For the Dalemberts, basketball seems to run in the family.
In 2000, Samuel Dalembert – the starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers – was selected as the 26th pick in the first round of the NBA draft.
Not long after that, Melissa Dalembert – a forward on the USF women’s basketball team – was just beginning to get involved with the game. Now, after only six years of playing competitive basketball, she gets to take the court against some of the best teams in the nation.
Dalembert, who was born in Montreal, Canada, had always been athletic. She just needed to find a sport to suit her.
“When I was younger, I actually played hockey. Then, as I got older, I was in track and I played volleyball,” Dalembert said. “I didn’t even pick up a basketball until I was 14 years old.”
Actually, according to Dalembert, she was handed a basketball.
“A police officer actually handed me a basketball and told me, ‘You have to play,'” Dalembert said. “I was already playing volleyball and going to school regularly, and I was in eighth grade. When I was in ninth grade, I wasn’t into it as much. But once I got to 10th grade, I liked playing (basketball) a lot more.”
Dalembert had good reasons to like the game. Like her brother, she was skilled at it. Her talent began to show during her junior and senior years at Miramar High School in southern Florida. That was when college coaches began to notice her abilities.
“The big thing I saw in Melissa was that she had great potential,” Jose Fernandez, coach of the USF women’s basketball team, said. “She had good size, and she was a kid you could tell had her best basketball ahead of her.”
Fernandez was right. As a junior, Dalembert averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds a game. She earned second team All-State honors on the season. But she still had room to grow.
As a senior, Dalembert improved upon already impressive numbers. She averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds a game, and was named to the class 6A All-State first team by the Florida Sports Writer’s Association.
The only hard part for Dalembert was to decide where she was going to play college ball.
“I was looking at a couple schools, and I could have gone north, because the cold doesn’t really bother me,” Dalembert said. “Coming here, on my recruiting visit, it just felt like home. I really felt like Jose (Fernandez) and the coaches were sincere in wanting to help me get better, and I really wanted to be with people who were going to help me.”
Dalembert’s playing time was scarce during her freshman campaign. However, Fernandez feels that Dalembert will see success in the future.
“I think her talent has improved a lot since she’s been here. She’s at two opposite ends of the spectrum,” Fernandez said. “She had a rough freshman year, and it’s disappointing for a kid to work hard and not necessarily get rewarded with playing time. But it’s a credit to her hard work and the time she puts in, regardless of her minutes.”
Giving her best was a lesson she learned from her brother.
“My brother gives me advice all the time, especially when we train together over the summer,” Dalembert said. “He always tells me, ‘When you think you’re working hard enough, work harder.’ So I’m never satisfied, no matter what I do.”
“It’s usually hard for a kid to stay motivated when they aren’t seeing as much time as they’d like,” Fernandez said. “But Melissa was always asking questions, always watching film and staying motivated.”
D-Bert – as her coaches and teammates call her – knows that her motivation will be key to her success as a Bull.
“My brother is my role model,” Dalembert said. “I am motivated by him, but also my desire to improve. That’s why I try so hard.”