Jensen: St. Joe's Bembry has what it takes for the NBA

When it comes to a former St. Joseph's Hawks teammate, put Langston Galloway down as both a biased and expert witness.

Returning a call ahead of Thursday's NBA draft, Galloway talked about DeAndre' Bembry's game from the inside out.

"His athleticism is definitely going to take him to a whole 'nother level," Galloway said this week. "He's one of the elite guys when it comes to athleticism."

Translation: Bembry might end up being a steal of this draft.

Galloway goes back to when Bembry first showed up on Hawk Hill. They overlapped for a year before Galloway went on to the Knicks, signing as a free agent, and Bembry stayed as the main St. Joe's attraction.

"When he first got to St. Joe's, you could tell he could see things a little bit different than most guys, including myself," Galloway said. "He's ahead of the game."

Galloway was talking about decision-making, which can't be overstated as a necessary NBA skill. Bembry is built for the modern NBA, a game that demands not just fast play but fast decisions. That's where Bembry is elite. Somebody is about to be open across the court - Bembry spots it. A hole is developing for a drive - Bembry can both see it and get to it.

I enjoy reading mock drafts as much as the next obsessed person, but the problem with mock drafts, NBA or NFL, is they coalesce into a conventional wisdom, and it's easy to be seduced by it. Pick somebody whom mock drafts expect to go later and you "reached." Get someone later, and you've got yourself a "steal."

The Hawks star generally winds up in the bottom third of the first round in mock drafts. Fair enough. And, by the way, wrong.

Wrong in the sense that the 6-foot-6 Bembry will be an NBA player. That's assumed by the ranking. He'll be a contributing NBA player. That's his downside. Upside: really strong NBA player. In this draft, players who have the chance to be really strong NBA players should go higher than late first round.

Yes, Bembry's shot needs to get better. Is he alone in that? Everyone has watched the evolution of the recent NBA through a lens of watching the Warriors. Some watched Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and believed all you need is shooters. You do need shooters, but the reality is you need great basketball players of different sizes and skills who can play an all-round game, including at the defensive end. Those great shooters had difficulty getting open shots at the end against the Cavaliers. And the multi-position skills of Draymond Green (minus the antics) were just as key.

Back to Bembry: "He's real, real effective at attacking the glass, getting rebounds, and defending the best players," said Galloway, who will be a restricted free agent himself on July 1.

"I think his upside is crazy," Galloway added. "He could be a potential borderline all-star, really. It's all about how he wants to continue to work. I'm excited to see it, how it plays out."

Galloway has watched Bembry's pre-draft workouts and noticed how his jump shot already has improved.

"Plenty of guys in the league don't even have jump shots," said Galloway, who always had one. "His jump shot is coming along, it seems fine. He'll continue to work on it, to get better."

When Bembry showed up at Hawk HIll, it wasn't crazy, Galloway said, to think future pro.

"It's come to fruition," he said.

Thursday night, somebody will get lucky whatever the draft number. It's been a decade since the Big Five offered the NBA such a fine prospect, since Kyle Lowry left Villanova in 2006. (A question about him then - his shot. Lowry developed one and turned into an all-star.) And if Bembry ends up having a more productive pro career than, say, Buddy Hield, you can say you recognized something special when Bembry first showed up in Philly - if you knew what you were watching. Galloway certainly did.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

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