Northwestern guard Demps finds key role

Once the most criticized player on Northwestern, Tre Demps has discovered his role.

Last week, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins stoked controversy by changing his starting lineup. James Montgomery III and Nikola Cerina replaced Dave Sobolewski and Alex Olah before the win against Western Michigan.

That adjustment concealed two things. First, it had nothing to do with the Wildcats' most improved player. Second, that player doesn't even find it beneficial to start the game.

"I like coming off the bench," Tre Demps said after Monday's win over Mississippi Valley State. "I get to see how the defense is playing and I'm always talking to the assistants next to me."

Despite his reputation for scoring "garbage time" baskets, you can't deny Demps' speedy development. The redshirt sophomore now averages 10.3 points per game following his 18 against MVSU. He's shooting an efficient 44 percent – and 38 percent from behind the arc – and working to create offense for himself and for teammates.

It also centers on the little things: He's passing up his open looks (at times) and has a fairly low turnover rate, especially compared to Sobolewski. Better, this team needs his scoring and offensive aggression given its recent struggles.

"I let things come to me," Demps said. "Guys on the team believe in me. We believe in each other. We've had some problems scoring the ball, but I think the coaches did a great job working with us on our game shots."

He also smartly identified some of the team's problems. Too often, the Wildcats are idle when the ball goes into Drew Crawford. They require a better five-man effort, and that showed in yesterday's 86-point outburst — with 26 coming from Crawford.

"A lot of times we'll throw the ball into Drew and we'll just kind of stand," Demps said. "Throwing the ball into Drew is great for us, but we need to cut, and that opens up things for him. That's turned into the main emphasis of our offense."

And, well, what do you know, Demps has become an essential part of this offense as well. Once criticized – often fairly – for shooting more than he needed to, he's been the "spark" off the bench for a team that could so badly use it.

"Coach always tells me to just play," Demps said. "Good game, bad game, he gets on us, but he keeps telling us to be confident.

"There have been some ups and downs, with everybody on the team, but he gives us the utmost confidence and it's helped going forward."

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