If Deshawn Painter isn't smiling, something is probably wrong. And there were stretches during the season when the charismatic junior didn't have his trademark grin on his face.
The adversity, he says, wore him down. The slump was wearing on him. Stress took over his mind and it showed on the court. The five-star big man from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Va., didn't look like a five-star. He just wasn't having fun.
On the eve of the Boo Williams Invitational, Painter says the smile is back. The swagger, he says, has returned. He is ready for a fresh start.
"That's just me. That's just what I do. I love to smile and have fun. I'm a kid," Painter said. "What's not to like about life?"
In a nutshell, that is Painter.
The big man makes no excuses about the season he had. In fact, he said he is ready to show that he's back.
"I went through my adversity from my high school year. I'm coming off a stress fracture [in my right foot] and I'm playing really good right now. It's just me getting healthy, working through adversity, getting through this whole recruiting thing," Painter said.
"My high school season went well but it didn't go as well as I thought it was going to go. I started playing really well at the end but it wasn't the year I am capable of. There was a lot to deal with. Right now, though, I'm feeling really good about myself. My swagger is back. I'm working hard and getting better and do whatever I need to do for my team to win. I've been trying to show them that."
Part of regaining his swagger is finding a new surrounding. Painter is off to Hargrave Military Academy next season. He said he hopes to make the most of the challenging prep school in rural Chatham, Va.
"I think it's going to help me a lot, just playing against dudes that are going to be the kind of guys I'll be playing against in college. The competition is going to be good everyday I'm there. I think it's a great fit for me just the overall," Painter said. "With the classes, the basketball, the whole nine, no one is going to pat you on the back there. It's all on your shoulders. You have to face it all like a man."
He is also trying to face his recruitment like a man. Louisville, Florida, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kentucky and others are recruiting him, he said.
"Everybody is trying to get me to commit," Painter said with a laugh.
"Schools are trying to hard to get me to pick but I'm still a junior and pretty much open. I really don't know. I need to take my visits. Wherever I find the best fit for me is where I'm going to go to school. I want to find a place where I feel at home. I don't even know right now."
His focus for the time being is getting it right on the court. That starts this weekend at the new Boo Williams Sportsplex, the new home to the invitational tournament that plays host to 32 of the top teams from the Nike circuit this weekend.
"It's nice, real nice. I think people will like it. It's a nice, nice facility," he said.
Painter is an anchor inside for Boo Williams's summer league team. The BWSL team is always a clear front-runner for the first major title on the grassroots circuit. Painter said he likes his team's chances this weekend.
"We have to play strong on the defensive end. That energy is going to put us over the top. We can score. I don't think too many teams are going to shut us down from scoring so our defense is going to be the key," Painter said.
"[Winning the tournament] means a lot because we are representing. We are the local guys. We must win the tournament. There is a pride thing for us local guys."
Painter clearly wants his pride back. This weekend is a great place to start.