When Liberty High School had to be evacuated Dec. 10 after a bomb threat, half of the students were taken to Grace Miller Elementary, just behind the fields of the Liberty campus.
To lighten the situation inside the cafeteria, Liberty assistant principal Patricia Wine asked whether any student wanted to come to the front and lead the room in a Christmas carol. A tall, quiet junior, who had transferred to the school three weeks earlier and had yet to make many friends, was the only one who raised a hand.
Davon Deans stood before 800 classmates and started singing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way . . ."
That was the moment Deans started to feel as if he fit in at his new school.
"I was just trying to find where I was at in this school," Deans said. "I'm not a shy person. What could they do? Tell me I was bad singer? . . . Everybody after that was coming up to me like, 'Hey, nice singer,' and they started saying, 'He's all right.' "
The 6-foot-4 point guard has also had to find his niche on the basketball team. Although he said the first two or three weeks were tough, Deans blends well with the Liberty veterans. As the postseason begins this week, Deans leads the team with 17.8 points per game and is the type of player who can carry his mates for a few minutes of a game or a few consecutive games.
"You need that [kind of player] in case everything else breaks down offensively," said Liberty Coach Paul Frye, whose team is 15-5 and in the midst of its second winningest season since the school's 1994 opening. "If he can get to the paint, he's got a good chance" to finish or create a scoring opportunity.
Deans's challenge all season has been to mesh his high-flying game with those unaccustomed to playing with someone of his ability.
"When he first came here, it took him a while to fit in," said junior center Jeff Washington (17.2 points). "It took us a while, too, to get in synch, to get to know what he can do. . . . When he first started, a lot of people would be standing around there staring at him. Now, we're all used to him and what he can do."
Spectacular dunks by Deans are commonplace at practices and games, and he's numb to the oohs and ahs that result when he throws the ball off the backboard, catches it and jams it though the hoop, or after a 360-degree spinning dunk or when he finishes a double-pump windmill.
He has also showcased a complete game.
Deans was the 10th-leading scorer last winter at National Christian in Fort Washington, Md., which features multitalented players with major college aspirations. Although challenged in practice by players as good or better, Deans averaged only 5.4 points per game and struggled for playing time.
"Dunking is not all that I can do," said Deans, who lives in Bealeton with his father, David Washington. "I needed to show that I can do everything else. I wanted to come here because I felt I was at the next level, but I couldn't show that I was. I needed to develop my leadership skills. I needed to show that I can lead a team. I've never been at a place a long time. I never made any place my own team."
Deans has spent all of his high school days trying to fit in. Before his one-year stint at National Christian, he attended Hylton and Forest Park in Prince William County. Next year, he must attend a prep school that allows students to play a fifth season.
"The thing I always worry about when I come to a new team is taking something that was someone else's," Deans said. "If I go to a new team, someone might be the scorer, and I'm worried about taking away his points. Or someone else might be the point guard, and I don't want to feel like I'm pushing him out of the way."
Junior A.J. Brown was the incumbent point guard but gladly shifted off the ball when Deans arrived. The rest of the players, however, were not immediately prepared to handle the pace at which Deans runs the offense.
"From where he came from, it was a whole different style," Brown said. "I think the biggest adjustment for us was everyone getting on the same page. Once we did, that's when we started playing better."