By PAUL GOTHAM
DeAndre’ Bembry may not lead the Saint Joseph’s Hawks in scoring, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get plenty of attention when he takes the court at the Blue Cross Arena Wednesday night against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
“The best player is not always the guy that scores the most points,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said during the the Atlantic 10’s weekly tele-conference. “It’s the guy that makes his teammates better, and that’s what he does.”
It’s not that Bembry doesn’t score. He nets 17.2 points a game, but his team-leading 4.4 assists are a big reason why teammate Isaiah Miles sets the pace with 17.9 and the Hawks are tied for first in the A-10 with VCU at 13-3.
“He’s just really unselfish,” Schmidt added. “You look at the way he plays. He’s got great mannerisms. He leads that team. One of the reasons they’re having the success that they’ve had, you can talk about Miles and all those other guys, he sets the table for all those guys.”
Bembry’s success might be a case of less creating more.
A year ago, Bembry led in scoring (17.7), rebounds (7.7), assists (3.6), steals (1.9) and even blocks (0.9) for a Saint Joseph’s club that finished 13-18 overall and 7-11 in conference play. One year after taking an A-10 championship and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Hawks finished 10th in league standings.
Per KenPom, Bembry’s current ORtg (points produced per 100 possessions) has increased from 100.1 a year ago to 108.7. The solution, head coach Phil Martelli said, might be as simple as one less field goal taken per game.
“He really is one of those guys that will much prefer to pass than he would to shoot,” Martelli explained. “Last year I put him in a bad spot. This year I feel like I’ve done right by him because he can be what he is, which is a versatile player.”
Bembry took nearly 15 shots a game a year ago and hit 43.2 percent from the floor. Through 29 games, the junior forward is taking 13.9 and connecting 47.8 percent of the time. He’s also added almost one more assist while committing fewer turnovers (2.9 a season ago to 2.2 now).
“I put him in a better situation to shine,” Martelli stated. “Last year was hard on him because he’s never in his life been a volume shooter. We needed him to be a volume shooter and a scorer. He’s at his best when he facilitates.”
Bembry scored 22 on 7-of-11 shooting in the previous meeting this season between the two teams – an 83-73 St. Bonaventure victory in Philadelphia. He grabbed six rebounds and handed out seven assists while committing one turnover.
“You got to put so much emphasis on him,” Schmidt noted. “He’s not a pig. He’s sharing the ball and making those guys better. He’s just a tremendous player with a tremendous IQ and a great teammate.”
The Hawks have won two straight including a 77-63 win over Saint Louis on Sunday. The conference player of the week put the game away late with a pair of emphatic dunks, but it was an assist which helped Saint Joseph’s hold off a late rally.
“When Saint Louis came at us as hard as you could come, we post DeAndre,” Martelli explained. “They double. He finds Aaron Brown for maybe Aaron’s only bucket of the day.”
Brown took Bembry’s inside-out pass and connected from behind the arc to give Saint Joseph’s a 68-60 advantage with 3:22 left in the game. The Billikens, who had scored five straight, did not get any closer for the remainder of the game.
“He celebrates that as much as he celebrates dunks,” Martelli added. “He’s always been a facilitator. He has an extraordinarily high basketball IQ.”
A 7 p.m. tip off is scheduled for Wednesday night.