Real estate mogul alumnus thanks Cecil College

Published on February 29, 2024

DJ Wootson

NORTH EAST, Md: As a 19-year-old from Wilmington, Del., all DJ (Dwayne) Wootson needed was an opportunity. But growing up as a young black man on the streets of that city, there were few opportunities until the fateful day when he met Cecil College men’s basketball coach Bill Lewit. Coach Lewit was looking for hidden talent when he offered Wootson a chance to compete on the collegiate level, and Wootson grabbed that opportunity with both hands.

“Before Coach Lewit, I had nothing going for me. I was a good high school basketball player, but there were no offers beyond that level. I was a subpar student in high school who barely graduated. Then Coach Lewit gave me an opportunity to come to Cecil College,” said Wootson, who became Cecil College’s all-time leading scorer.

Coach Lewit had the knack for finding “diamond in the rough” players, and in 1995, that diamond was Wootson. Coach Lewit talked to the young man about his vision for his future and what he had to offer if Wootson came to play for Cecil College.

“When you are young and come from where I came from, you are looking for people to give you an opportunity. Coach Lewit offered me that opportunity,” said Wootson, who embraced what Coach Lewit had to say and the future he was facilitating for the young man. “I can truly say Coach Lewit saved me because I had no other options at the time. If not here, then where and what?”

For Wootson, Cecil County starkly contrasted Wilmington high school. Initially, college was about the opportunity to continue playing basketball, but soon, he realized and learned something about himself – he was an outstanding student. With the assistance and support of professors like Dr. Paul Bauer, Wootson excelled in the classroom as much as he did on the court. He went on to graduate from Cecil College with a 3.7 GPA.

“Dr. Paul Bauer was a phenomenal teacher. He changed my life and many other guys’ lives by making us thinkers. He turned us into critical thinkers, supporting us on and off the court,” said Wootson. “Cecil College provided me with a sense of maturity and stability. Cecil County was a change of pace for me, where there wasn’t much to do but basketball and academics. It provided the perfect opportunity as a contrast from where I came from.”

Wootson also credits his academic success to Coach Lewit’s three rules for his players: be on time and, if you cannot be on time, be early. Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it to the best of your ability. No one is guaranteed one second of playing time. You have to earn it by being a good citizen and getting it done in the classroom.

His performance on the hardwood matched Wootson’s accomplishments in the classroom. For the 1998-1999 season, he was named First Team All-Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference, First Team All-NJCAA Region 20, NJCAA Region 20 Tournament MVP, and First-Team NJCAA National Tournament. Wootson led the Seahawks to the 1999 NJCAA Region 20 Championship and the NJCAA national tournament.

In his 62-game career, he averaged 24.5 points per game (PG), 5.3 assists PG, 3.5 rebounds PG, and 1.9 steals PG to become Cecil College’s all-time leading scorer with 1,519 points.

Wootson completed his collegiate career playing at Georgia State for legendary coach Charles Grice “Lefty” Driesell while completing his bachelor’s degree.

Wootson took the lessons he learned at Cecil College and established his real estate development company in Nashville over the past decade, building apartment complexes and owning multi-family housing facilities. His commitment and focus on his business and family have grown to a portfolio of more than $30 million.

“I always tell people Cecil Community College is where I got my start. This is where I grew up and became a man. This was the start of my life,” said Wootson.