Former Flint Northwestern standout DeAndre Upchurch nearly lost more than just his basketball career. Upchurch was involved in a drive-by shooting (though not the shooter) in 2008 that injured a young woman who wasn’t the intended target. Upchurch was charged with a felony, served time in a youth boot camp facility after pleading to an amended charge and finished high school at an alternative high school.
There are many kids like Upchurch across the country whose lives are thrown away as a result of poor decisions. To his credit though, Upchurch has not been one of those kids. He finished school. He recognized the awful mistake that he made. He went on to play college basketball at Highland Community College in Iowa and became one of the top scorers in the country and the school’s all-time leading scorer in his two years there. Now, Upchurch has earned the chance to finish his education at Tarleton State University, a Division II school in Texas.
By the time I started covering Flint basketball at the Flint Journal in 2009, Upchurch’s high school career had already ended due to his legal problems. But one thing that stood out about him was the fact that, after he’d served his sentence, he was always in gyms in Flint working on his game. Coaches still were willing to vouch for him, frequently saying that he’d make the most of a second chance (and that’s not always the case for players who get into the type of serious trouble he did — former coaches frequently distance themselves). He got to play in a Flint vs. Saginaw all-star game for seniors in 2010. I wrote a notes column about the game and included a brief section about Upchurch playing in the game, noting his past legal problems, and hoping that they were behind him. To my surprise, after that column ran, I had a voicemail from Upchurch, who I’d never actually met, thanking me for writing about him. I didn’t want to over-analyze or read too much into a simple message at the time, but it did seem like a definite sign that Upchurch was grateful that he still had a basketball career in front of him. I’m glad to see he’s continued to make the most of a second chance that he was very lucky to get.