Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball student-athlete James Demery had high expectations for himself and the team coming into the 2016-17 basketball season.

After last season, Demery accomplished winning an Atlantic 10 Championship as the Hawks’ sixth man. The forward averaged 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and he was selected as a co-recipient of the Robert O’Neill Memorial Award, given to the team’s most improved player.

With SJU losing DeAndre’ Bembry to the NBA and Isaiah Miles and Aaron Brown to graduation, Demery was slated to being the season going from sixth man to starter.

“Before the season, I felt like we were going to have a great squad,” Demery said. “Because we learned from our previous teammates DeAndre’, Aaron, Isaiah, and Papa Ndao what it takes to win.”

But during the Hawks first game against Toledo on November 11, Demery suffered a stress fracture in the fourth metatarsal of his left foot. He played 32 minutes that game, scoring 11 points and collecting eight rebounds.

It was the first time ever having a fracture for Demery, and the forward wasn’t even sure what happened. In the second half, he felt the pain in his foot but he thought nothing of it and that it would go away.

When he was in the locker room after the game he took off his shoe and the pain hindered Demery’s walking ability.

“I was kind of like ‘why now?’” Demery said. “So, it was a time for me not to just grow in basketball but to grow mentally stronger. And I overcame that; my body is healed. Now we’ve got to come even closer as a team with some people being out.”

Not being able to help his team out in the 10 games he missed was the hard part for Demery. On the bench, he would constantly run game situations through his mind and thought about what he would be doing to help his team win.  

Even with practice, Demery still tried to stay involved doing as much as he could, which meant stationary dribbling and shooting drills.

“A minor setback for a major comeback,” Demery said. “My teammates and family back home kept me lifted so I thank God I learned from it. I was able to look at the game from a mental point. Sitting on the bench you get to see different aspects that you don’t see sometimes when you are playing.”

So, Demery sat out for his 10-game absence and studied the game from the sideline, patiently waiting for his time to get back on the court.  He was rewarded with being cleared for the game on December 30 against George Washington.

“I had to get the jitterbugs out before that game, and I was out of shape too,” Demery said.

Demery helped the team to a 68-63 win, scoring nine points in 25 minutes for the Hawks. But after the game, Demery felt the fatigue of playing in his first game back.

“We wear these heart monitors while we play,” Demery said, “and my health trainer was looking at my heart rate and I was in the 90th percentile. I had been missing running so I was just excited to be back on the court doing what I love to do.”

Now Demery said he is back in game shape and isn’t taking anything for granted.

Just two games after coming back, Demery scored a career-high 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting in a 70-55 win against Fordham. But there is always something to work on.

“Even with a game like that I feel like I didn’t do a good job boxing out,” Demery said. “I always critique my game because I can always do better.”

Even with Demery coming back from injury at a critical time for SJU, fate seemed to have a different plan. In the same game Demery came back, leading scorer Shavar Newkirk tore the ACL in his left knee. Newkirk is done for the season, which now raises the question: who will step up in his absence?

Demery said he doesn’t feel the pressure to step up with Newkirk out for the season.

“It’s more of a challenge, Demery said. “I may have to do a little more. We have a young team, but they are going to learn. That’s what I like about our freshmen; all of them are willing to get better.

“Keep hope alive and anything is possible.”