It might be his old-school Dr. J Afro or methodical pace he features to dissect defenses, but DeAndre Bembry is doing his best to break the mold. He calls himself "underrated," but it's hard to fly under the radar when you went to the same high school as NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Al Harrington.
At Saint Patrick High School Academy in New Jersey, Bembry parlayed a New Jersey All-State First Team selection senior year into a Jordan Brand Classic appearance in 2013. He chose to play for head coach Phil Martelli at Saint Joseph's and was a key member in their 2013-14 tournament run as a freshman.
As a 6-6, 210-pound forward, Bembry was named the Atlantic 10's Co-Rookie of the Year, averaging 12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Martelli found a freshman dynamo in Bembry, as the former three-star recruit was looked upon to carry the load left by the graduating seniors in Langston Galloway, Halil Kanicevic and Ronald Roberts Jr.
As the team's primary scorer last season, Bembry paced the Atlantic 10 in points per game (17.7) and became the first Hawk to lead the conference in scoring. Bembry's stock, as one of the top statistical players in the nation, is scalding as a junior (currently ranked the No. 38 prospect in the 2016 NBA draft rankings, per DraftExpress). We were lucky enough to sit down with the current Hawk and ask him a few burning questions.
Jake Hyman, Mid-Major Madness: How did the Philadelphia area impact your decision to go to college?
Saint Joseph's DeAndre Bembry: When I moved to New Jersey my junior year [of high school], Philadelphia was an hour and a half away. Of course Temple and Saint Joe's, the Philly teams, started looking at me and so I looked into it more. It was probably because of two really cool coaches [Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli and Temple's Fran Dunphy]. They were really down to earth, so that's what it was. They were really good coaches that I wanted to try and play for.
MMM: How much are Big 5 games a rivalry to you?
Bembry: I have a lot of friends: Temple's Josh Brown is one of my close, close friends. I talk to him every once and a while, because we played on the same AAU team. I know a lot of guys in the area. We're cool off the court, but then we get on the court, it's so competitive. It's fun, it's basketball, and of course, it's the Big 5. You got fans screaming from both sides, even at your home gym.
MMM: You were named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 2014. Did you expect playing time to be there for you coming to Saint Joe's? Was that one of the kickers that got you here or did you earn it?
Bembry: Definitely. I sat down with coach [Martelli] before the season even started, before I even got on the court. He told me 'you have to earn it'. I've earned it, especially after interleague play out in Italy. I feel like I've earned it.
MMM: You averaged 17.7 points per game last year. What was that key thing that got you to that stratosphere?
Bembry: Really, I had to take so many shots. We didn't have too many scorers last year and we've lost a lot over the past few years since I've been here. I had to take a lot of shots, especially a lot of shots that I didn't want to take. It definitely helped me a lot. It helped me get better at my scoring, shooting, passing and just helped me get better overall. It showed that I could score to, I guess, some people that didn't think I could. It just shows another level of my game I have.
MMM: You were one of the 20 collegiate players invited to the Nike Basketball Academy over the summer. Was that something you envisioned as a freshman and what motivates you to get noticed?
Bembry: I'm always trying to get noticed because I'm used to being underrated. It does bother me to not be getting noticed, so when I do get invited to stuff like that, I take it to heart and put my all into it. I was really happy that I did get invited.
MMM: For people that solely read your stats and have never seen you play, what is your best asset on the court?
Bembry: I'd probably say rebounding. Rebounding and passing: I feel like I could average more assists as well. With the certain team I had last year I couldn't, but this year I feel like the assists will go up a little bit. I feel like rebounding is a big thing, especially being a guard. I averaged top in the A-10 [for guards] and I really like getting down there and battling with the bigs.
MMM: Do you look into the draft buzz at all and does it fuel you when you play in the season?
Bembry: I look at everything, the smallest things. Anybody can tweet some small things about me and I'll see it. I like reading about myself, just to better myself. I can tell if it's right or if it's wrong. I obviously feel that I'm a lot higher than what the numbers are. Again, I'm underrated. I've been raised like that, so it makes me work even harder.
MMM: What is it like as a scorer knowing that you can go off on any given night?
Bembry: It's great. Every night you're not going to be on, but it's really good to know that if nobody else on the team can score, you can go get the bucket if you need to. It definitely helps my confidence and helps your teammates believe in you. It's definitely a confidence builder.
MMM: What are you trying to accomplish this year for Saint Joseph's?
Bembry: Start off by getting more wins. That's what we need to try and get to the NCAA Tournament of course. Definitely trying to get there; I loved getting there my freshman year and that was a great ride that year. Definitely trying to get more wins and get to the NCAA [Tournament].