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Sunday, Mar 31 2013 06:05 PM

Coach remembers Highland student as promising, respectful

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    Derrick Duff

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

The Highland High senior who died in a traffic accident early Saturday was respectful to teachers and a leader on his basketball team, his coach said Sunday.

"We were just really looking forward to his future," coach Jeff Waldrip said of 18-year-old Derrick Duff. "He had such a bright future."

The California Highway Patrol reported Saturday that Duff was a passenger in a 2000 Jeep that strayed from the fast lane of Highway 101 near Santa Maria at about 2:20 a.m. He was thrown from the vehicle after it hit a guard rail, then run over by other vehicles, the agency stated.

Drugs and alcohol were not factors in the crash, CHP reported.

Duff and his family moved to Bakersfield from Texas last year, though they grew up in Chicago, Waldrip said.

Duff, who ended the basketball season as Highland's most valuable player, used to joke with Waldrip before every game, saying he couldn't play because he had a hurt ankle or some other problem.

"I swear he got me every time," Waldrip said, adding that Duff was charismatic yet humble and always respectful to teachers.

"He was the best athlete I had. He was a leader."

Duff and his younger brother, Derrius, a junior at Highland who also plays basketball for the school, were a pleasure to work with over the last season, Waldrip said.

"They're coachable -- very coachable," he said. The older brother had not decided where he wanted to play college basketball, Waldrip added.

"Just a great player," he said of Derrick Duff. "But beyond that, a great person overall. He's going to be greatly missed."

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