Baller of the Month December 2021: Derrek Kemper

Colby: First of all, congratulations on being named the Baller of the Month for December! OSU has been having a stellar year, and I hear that is in large part to how you’ve been performing. How does it feel?

Derrek: At the beginning it was just a lot of practices because of Covid-19 delays to the season. But once we were getting closer to the first tournament we began to practice more seriously and watch game film. This was when I realized just how competitive this league actually is. For my first tournament, I didn’t have many expectations besides to play and learn the game. You can read the rule-book many times, but actually playing is how you gain experience about the rules and strategy to the sport.

C: What made you join and stick with the Dodgeball Club?

D: I joined by seeing the club at OSU’s Student Involvement Fair. I knew that I wanted to join a sports club in college and I signed up for all different kinds of sports, but Dodgeball had the first meeting. So I went and had a blast, and quickly made any veterans my rivals, and had so much fun getting to play against them practice after practice.

C: What sports did you play in High School, and how do you think those skills helped to prepare you for dodgeball?

D: The high school that I came from was a small town school where you could play multiple sports, so I was able to play a ton of different sports. I played football, basketball, baseball, and track. With everything that I did, I was able to learn a bunch of great skills. These being discipline, focus and court awareness.

C: Now that you have been in the league for several months, have you developed a rival? Either an opposing team or a player from that specific team that you consider a personal rival or Ohio State’s rival?

D: For me, and for the limited amount of teams we’ve been able to play, I would have to say my personal rival and Ohio State’s would be Cincinnati. Before ODC we were 1-1 against them and we were going to play again at the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Unfortunately I was the player who broke his arm and wasn’t able to play in that match. But the difference between each of those previous matches was that our players really came a long way and showed how competitive we can be against other top teams in the league. It will be great to play more out of region teams and develop an out of state rival, and going to Akron’s tournament should accomplish that.

C: What has been your favorite matchup thus far? It doesn’t have to be a match that OSU participated in.

D: My favorite match was when we played UC in December. This was our second meeting with them and the first time we took a pretty convincing loss to them due to our inexperience and how prepared they were at the start of the season. Playing them really showed how much we’ve improved as a team since then. This was my favorite matchup because I really got the chance to stand out and make a name for myself. Being a rookie, it was nice to show my skills and survivability late into the match. I had to make some well timed catches and throws to help us secure the victory, and it helped me become a critical player for my team, and that was very fun for me.

C: Do you have a mentor? Or a specific player that you modeled your game after?

D: Two big mentors for me have been Dylan Greer and Ben Johnson. These two individuals have had great careers and have tons of experience. Dylan has done a lot for me and the other rookies this year by introducing rules and strategy to help our young team, and we’ve grown so much because of it. Ben has also done a lot for us during tournament play. He is able to give mid-match advice so we can make timely adjustments to our play, and close out points against our opponents.

As for my style of play, I’ve developed a really aggressive style thanks to Jeff Starr. His run you down and knock you off your feet style directly lined up with the raw talent that I brought to the table, and it allowed me to play into my existing strengths. I essentially became his apprentice thanks to my style of play.

C: What improvements do you think we could make in the league to help progress our game-play?

D: Some improvements would be getting the officials to be consistent as a whole. Overall the league seems to be young, so learning the rules and having knowledgeable referees to officiate our matches is important. We need to help the young players make consistent calls and how to properly officiate, as well as helping them develop the strategy of our game. Having this to help out when our veterans and older players graduate will help us gain the much needed consistency that we’re missing with our in-game officials.

C: Does Ohio State have any pre-match rituals?

D: During tournament weekends we will usually have a team dinner to watch film the night before the tournament. This allows us to bond better as a team and learn and watch the matches together. At these sessions, the captains point out things to the younger players so they can know what to expect going into a tournament.

C: Finally, what are your pre-tournament and post-tournament meals?

D: Usually on game days I don’t eat much of a meal beforehand. I generally eat light, so things like fruit, granola bars, or trail mix. Post-game is always Piada, which is an Italian street food place on campus.

C: This has been a real pleasure. Thanks Derrek, and good luck on the rest of your season and a quick recovery!

D: Thank you!

I appreciate the insight into Derrek’s life and his passion for the sport. The league will be in good hands moving forward as his generation takes over.

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