Although Derrick Homesley is the top-ranked high school long jumper in Maryland, his dream was to be a college basketball star.
Homesley, 17, is a senior at Surrattsville and holds the season's mark of 22 feet 4 1/2 inches, set at the Falcon Invitational. Among area jumpers, only Mount Vernon's Mike Wilson and Osbourn Park's Victor Cahoon have gone farther, both eclipsing 23 feet.
Like his father Dennis, who earned a football scholarship at North Carolina A&T, Derrick has played all sports in the boys club system, going from football to basketball to track with the change of seasons.
But basketball has always been No. 1 in his heart. To satisfy that dream, he enrolled at DeMatha his freshman year.
"Basketball's always been a childhood dream," said the 6-foot-1, 160-pound athlete. "I've always dreamed of going to UNC and playing for Dean Smith."
But his dream quickly faded when he didn't make the team. Undaunted, Homesley returned to the long jump pit. But disappointment soon returned. He jumped 19-6 his freshman year and added only two inches the next year.
"That was a rough year," he said of his sophomore year. "I didn't have a coach that knew too much about jumping -- you know, the small facts, the technique. I was still jumping off what Tyrone Brown had taught me when I was 9." Brown was Homesley's first coach in the long jump and helped him clear 16-7 at age 10.
An injury resulting from his long-term athletic involvement, coupled with a growth spurt, compounded his frustrations his sophomore year. He noticed nagging pains in his knees during summer track at age 12. That winter, when he was playing basketball, his left knee collapsed while he was making a layup. The doctor advised complete rest until the pain disappeared. It was during this period, with a minimal amount of conditioning and persistent pain, that Homesley tried to long jump at DeMatha.
At his parents' urging, Homesley enrolled at Surrattsville for his junior year, where another basketball incident caused his knee to swell, resulting in two months in a soft cast. Long jumping was out of the question that spring.
"The doctor said I needed an operation, but I didn't want one," said Homesley. "It still feels pretty good. My left knee still has pain, but it's getting better. There are still signs of it, but I have to endure it."
This year, Homesley is making up for lost time, and his long jumping is proceeding at an accelerated rate. In his first attempt early in the season, he cleared 19 feet, but he was shooting for 21 that day. He reached that goal at the Terrapin Invitational, where he finished third at 21-4 1/4. At the Falcon Invitational, Homesley was aiming for 22. Having achieved that, his next goal is in the 23 or 24 range.
"Track's always been a dream, too," he said. "When I was young I was always No. 1. But when I got older, I met guys as fast as me, who could jump as far. Then, with the knee problems, I gave up; everything was going wrong. My parents were always trying to encourage me, but when you're smaller, you don't see others' point of view; you only see yours. I wish I stuck with track. I seem to have a knack for it."
Like any young athlete, Homesley's dream goes far beyond the state meet, which he hopes to win later this month. He hopes to clear 27 feet in college, and the dream culminates at the Olympics. "I want to go all the way," he said.