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The Spurs' latest hidden gem is a 27-year-old center who learned to play basketball at 18 after leaving the Jehovah's Witness

At 18 years old, Dewyane Dedmon made a big decision — he wanted to play basketball.

Though Dedmon grew up playing outside, playing basketball at parks, he did not play competitively on any actual teams because of his faith.

Dedmon's mother, Gail, was a member of Jehovah's Witness and raised Dewayne and his two sisters under the same faith.

As Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard wrote in 2011, under the religion, "allegiance to anyone or anything but Jehovah is forbidden." According to Ballard, while playing on a sports team was not "expressly forbidden," to play on a team might encourage allegiance to an external factor. Additionally, the Dedmons dedicated multiple hours per week to studies, meetings, and solicitations on Sundays.

Gail, according to Ballard, ultimately decided not to let Dewayne play on anymore sports teams after he got into a spat with a volleyball coach in eighth grade.

However, when Dewayne turned 18, becoming an adult, he knew he could make his own decisions. He told his mother he was going to play on the basketball team.

"At first, she definitely wasn't a fan," Dedmon told Business Insider. "But like I said, I was 18, so I was an adult, so I could make my own decisions.

"It definitely took some time for her to come around to the fact that I was playing basketball."

Nine years later, Dedmon is helping anchor the San Antonio Spurs' NBA-best defense in the first year after the Tim Duncan Era.

21 PHOTOS
Dewayne Dedmon through his career
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Dewayne Dedmon through his career
USC center Dewayne Dedmon plays in a game early in the 2011 � 12 season. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 16: Dewayne�Dedmon of the Dallas Mavericks drives during NBA Summer League game between the D-League Select against the Dallas Mavericks on July 16, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 17: Dewayne �Dedmon #14 of the Dallas Mavericks guards JaMychal Green #14 of the Los Angeles Clippers during NBA Summer League game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers on July 17, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Dewayne Dedmon #21 poses for a photo on Golden State Warriors media day held September 27, 2013 at the Warriors practice facility in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 13: Jerry West and Dewayne Dedmon of the Golden State Warriors visits the Great Wall as part of 2013 Global Games on October 13, 2013 at the Great Wall in Beijing, China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 14: (CHINA OUT) Dewayne Dedmon of Golden State Warriors visits Taijing Middle School as part of 2013 Global Games on October 14, 2013 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 21: Dewayne Dedmon pitches in to help clean up McLaren park during Warriors Day Of Service as part of NBA Cares Week Of Service on October 21, 2013 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
RENO, NV - JANUARY 6: Dewayne Dedmon #21 of the Santa Cruz Warriors shoots over Alfred Aboya #12 of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants during the 2014 NBA D-League Showcase on January 6, 2014 at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Calvert/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's Dewayne Dedmon (3) and the Memphis Grizzlies' Okaro White battle for the ball during NBA Summer League action at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - October 7: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic shoots a free throw against the Maimi Heat at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on October 7, 2014. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2014 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 22: Elfrid Payton #4, Dewayne Dedmon #3 and Kyle O'Quinn #2 of the Orlando Magic celebrate during a game against the Houston Rockets on October 22, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 3: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic goes to the basket against the Los Angeles Clippers on December 3, 2014 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 17: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic stands on the court during a game against the Houston Rockets on March 17, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic poses for a headshot during NBA Media Day on September 25, 2015 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Brooklyn Nets' Thomas Robinson (41) blocks a drive by the Orlando Magic's Dewayne Dedmon (3) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 08: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic takes a drink while on the bench during the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 6: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the Orlando Magic warms up before the game against the Detroit Pistons on April 6, 2016 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Basketball player Dewayne Dedmon attends the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 30: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the San Antonio Spurs in action during a NBA game against he Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on October 30, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 15: Dewayne Dedmon #3 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks against the Portland Trail Blazers at AT&T Center on March 15, 2017 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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To get to where he is now, Dedmon faced a steep uphill climb into the basketball world that involved learning the game at 18, going to junior college, transferring schools, then surviving cuts and the D-League to make it in the NBA.

After breaking the news to his mother, Dedmon made his high school team his senior year. It's fair to wonder if Dedmon's height was the deciding factor, however, as he didn't have much to offer on the team. "I wouldn't say [I] played," Dedmon said. "I was on the team, I guess."

After graduating high school, Dedmon went to junior college at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California. Dedmon walked onto the basketball team, as the head coach, Dieter Horton, was intrigued by his size and raw physical talent, despite Dedmon having little actual experience. According to Ballard, upon meeting Dedmon, Horton asked him to do the Mikan Drill, a fundamental drill in which players alternate left- and right-handed layups from each side of the basket. Dedmon stared at him blankly before clumsily navigating through the exercise.

Still, Dedmon kept at it. He gray-shirted his freshman year (similar to red-shirting, except a player delays his enrollment in school in order to extend his eligibility), recording the team's games from the bleachers. His sophomore year, he finally began playing, showing off his defensive prowess, blocking shots and running up and down the court with ease for dunks.

During a productive second year at Antelope Valley, Dedmon's name began spreading into the Division I world. Dedmon was a still-growing, raw, athletic center — teams wanted him. He was recruited by and eventually transferred to USC in 2011.

"It was pretty shocking" says Dedmon. "I wasn't really expecting to go and play Division I after AVC, but when the offers started coming in, I started realizing I could actually do this, go Division I."

Playing alongside current Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic at USC, Dedmon continued to learn the game and grow into his body. Dedmon served as a practice opponent for Vucevic, the two sharing defensive and offensive lessons for one another, respectively.

After two "nondescript" seasons at USC, as Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News put it, Dedmon declared for the NBA Draft. It was NBA or bust for him — there was no backup plan.

"When I entered my name in the draft, I knew I wanted to play in the NBA, so that was the goal," Dedmon said. "It wasn't no overseas option. It was like, 'Alright, if you don't get drafted, these are the steps you gotta take to get to the NBA.'"

Despite, as he estimates, 15 or 16 workouts with NBA teams, Dedmon's name didn't get called on draft night. Toward the end of the event, he did receive a call from the Dallas Mavericks, asking him to play on their Summer League team in Las Vegas. He also played for the Miami Heat in the Orlando Summer League. He didn't make either team. From there, he set off on a whirlwind 2013-14 season, hopping between the NBA and D-League, on different teams, in different cities, on short-lived contracts. Dedmon's recollection of the experience sums up the hectic life of a fringe NBA prospect.

"I went preseason with Golden State," Dedmon said. "I did the entire preseason with them. And then they cut me. And then I went to their D-League affiliate, played like two games, and then I got a call back to Golden State and then got cut. And then I believe I got called up one more time and got cut, and then played [the D-League Showcase]. And then after the showcase, I got the call from Philadelphia. They gave me my first 10-day contract and then they gave me another one, and then after that, they cut me."

"It's definitely a different experience. You kinda just gotta be strong mentally because it's definitely tough. 'Why did you not stay?' and things like that go through your mind. But to know that they didn't cut me after the first 10-day [contract], obviously I was doing something right," Dedmon said.

Dedmon later got a 10-day contract with the Orlando Magic. The Magic eventually signed Dedmon for the the rest of the season and for two more years. Finally receiving steady minutes as a reserve center, Dedmon began to make strides, averaging a modest four points and four rebounds in 12 minutes per game in 58 games for the Magic during the 2015-16 season.

Related: The highest-paid NBA players of all time:

26 PHOTOS
The highest-paid NBA players of all time
See Gallery
The highest-paid NBA players of all time

25. Rasheed Wallace -- $158,110,581

Seasons: 16
Highest single-season salary: $17 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 4
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo By Kent Horner/NBAE via Getty Images)

24. Chris Paul -- $158,226,325

Seasons: 12
Highest single-season salary: $22.9 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 9
NBA First-team All-NBA: 4

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

23. Tyson Chandler -- $158,586,645

Seasons: 16
Highest single-season salary: $14.8 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 1
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

22. Vince Carter -- $159,087,631

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $18.3 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 8
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

21. Amar'e Stoudemire -- $161,628,892

Seasons: 14
Highest single-season salary: $23.4 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 6
NBA First-team All-NBA: 1

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

20. Tracy McGrady -- $162,978,278

Seasons: 15
Highest single-season salary: $23.2 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 7
NBA First-team All-NBA: 2

(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

19. Elton Brand -- $164,901,096

Seasons: 16
Highest single-season salary: $17.1 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 2
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

18. Jermaine O'Neal -- $168,794,021

Seasons: 18
Highest single-season salary: $23 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 6
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

17. Zach Randolph -- $172,597,245

Seasons: 15
Highest single-season salary: $17.8 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 2
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)

16. Dwyane Wade -- $176,115,934

Seasons: 14
Highest single-season salary: $23.2 million
Championships: 3
All-Star Games: 12
NBA First-team All-NBA: 2

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

15. Chris Webber -- $178,230,697

Seasons: 15
Highest single-season salary: $19.1 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 5
NBA First-team All-NBA: 1

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

14. Pau Gasol -- $182,999,615

Seasons: 16
Highest single-season salary: $19.3 million
Championships: 2
All-Star Games: 6
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

13. Ray Allen -- $184,356,410

Seasons: 18
Highest single-season salary: $18.8 million
Championships: 2
All-Star Games: 10
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

12. Dwight Howard -- $186,735,761

Seasons: 13
Highest single-season salary: $23.2 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 8
NBA First-team All-NBA: 5

(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

11. Chris Bosh -- $186,936,512

Seasons: 14
Highest single-season salary: $23.7 million
Championships: 2
All-Star Games: 11
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

10. Jason Kidd -- $187,675,468

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $21.4 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 10
NBA First-team All-NBA: 5

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

9. Paul Pierce -- $194,035,952

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $19.8 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 10
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

8. LeBron James -- $200,607,292

Seasons: 14
Highest single-season salary: $31.0 million
Championships: 3
All-Star Games: 13
NBA First-team All-NBA: 10

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

7. Carmelo Anthony -- $201,120,659

Seasons: 14
Highest single-season salary: $24.6 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 10
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

6. Joe Johnson -- $203,542,249

Seasons: 16
Highest single-season salary: $24.9 million
Championships: 0
All-Star Games: 7
NBA First-team All-NBA: 0

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

5. Tim Duncan -- $238,262,300

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $22.2 million
Championships: 5
All-Star Games: 15
NBA First-team All-NBA: 10

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

4. Dirk Nowitzki -- $241,646,362

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $25.0 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 13
NBA First-team All-NBA: 4

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

3. Shaquille O'Neal -- $286,344,668

Seasons: 19
Highest single-season salary: $27.7 million
Championships: 4
All-Star Games: 15
NBA First-team All-NBA: 8

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

2. Kobe Bryant -- $323,312,307

Seasons: 20
Highest single-season salary: $30.5 million
Championships: 5
All-Star Games: 18
NBA First-team All-NBA: 11

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

1. Kevin Garnett -- $326,362,956

Seasons: 21
Highest single-season salary: $28 million
Championships: 1
All-Star Games: 15
NBA First-team All-NBA: 4

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Still, Dedmon wasn't long for Orlando. The Magic rescinded a qualifying offer for Dedmon in 2016, making him a free agent. Once on the free-agent market, Dedmon finally received some good fortune. According to McDonald, the Spurs were looking for depth at center following Tim Duncan's retirement. James Borrego, who served an interim coach for the Magic at the end of the 2014-15 season and started Dedmon for 15 of his 17 games as head coach, had become an assistant with the Spurs. He voiced his support for Dedmon in the organization.

"That was a good phone call," Dedmon said of the Spurs offering him a two-year, $6 million contract last July. "Growing up, you hear of the Spurs all the time, Tim Duncan, all kinds of good things about the organization. For them to call and be interested in me, that was definitely a blessing."

Dedmon has turned into the diamond-in-the-rough type of player the Spurs so famously mine around the league. Dedmon has been posting career-highs in minutes per game (17), field-goal percentage (64.8%), points (5.3), and rebounds (6.4) in 63 games for the Spurs, 24 of which he's started.

More importantly, according to NBA.com/Stats, Dedmon improves the Spurs when he's on the floor. With Dedmon on the court, the Spurs allow just 96 points per 100 possessions, five points better than their average on the season. The Spurs have outscored opponents by 11 points per 100 possessions with Dedmon on the court, as opposed to seven points per 100 possessions when he's on the bench.

Still raw and fairly new to the game compared to his contemporaries, Dedmon is learning the ropes from Gregg Popovich.

"Staying out of foul trouble, that's probably one of his biggest pet peeves with me," Dedmon said. "Trying to keep my hands up, stay active, but not fouling."

"He's one of the best to ever do it," Dedmon added of Popovich. "So, it's definitely a good experience to learn from him and to be coached by him and just trying to figure out what exactly you have to do to help the team. It's all about the team. ... Whether it comes with criticism, maybe he takes you out the game because you didn't do something, you just learn from it and keep moving on."

Dedmon's play has put the Spurs in a tough position. Though Dedmon says he hasn't thought about his next contract, the Spurs surely have. The second year of Dedmon's contract is a player option. If Dedmon opts out and tests the free-agent market, bidders may be able to out-price what the Spurs can offer. If Dedmon continues to be a defensive presence on the court, he may very well end up changing cities again in pursuit of a more lucrative offer.

Dedmon, however, says he's just preparing for the Spurs playoff run. Currently the second seed in the West, the Spurs may need impactful minutes from Dedmon, an unexpected source of a production for the NBA's most consistent contender. It's the latest leg in a winding journey from walking onto a junior college team.

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