It was not so long ago that P.J. Dozier was a sixth-grade basketball player, a rising star on the national AAU circuit garnering attention as the No. 1 player in the nation at his age. He was lanky at 5-foot-something, but he had huge dreams.
Now a solid 6-foot-6, the point guard is rated 29th in the ESPN 100 and spending this weekend at the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas with his AAU team, the Upward Stars. In what seems like an instant, P.J. Dozier’s childhood dreams drew within reach.
“It definitely flew by,” Dozier said. “People told me that it would, but I didn’t think it would happen like that.”
A month before the start of his senior season at Spring Valley, Dozier has his pick of major college basketball programs. His scholarship offers include Indiana, Kansas, Clemson, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, N.C. State and Ohio State.
A chance to contend for an NCAA national championship and perhaps play in the NBA could be on the horizon for Dozier.
“I think after this last (AAU) tournament, it will finally set in that this is my last year of high school and how close I am to that next level,” Dozier said.
Dozier’s parents, both former basketball players, put a basketball in his hands when he was 4 years old, and by the time he was 6, he was playing team basketball nearly year round.
“It has gone by really fast,” said Dozier’s father, Perry. “We started this process really when he was 6 years old. It seemed to be long, but it was enjoyable, and it is very fast from that time, looking back at it.”
By acting as his son’s coach for much of that time — including P.J.’s high school career at Spring Valley — Perry Dozier was able to live more of the journey.
“We blinked, and he went from V.V. Reid, little small kid with a big head, small body and a basketball, to next thing you know, he’s 6-foot-7, leading his team with this booming voice and it happened so quickly,” said P.J.’s uncle, Westwood coach Terry Dozier.
The family’s love affair with the sport has added to the joy of the game for Dozier.
“I really have to thank my family, they helped me through all these years,” he said.
Both of his older sisters played varsity basketball at Spring Valley, and sister Asia is entering her junior season with the Gamecocks women’s team.
Terry Dozier serves as his personal trainer, and Stars coach Curt Wheeler, who has been working with P.J. Dozier since middle school, has become part of the family.
“It’s been an honor to coach him, to have a hand in what he is trying to accomplish,” Wheeler said. “The plays he makes, a lot of older players can’t make. He sees things a lot of other players don’t see. As a coach, you can become a fan, but sometimes, I just sit back and watch.”
He said Dozier grew leaps and bounds during the 2013 AAU season, as the absence of former teammate L.J. Peak forced Dozier to step up as a leader.
Surgery to repair a torn ACL, a knee injury he had played through for more than two years, forced Dozier to sit out his junior season.
“He’d never had a break,” Perry Dozier said.
P.J. said he spent the time off the court working to gain strength — “I put in a lot more time in the weight room than I would have had time to,” he said — and maturity.
“I really wanted to focus on growing, off the court, mentally, because I was taught, and I believe, that the more you grow off the court, the better you will be. The game will follow,” he said.
Terry Dozier said, in addition to his normal early morning workouts, PJ wanted extra training after his rehab, and the pair used the time to sharpen his fundamentals “so that when he got back on the court, instinct would take over.”
“After he was injured, I think it allowed him to sit back and recharge,” Wheeler said. “It’s great to see him come back from his injury, because he’s a great kid, a humble kid, who has no expectations about being a superstar.”
Added PJ: “It was great, just having that fire under me again, to get out there and play the game I love with a new perspective.”
Since rejoining the Stars this spring, Dozier is averaging 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
With one final season of high school basketball, Dozier aims to lead his Vikings to the Class 4A championship.
“I know it’s going to go fast, but you can’t get the time back, so I’ve just to try to make the most of it,” Dozier said.