DeAndre' Bembry: New haircut, same old great game

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St. Joe's DeAndre' Bembry drives around Rhode Island's Jared Terrell.

St. Joseph's star DeAndre' Bembry said he didn't cut his famous hair because the Hawks had just lost a tough game or because Bembry had missed free throws that contributed to that loss.

"I just got a little trim," Bembry said. "It wasn't supposed to be this low."

It got noticed, though. Bembry's hair gets almost as much attention from the wider public as his game does from NBA scouts.

"I said, 'Ah, everybody's going to say something,' " Bembry said. "It was a little shorter than I wanted, but I'll deal with it."

Bembry joked that his Afro may have to be a thing of the past if he keeps playing like he did Sunday, leading St. Joe's past Rhode Island, 72-67 - leading all over the stat sheet, in points (22), rebounds (seven), assists (five), and steals (three).

The only downside: his free-throw shooting again. The Hawks had built a quick nine-point second-half margin but saw it evaporate partly because they missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones. Bembry missed the first and third of those.

Asked about the misses being in their heads - since free throws were the prime culprit in losing a lead and the game last week to Virginia Commonwealth - Bembry said they were only in his head. He's working on it.

"Yesterday during our foul-shooting period in practice, DeAndre' left the gym," coach Phil Martelli said. "He went to our practice gym with [assistant coach] Dave Duda so they could just be isolated, get zeroed in. Whatever it takes."

Martelli said there is no panic, they are not changing the overall routine, suddenly shooting 1,000 free throws in practice. Bembry said he zones out the crowd during games, so he probably doesn't hear 70-somethings yelling to bend his knees, that sort of thing.

"You don't even understand," Martelli said, mentioning the voice mail he got going through "every motion," and the email asking what's up. He gets it. Caring is a good thing. The coach said they charted free throws through the preseason, and everything was good, as was the early-season Hawks' shooting at the line. Going into Sunday, St. Joe's still was fourth in the 14-team Atlantic Ten from the line, making 70.7 percent as a group.

"Now, if anybody wants to say the guy before him not making his [foul shots] affects the next guy - absolutely, it does," Martelli said.

Anybody paying attention understands that Bembry is a special player. He'll be an NBA player, since he has NBA quickness and court awareness and defensive ability. The better he shoots, the better that future will be.

Make no mistake, this was a big game Sunday on Hawk Hill. St. Joe's, now 12-3 and 2-1 in the A-10, got separation from Rhode Island (10-6, 2-1) early in the second half when Bembry, drawing the usual defensive attention, nestled in two straight three-pointers.

Later, after the missed free throws, things got settled for good when Hawks teammate Aaron Brown hit two straight threes of his own. Each time, Bembry had the ball not far from the basket on one side and spotted Brown across the other way. Once to his left, once to his right.

"I saw him the whole time," Bembry said. "I look across the court the whole time. Some people are scared to make that pass, but I've made that play plenty of times. As you saw, he made it two times. If you want to leave Aaron Brown open, he'll make you pay for it."

Martelli said he has talked to a lot of people who knew Bembry when he was 10 or 11 years old, and that's what they would talk about, Bembry's vision and awareness. The coach said Bembry is uncomfortable taking as many shots as he had the last couple of games.

"He would really like to be a facilitator," Martelli said.

Back to the haircut. Martelli didn't know why all his guys were laughing at the other end of the court Saturday when Bembry got out there for practice. He heard a chorus of "It doesn't look right."

"Look, I don't comment on anyone's haircuts," Martelli quipped. "I've got nothing for you on that one."

The cut got immediate Twitter attention. One tweet said simply, "RIP to the fro," with a teardrop emoji.

Meanwhile, Bembry's staying calm.

"It'll be back in like two weeks," he said at his locker.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus