From Jamaica to Stockton: The Journey to Becoming a Shooting Star

Winter 2024 Issue
Feature Story

From Jamaica to Stockton: The Journey to Becoming a Shooting Star

DJ Campbell finds success on and off the court.

By Susan Allen '09, '14

DJ Cambpell wears a plain white t shirt and holds a Wilson basketball
DJ Campbell '24 | Photo by Susan Allen '09, '14


Djorkaeff Campbell had just dribbled a soccer ball all the way home from school when his mom said, “Your dad wants to talk to you.”  

The first thought that came to his mind was “I’m in trouble,” admitted the senior Criminal Justice major, who was 9 years old at the time.  

When he was 3, Campbell’s father moved to the United States to start building opportunities for his family, leaving him and his siblings in Jamaica with their mother. Growing up with his dad 2,500 miles away was tough and hard to understand as a young child.  

Campbell could be mischievous, but talking with his dad on the phone always changed his attitude for the better.  

This call was different though. It would change his life.   

“I want you to come to the United States,” his dad said.  

“I just paused and started crying,” he recalled, realizing he’d be leaving his mom, older brother, friends, soccer and Jamaica.   

As he processed the words, the tears kept rolling down his cheeks and they would continue the whole way to the airport and the plane ride.  

Moving didn’t get easier when school started. He watched all the other kids get dropped off by their moms.  

“My mom used to walk us to school and that picture came right back,” he said.  

But he also remembered what his older brother told him: Opportunity would be waiting.

Collage photo with baby in crib, young DJ Campbell
Photos of DJ Campbell from his childhood in Jamaica. | Submitted photos

On the first day of fifth grade in the U.S., the teacher began roll call, and after stumbling to pronounce his name, she asked to call him DJ. The name stuck.   

He was voted most athletic that year, but it wasn’t until he moved from North Jersey to Vineland that sports came back into the picture. On the first day of eighth grade gym class, he played knockout.

Basketball had always been casual, playing with friends, and he was always the last pick. “I would double dribble and travel. Soccer was what I knew,” he said.  

After proving he could shoot hoops, he started going to the after-school program to play basketball. 

When he saw a sign advertising a summer basketball camp for incoming freshmen, he questioned whether he was good enough, but signed up anyway.  

Campbell was the best eighth grader in the camp, and when they played against the varsity high school team, they won. Campbell had the game-winning shot.

The high school varsity coach invited him to join the summer league. “I didn’t even know what varsity was. In Jamaica it’s just one team. It was all new to me, but I just went with it,” he said.  

“I played against Millville and played against Rynell Lawrence (now a guard on the Stockton team). It’s a crazy story. He had me second-guessing about playing basketball because he was on another level. It opened my eyes. I’ve got to work harder now. It’s a bigger world out there,” he explained with enthusiasm and intensity in his voice. 

DJ Campbell wearing a gray Stockton jersey dribbling past a defender
DJ Campbell playing in an NCAA Playoff game versus Wilson College March 2022. | Photo by Susan Allen

Campbell shot eight three-pointers that game and the coach decided to start him on the varsity team his freshman year.  

He was so focused on basketball that his grades slipped, but he quickly realized he had to funnel that same energy he exerts on the court and in the gym into studying. He found that balance through hard work.  

“Junior year was my breakout year. I led South Jersey in scoring that year and my senior year I came back and led the state in scoring,” he said.  

When he scored 50 points in one game, he thought, “I can play in college. I just have to keep working. But I still had that doubt. I know where I came from, and I know what it takes to get there.”

“If it wasn’t for Coach Hutch (the late Bob Hutchings) and Coach [Scott] Bittner, I probably wouldn’t be at Stockton. Hutch was at school every day,” he said.  

“Stockton is the place. These guys aren’t letting up. Rowan and Montclair were recruiting me, but they didn’t show that love that Stockton did. Then when I came to visit it felt like home. Everyone gravitated toward me, and I didn’t even know these people. Stockton is a family. Stockton is bigger than basketball. This is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”  

I will be very lucky if I ever again have the opportunity to coach another kid like him.”
Head Men's Basketball Coach Scott Bittner

Campbell hasn’t forgotten where he came from and how his basketball career started.  

“When it’s late at night, your thoughts get loud. I became something in Vineland,” he said.  

Summer camp gave him a chance. “It changed my life forever. If it wasn’t for that camp, I wouldn’t be playing basketball right now,” he said.  

DJ Campbell in a gray Stockton uniform receives high fives from teammates
DJ Campbell receives high fives before heading into an NCAA playoff game against Wilson College in March 2022. | Photo by Susan Allen

He wanted the youth in his hometown to have that same opportunity. An idea came to him.  

Over the summer, he went back to his high school for summer camp, but this time, he was the coach with Lawrence, Coach Bittner and other teammates helping him.  

“DJ is very competitive. Everything he does he wants to be the best, and he wants to win. If he doesn’t win, he always comes back for sure, and that’s what I love about him,” said Lawrence. “This year is going to be a personal year for us. We’ve got to lock in, and I believe we are capable of doing the job. We believe in everyone, so now we have to put in the work.”

At 7 a.m., Campbell is running on the turf field. Ten hours later, he’s still on campus. “He’s not a nine-to-fiver. He does the work and the extra work,” said Coach Bittner.   

“He doesn’t just love basketball. He loves the process, the work and the growth. And he’s not afraid to have a difficult conversation with other players—that's hard to do as a coach and he does it as a player,” he added.  

Bittner foresees Campbell succeeding at playing professionally overseas, which is one of his goals, but he also sees him being a great coach.

In the classroom, law is what interests him the most, but he’s not afraid to step outside his comfort zone either. Beverly Vaughn, professor of Music, taught him more than just music. Her teaching style and how she treats her students is what he remembers most.   

“She brings the energy and makes you want to be there. That’s huge. You never know what someone may be going through,” he said about Vaughn.

At this point in his journey, Campbell has surprised himself.   

“I never planned this. If you told me I was going to college for basketball I would never have believed you. In the end, it will turn out how it’s supposed to,” he said.  

Career Accolades


  • NJAC Rookie of the Year
  • NJAC Honorable Mention
  • NJAC Rookie of the Week (8)
  • ECAC Metro Rookie of the Month (December)


  • NJAC First Team


  • NABC First Team All-American
  • NABC District 4 First Team
  • NABC District 4 Player of the Year
  • NJAC Player of the Year
  • ECAC Player of the Year
  • All-Region 4 First Team
  • All-ECAC First Team
  • NJAC Player of the Week (2)


  • NABC District 4 Second Team
  • NJAC First Team
  • All-Region 4 Second Team
  • Preseason All-American Fifth Team
  • All-ECAC First Team

There’s only one thing on his mind when he’s on the basketball court: winning. “I hate to lose,” he said. The will to win is what drives him. He’s still trying to figure out where he gets it. Making his parents proud might have something to do with it.  

When Stockton won the NJAC championship last year, his dad rushed to the court to celebrate, and Campbell dialed his mom to get her on FaceTime.

This year, “we want the NJAC back at Stockton,” said Campbell.  

At the start of the season, Campbell was 400 points away from breaking the school record. In a loss to Rutgers-Camden on Jan. 24, he scored 17 points, enough to eclipse the 2,000-point mark for his career. He became just the third Osprey in history to break the barrier, joining Carl Cochran (1993-97) and Val Brown (1981-85).

Campbell’s ethic is to work hard, but “don’t be too hard on yourself.”  

Bittner summed up Campbell best, “I will be very lucky if I ever again have the opportunity to coach another kid like him.”

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