Bembry still mourns painful loss
PHILADELPHIA >> DeAndre’ Bembry didn’t put much thought into uniform numbers until June.
Two weeks before the NBA draft, Bembry, the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year at Saint Joseph’s University, received tragic news. His younger brother, Adrian Potts, was slain in North Carolina in a dispute someone else had over a cell phone.
On Saturday Bembry returned to the city where he grew into a man wearing No. 95 for the Atlanta Hawks. It’s the birth year of Adrian, who was one of his biggest fans. The heavy heart hasn’t gone away.
“Not at all,” Bembry said softly. “Definitely, it’s still there.”
After the life-changing event, and after the Hawks took Bembry off the board with the 21st overall pick, they swung a three-team deal with the Utah Jazz for another firstround pick, Taurean Prince of Baylor. The rookies became best friends. Sometimes they drive to work together as they live on the same floor of a condominium community.
Bembry and Prince, for whatever reason, are as close as brothers.
“DeAndre’ is very funny,” Prince said. “We have a lot of laughs on the bench and hanging out with each other. He’s a cool guy. I’m glad I met him in the draft process. It’s just ironic, us, coming to the same team.”
Bembry played six minutes, scoring two points and grabbing a couple of boards as the Hawks coasted to a 104-72 win over the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center. The 6-6 Bembry subbed for Kyle Korver, the 35-year-old former Sixer who scored 15 points, with 6:04 remaining, the Hawks holding a 24-point lead. Prince, who lists at 6-8, came in 19 seconds later.
By then, the Center was emptying partly because it was all over but the math and also to avoid the anticipated traffic snarl. The Owls were playing across the street at the Linc. The Flyers had a night game at the Center with the Penguins.
In the early portion of the Sixers game, Bembry scanned the seats looking for old friends and Hawks fans during timeouts.
The weekly talks Bembry has with Hawks coaches Phil Martelli and Geoff Arnold, among others, have been as powerful as the prayers from Hawk Hill. Bembry is grateful he didn’t have to take on his burden alone.
“Everything is going pretty well,” Bembry said. “I’m on a good team. A lot of vets are helping throughout this process and also I’ve got someone beside me that’s going through the process as well, being a rookie as well. So everything’s been going pretty well.
“I get a lot of love back here in Philly.”
Bembry nodded toward Prince, seated next to him in the locker room, while making the remarks. They met at a Nike camp the summer before their last years in college. This past summer they competed against each other in the NBA’s pre-draft process to heighten their draft stock.
“We worked out against each other in Boston,” Prince said. “We were supposed to work out a couple more times but something happened.
“It’s just crazy to end up at the same spot.”
Bembry wore No. 43 and was A-10 rookie of the year as a freshman on the Hawks team that lost to eventual national champion UConn in the NCAA Tournament. A scout thought Bembry was the most draftable player at the regional.
Bembry stuck around while Hawks had to rebuild the next year and the following season, they won the A-10 championship and beat Cincinnati in the NCAA tourney. The ride ended in the round of 32 with a loss to Oregon.
Prince said Bembry’s comic side comes out during impersonations of locals from Philly, New Jersey and North Carolina. He declined to give an example.
When it was suggested to Bembry that a few Philly fans might be around the Center to welcome him back, his sense of humor reared up.
“I think more than just a few,” he said with a smile. “But I guess we can say, just a few.”
That’s DeAndre’ Bembry. Once a Hawk, always a Hawk whether it’s Saint Joseph’s University or Atlanta. n The Delaware 87ers invited several players to training camp including Temple product Dionte Christmas, who was on the Sixers’ preseason roster.
Other invites on that preseason roster are Anthony “Cat” Barber and forwards Shawn Long and James Webb III.
Guard Davon Usher returns to the First State following a four-game stint with the Sevens in 2015-16 and a standout senior season at the University of Delaware. Usher averaged 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals for the Blue Hens in 2013-14.
The Sevens trade at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center Tuesday.