’t get a call around like 5 or 6I wasn’t expecting much of a call,” Tavarez added. “Then just getting to my seats they called me and it was loud.”

Waterman introduced himself and told him they were sending an assistant coach for ANC’s next game against Abington. Tavarez doesn’t normally get nervous for games, but this time was different. 

“I was actually super nervous that game because it was the first time I actually played a game in front of a Division I coach that was there for me in a pretty long time,” Tavarez recalled.

“I didn’t have the best of games.” 

Delaware State told Tavarez they still liked his game but were hesitant to send out an offer because they didn’t have a lot of players graduating from school and were waiting to see what spots would be available. 

But they kept communicating, and Tavarez attended a Hornets game against Coppin State in late February. He liked the vibe and the atmosphere and set up a campus visit in April, but still no scholarship offer.

In the interim, Tavarez picked up an offer from Hampton University. A weight had been lifted off his shoulders as someone finally recognized his talent. But adversity seems to follow the Pennsauken (N.J.) native like a shadow. 

“The day we went to go commit they backed out,” ANC head coach Kevin Givens said. “It was hard from that point on, and I’m looking at a kid that’s frustrated, upset, looking at his whole life [that] just bounced in front of him.”  

Tavarez responded by playing for Love Basketball in the Donofrio Classic. He played some of his best basketball in the Conshohocken tournament, winning the championship and earning the Art Andrey Senior MVP award. 

Tavarez’s visit to Delaware State’s campus was the morning of the championship game on April 18. 

“Coach told me on the way there that ‘hopefully I leave campus as a Hornet’ and he was giving me the offer before I even stepped on campus,” Tavarez said. “I loved campus. All four coaches were there. It was an unofficial visit and all four coaches were there just for me. I appreciated that a lot like I felt loved. I felt wanted.” 

Givens wanted Tavarez to take the offer and stop playing, but the Delaware State offer only made him hungrier. He continued playing with Philly Pride Select in the spring live period. 

“He was like ‘I want more’,” Givens said. “This can’t be the only school that wants to recruit me.

“Deywilk is the kinda kid that’s always gonna fight all his life. That’s why he played (AAU), he really did that because he didn’t believe that it was just (one offer out there), there had to be more out there for him.”

“I was just being patient because Donofrio I kinda created a name for myself and I was trying to seize the moment, see what I can get,” Tavarez added. 

No new offers arose, but Waterman and the other Delaware State staff attended his games during the spring live period. Their commitment to Tavarez made his decision obvious. 

“When I committed, for the next week or two I was the happiest kid on earth,” he said. “I don’t think it actually hit me that I’m going to play college [basketball] for free, at the Division I level. Maybe it will hit me tomorrow? Maybe it will hit me when I graduate, but it hasn’t hit me yet. I know it will soon.” 

The Hornets plan on using Tavarez as a true point guard who can lead, make shots, and defend at a high level. He’s worked for this opportunity his whole life, and Givens knows he’ll be up for the challenge.

“I’m happy about his fight and his determination,” the 30-year coach added. “He always stayed motivated, and he didn’t let the lack of offers defeat his progress. He just kept battling.” 

It's more than basketball for Tavarez, as he intends to use his free education to  become a physical therapist or athletic trainer and help student-athletes like himself.

“When I first started high school, I was big on business,” Tavarez recalled. “I loved numbers. I loved math, but you know, as those injuries went by and I’ve met all those doctors, those physical therapists, and athletic trainers in my life, they’ve all had an impact on me. 

“The love that I have for those who had helped me through that difficult journey is kinda what influenced me to (study kinesiology).” 

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