James Demery: A Closer Look

St. Joe’s 2014 recruiting class, labeled by many to be one of the better classes in the Atlantic 10, was at the time headlined by Northside Christian Academy (NC) wing James Demery. As a freshman, Demery has started all but two games for Phil Martelli and the Hawks. Inside, Hawk Hill Hardwood has a full breakdown of Demery’s season to date, as well as a look at where his game could go from here.

James Demery has started 21 of St. Joe’s 23 games to date during the 2014-2015 season. The 6’5 wing guard has started in the backcourt alongside senior Chris Wilson and sophomore DeAndre Bembry. As a freshman, Demery has averaged 6.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, in just over 23 minutes per game.

Expectations were high for Demery this season. When he committed to St. Joe’s, he picked the Hawks over a list of offers that included Creighton, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and more. Phil Martelli spoke glowingly of Demery all preseason, comparing his impact this season to the impact that DeAndre Bembry had a year ago.

Prior to the start of the season, Hawk Hill Hardwood ran a player profile series, with insight from assistant coach Dave Duda. Coach Duda’s description of Demery at the time falls in line with what Hawk fans have seen so far this season. “He has been great in the open court, and defensively, as expected. He and DeAndre should form a very good defensive wing pair. He needs to tweak the jumpshot, and that will happen in time.”

That jumpshot that Duda alluded to is the biggest hiccup in Demery’s game. On the year, he is shooting 37% from the field, but just 4-26 (15%) from three. He’s also only shooting 58% from the free throw line on the year.

Demery has broken into double-figures six times so far this year. On November 25th, he hit a buzzer-beater three to send the Hawks into overtime against LIU Brooklyn, a game they went on to win. Demery played arguably his best game of the season this past Wednesday against Rhode Island, hitting a three and finishing with 11 points and 5 rebounds.

To date, Demery has had a solid rookie season, but doesn’t appear to be in the mix for any sort of All-Rookie Team nomination. His biggest contributions this year have been on the defensive side of the ball, where he has been, for the most part, terrific. For as poor as the Hawks have been on the offensive side of the ball, they have been respectable on the defensive end, giving up just 63.9 points per game. Demery and Bembry are largely responsible for that.

Over the years, the Hawks have had a number of guards make significant jumps between their freshmen and sophomore seasons. You need look no further than DeAndre Bembry, who has seen his scoring increase from 12.1 points per game to 17.7 points per game.

Delonte West’s jump between freshman and sophomore years was one of the most remarkable that you’ll see. As a freshman, the 6’4 shooting guard averaged just 5.9 points per game, shot 47% from the field, but just 2-17 (12%) from three and 67% from the free throw line. He showed signs of great promise, but few, if any, could foresee what he did as a sophomore.

After shooting just 12% (2-17) from three as a freshman and averaging under 6 points per game, West shot 37% (55-147) as a sophomore. He improved his free throw shooting from 67% to 81%. A lot has been made of the role Matt Brady made in Delonte’s improvement, and he certainly played a role. However, at the end of the day, what made Delonte great was his innate ability and athletic ability compounded by a relentless, tenacious desire to be great. A fierce work ethic.

Other Hawks, besides Bembry and West, improved between their freshmen and sophomore seasons. Pat Carroll played just six minutes a game as a freshman, averaging just over a point per game. He averaged 11.5 points in just over 25 minutes per game as a sophomore. Chet Stachitas more than doubled his scoring output between his freshman and sophomore years, and improved his shooting drastically as well. He shot 26% from three as a freshman and then 44% as a sophomore. Even current New York Knick Langston Galloway, who had a terrific freshman year, made a significant sophomore jump. His shooting percentage jumped from 40% to 48%, and his three-point shooting increased from 39% to 47%.

Over the years, countless Hawks have made significant sophomore leaps. Why and how is that relevant in this conversation about James Demery? Frankly, it’s because there are shades of some of these other players in Demery. West, Carroll, Stachitas, Bembry, and Galloway were all shooting guards who played at St. Joe’s under Phil Martelli. All showed promise as freshmen, but didn’t begin to fully realize their potential until their second seasons on Hawk Hill.

Will James Demery make a leap like these other guards? He has shown great promise as a freshman, including a number of glimpses into his vast potential. The game-tying three against LIU Brooklyn. The monster dunk at the end of the UMass game. His second half against VCU. His second half of the Rhode Island game. There have been flashes. Now, it is up to him, and up to the coaching staff, to work on “tweaking the jumpshot,” as Dave Duda stated this preseason. With a steadier jumper and a tighter handle, the sky is the limit for the athletic, defensive-minded freshman. It will be interesting, and enjoyable, to watch his progress on Hawk Hill overt the coming years.

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