DeAndre' Bembry - the star of the St. Joseph's basketball team - was asked last month if he pays attention to other players and teams "around the league." The junior offered a quick analysis of the NBA. He was happy to see Kobe Bryant return from injury. A good season was in the mix for Oklahoma City, Bembry predicted.
The answer was sufficient. The only problem was that the question was about his league now, the Atlantic Ten, and not the league Bembry could find himself in as soon as next year.
Bembry, a junior, could enter the NBA draft after this season. That decision is still months away. Bembry's professional stock has rocketed since he starred this summer at the Nike Basketball Academy, an invitation-only camp for the nation's top college players in Santa Monica, Calif.
Coach Phil Martelli said Bembry's attention from NBA scouts has been like nothing St. Joseph's has ever experienced - even more than Jameer Nelson, Martelli said. Bembry was scouted last month by 23 teams over a two-week span. Some of basketball's top agents got their looks, too. Martelli said Bembry has been "tremendous" in dealing with all of the attention.
"It's something new for me, something that's fun," Bembry said. "But I zone it out. When I'm on the court, I zone it out just like I'm in a regular game situation and zone out the crowd. It's always fun. I can be like 'Oh, Oklahoma City came' or 'Oh, Denver came.' But, when I'm on the court, I zone in."
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 17.7 points per game last season as a sophomore to become the first Hawks player to win the Atlantic Ten's scoring title. Bembry led St. Joe's in rebounds and assists. He scored at least 19 points in 10 of the team's final 16 games.
Bembry led the nation in minutes played, averaging 38 minutes, 36 seconds per game. He was the Hawks. And Bembry was rewarded by making both the A-10 and Big Five's first teams. Martelli said he deserved to be an all American.
"But we weren't a team that could warrant having an all-American by our record," said Martelli, whose team finished 13-18. "That's on me. He's getting seen. He's getting talked about. He's going to have a chance to live his dream. Whether that's this spring or next year, we're going to live in the day."
Bembry grew up in North Carolina before moving to New Jersey after his sophomore year of high school. He was an under-the-radar recruit when Martelli started to zone in before Bembry's senior year at the Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J. Bembry called his path to St. Joseph's "a different road."
Martelli kept calling Bembry's mother, Essence, hoping to talk to her son. Bembry was not interested, but he finally budged. Martelli set up a meeting and then he got his man. Bembry committed before his senior year, which he finished as Union County's player of the year.
Three years later, Bembry is again dealing with scouts and recruiters. This time, they wear T-shirts with NBA logos. Bembry said he notices the teams and sends texts to his friends to tell them which teams came to practice. Martelli said his mother is even more excited.
With all the buzz, it's hard to blame Bembry for getting his leagues mixed up.
"A kid's dream," Bembry said. "I always watched the NBA. I always loved watching it. I definitely feel like I can play in it. That's where the best players are in the world, so that's where I want to be."