TO FULLY comprehend DeAndre' Bembry's dominance on a basketball court, you simply have to be there and see it with your own eyes.
Highlights and box scores give you a peek into the hype surrounding Saint Joseph's projected first-round NBA draft pick - who posted 17.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game last season - but a trip to Hagan Arena will give you the full, unadulterated depiction of his talent.
One of Bembry's most emphatic plays of Friday night's season opener didn't even count, but it effectively summed up the brutally physical, city-school battle between the Hawks (1-0) and Drexel (0-1), which yielded 48 fouls and 23 turnovers at Hagan, where Saint Joseph's emerged with a 82-81 victory that wasn't nearly as close the final score indicates.
Midway through the first half, the 6-6, 210-pound junior leaped into air - his hair elevating ever so slightly above the rim - and pinned a layup attempt from Drexel junior forward Mohamed Bah with both hands. The referee called a foul, and all Bembry could do was smile and shake his head.
Bembry finished with a game-high 23 points, knocking down 11 of his 15 free throws, in addition to three rebounds, four steals and two assists as he led a balanced Saint Joseph's attack bolstered by seniors Aaron Brown and Isaiah Miles, who scored 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Freshmen guards Lamarr Kimble, a Neumann-Goretti High School alum, and Chris Clover, of St. Joseph's Prep - who went head to head in the Catholic League - debuted for the Hawks. Clover saw limited action, playing three minutes, while Kimble saw 18 minutes of action and even knocked down a triple.
Drexel was paced by senior Tavon Allen's 20 points on 6-for-14 shooting, and got solid contributions from a trio of underclassmen guards, sophomore Rashann London (11), sophomore Ahmad Fields (nine) and freshman Terrell Allen (18).
The question for Drexel this season is who will step up to replace the production of Damion Lee, who led the Dragons with 21.4 points per game last season before transferring to Louisville to play under head coach Rick Pitino for his final year of eligibility.
Without Lee, Bruiser Flint's team had a new look to it Friday night; and early on, it wasn't pretty.
Bembry jumpstarted the Hawks' offense, scoring the first bucket of the game on a nifty drive and finish, but it was Brown who contributed seven points to the Hawks' 14-2 run that started things off.
After trailing, 29-14, with nine minutes until halftime, the Dragons pieced together a 14-4 run to draw within five points of the Hawks' lead, but Saint Joseph's responded with a run of its own to take a 44-34 halftime lead.
Drexel made it interesting in the second half, making up for a lack of success on offense with a high-pressure trapping defense. The Dragons even cut Saint Joseph's lead to 82-78 with 5.4 seconds to play and got a three at the buzzer from London, falling just one point shy of the Hawks.
On Twitter: @tom_reifsnyder