Big man, big expectations Westminster junior DeMont tries to smooth rough edges

January 29, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

Many people look at Russell DeMont and say it must be nice to be 6 feet 8 and playing high school basketball in Carroll County.

There just aren't very many players in the county over 6-4, and none of them has the talent and potential that Westminster High's DeMont possesses.

DeMont is easily the best big man in the county.

But with all that potential comes a lot of high expectations from teammates, classmates, fans and coaches.

And it's hard to hide when you're 6-8 and almost everybody else is 6-2 or smaller.

"At the beginning of the season I thought the whole team was looking at me because I'm tall and saying if I score a certain amount of points we will win," said DeMont, a slender junior who is averaging 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots a game.

"That made me feel some pressure. The night I scored 28 points [fourth game of season against Howard] I said to myself I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I just went out and played and we won."

DeMont would like every night to be like that night for him and the 7-6 Owls.

But there are some evenings when his feathery 10-foot jumpers in the lane aren't falling and his offensive game disappears.

That's when the confidence slips a little, self-doubts creep in again and the prodding of his coach Dave Byers stings a little more.

"Coach has tried the aspect of yelling at me and sometimes it works," said DeMont. "But some people need nice things said about them to motivate them."

Byers said he uses praise and criticism to help DeMont in his development.

"Russell and I both want the same thing for him," said Byers. "We want him to be the best basketball player he can be. I realize his potential and don't want to sell him short. It would only be false praise if I kept saying all the time how good Russell was doing. That wouldn't help."

DeMont has grown 8 inches since the eighth grade and the rest of his body seems to have had trouble keeping up with him, mainly in regard to strength and agility.

Byers said he didn't push DeMont that much as a sophomore on the varsity last season.

"From a coaching standpoint, I very rarely say anything to a sophomore," he said. "But as juniors we expect more. Russell has a good shooting touch, is a good post-up player and if he stays in the game [avoids foul trouble] he's going to score points. A lot of times he just needs to relax and play. I'm not disappointed at all in his development. He's given us what he has."

Byers works long hours with DeMont on blocking-out drills, overall post play and free-throw shooting.

"Russell's best basketball is ahead of him," said Byers. "I'm not so sure he's done growing. He might be one of those late-maturing kids who shocks people when he's 21."

DeMont said he is working on weights to improve his strength and stamina.

"Sometimes I work so hard on defense that I'm physically wasted by the time it comes to playing the offensive end," said DeMont. "I need to keep my intensity on offense. I need to go out there with a little fire in my eyes and be more physical."

On nights like last Tuesday when the 180-pound DeMont went up against Thomas Johnson's massive Phil Williams, 6-8, 265 pounds, there was very little he could do.

"The only thing was to take it right at him and hope he fouls out but that didn't work," said DeMont, who instead fouled out himself with only two minutes gone in the third quarter.

"I'm finding different techniques to use against the big men I'm running up against this year. I know I've improved a lot from last year but still have a long way to go."

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