JEFFERSON CITY — Ernest “L” Dorema smiled as he explained how he learned his slick back-to-the-basket moves.
“Watching Dwight, Dwight Howard,” Dorema said. “He’s my idol right there.”
Dorema has more in common with the Orlando Magic basketball star than he realizes. Like Howard, Dorema’s level of play often determines the success of his team, Hickman.
In a 61-40 loss at Class 5, District 9 opponent Jefferson City on Tuesday, the junior forward scored seven points in the first quarter and set an early tone when he blocked 6-foot-8 Billy Brehe’s shot. Dorema made a soft baseline jumper, cut diagonally across the lane for one layup, and scored over Brehe’s outstretched hand on another. At the end of the quarter, Hickman (7-12) and Jefferson City (10-10) were tied at 14.
Then Dorema’s shots off nifty spin moves stopped falling. Then he picked up his third foul. Then he took a seat on the bench.
With Hickman’s other starting forward, Daquan Dixon, out with a quadriceps tear, Jefferson City basically ignored Hickman’s frontcourt at no cost and outscored the Kewpies 33-13 in the second half. Dorema didn't score again.
“L came out really strong attacking the basket,” said teammate Marcus Whitt, who led Hickman with 15 points. “When he got in foul trouble, that hurt us. For awhile we had that inside-outside game. After we lost L, they were more focused on the guards.”
Dorema’s performance has mirrored Hickman’s all season. The Kewpies couldn’t win a game early on and started 1-7. Dorema couldn’t even play, academically ineligible until January.
Since then Dorema has impressed his teammates with his ability to rebound – a rare commodity for Hickman – and a versatile if not consistent post game. Hickman won six in a row before starting another losing streak.
That streak stretched to five against Jefferson City. Hickman had a hard enough time keeping Brehe and especially Paul McMahon (26 points) off the boards with Dorema in the game. When he took a seat two minutes into the third quarter, the Kewpies trailed 32-27. They scored four points the entire quarter and fell behind by 10.
“When I was out, it was hard,” Dorema said. “I need to play better D so I don’t get in foul trouble. Then I can stay and help the team. I got to move my feet along with my hands.”
Hickman coach David Johnson can’t fault him for the effort. In fact, Johnson said he has been excited by how Dorema has brought his intensity to the team since joining it.
Dorema, who goes by L, short for his middle name, Lamar, had no other varsity experience before January. He missed all last season because of his academics but, according to Johnson, worked hard to get his grades in order.
“He’s a great kid to have on the team because he’s just going to get better and better,” Johnson said. “He goes a great job being active and rebounding, and he’s been getting better with the scoring aspect. He’s going to be a brute.”
His intensity has a switch, though. Whitt called him a jokester off the court.
“He’s always cracking jokes,” Whitt said. “He’s probably saying something right now on the bus. He rips on all of us.”
Like his Orlando idol, Dorema prides himself for his defensive strengths such as shot blocking and rebounding. He knows his offensive production needs to become more consistent, though.
"A lot of people tell me that," he said. "Coach always tells me to take it to the bucket, and that's what I started doing. I'm going to see if I can do that more."
He better — the rest of Hickman's season may depend on it.