By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
From “one of the top three worst feelings I’ve had,” to being named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year.
It’s been quite a four-year stretch for Cody “Duke” Deen.
The former Bossier High School Bearkat still has trouble hiding the disappointment of missing two free throws late in the 2019 Class 4A state championship game.
His team lost by three points.
But the following season, his senior year, Deen led Bossier back to the state title game (in Class 3A). This time, he and his teammates brought the trophy home to Bearkat Drive.
After one season at Panola (Texas) Junior College, Deen signed with Troy (Ala.) University, and just became just the second player in school history to win the SBC’s top freshman award.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Deen said. “I think I can give it another week. It’s going to sink in after the season.”
Deen and the Trojans (19-10, 10-6) play Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Tournament.
Starting 25 of 28 regular-season games, Deen averaged nine points, shot 34 percent from three-point range, and finished 11th in the league in assists per game (3.1).
“It’s been a great experience,” Deen said. “It was what I expected. It was a change of pace — game, play, style. It was everything I prepared for.”
Deen’s preparation for NCAA Division I ball began last year at Panola. He knew stepping up in competition meant he would have to step up his game.
“The thing I wanted to improve on the most is being able to finish at the rack,” Deen said. “Just being smaller (5-foot-8), I think that was the most important thing for me this year. I knew people weren’t going to let me shoot, just coming out of junior college. They wouldn’t let me shoot in junior college, so it was going to be the same thing.”
One person who isn’t surprised at Deen’s first-year D-1 success is his former high school coach.
“He’s probably one of the smartest kids I’ve coached, honestly,” said Nick Bohanan. “He’s got a very, very high basketball IQ. He also excels in the classroom. He just puts in so much work that he’s very confident in his abilities.”
In addition to being one of the “smartest kids” Bohanan has coached, Deen is also one of the most confident.
“We were playing Franklin Parish over in the Wossman tournament,” Bohanan said. “We were down two. He had the ball with under five seconds (remaining). He’s bringing it up. He dribbled over right in front of me. I will never forget it. He dribbled right in front of me. We weren’t going for the tie. He pulled up, hit the three, turned around, shook my hand, and said ‘Good game, Coach.’ He didn’t even watch it go in.”
Deen has carried that confidence to Troy, and set the bar high with his Freshman of the Year honor. But, naturally, Deen is confident he can raise the bar even higher.
“You always want to get better for next year,” Deen said. “I really don’t set goals for myself. It’s mostly just about winning, and being the best person you can be, and being the best player you can be.”
Photo courtesy of TROY