If you watched Northwestern basketball this season, overwhelming odds suggest that Tre Demps is one of your favorite Wildcats. It's easy to love the offensive sparkplug who comes off the bench ready to score right out of the box, and that's precisely the role Demps played for the 'Cats last year. At 6-foot-2, Demps is an undersized shooting guard, but he proved to be at his best in the very biggest of moments last season.
Between January 1 and February 12, Northwestern played its best basketball of the year, going 5-2 in B1G play and notching wins over powerhouses Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. None of those wins would have happened without Demps' clutch performances. In crunch time against then-No. 23 Illinois, Demps knocked down three consecutive three-pointers to help the 'Cats pull away and score the upset. In the win over Indiana at Assembly Hall, Demps tallied 13 of his 15 points in the final six and half minutes. And in the 'Cat's signature victory over Final Four-bound Wisconsin, Demps notched a career-high 5 assists to go along with his 10 points.
Clearly, Demps isn't afraid of the big moment. A closer look at his stats suggest that Demps isn't really afraid to pull the trigger at any moment. Any time a freshman shoots 37.9% from the field yet manages to shoot nearly eight times a game, as Demps did in 2012-2013, confidence isn't the issue. His shooting didn't improve much, if at all this year, as both his raw shooting percentage (38.3%) and his true shooting % (48.9% compared to 48.0%) are virtually identical to last year. His shooting, in general, particularly from outside, simply needs to improve. If you're going to shoot 4 three-pointers a game, as Demps has demonstrated that he's going to (he put up over 3/game as a freshman; clearly he's not bashful), you need to be making more than only a third of your threes. NU should be much more athletic next year, particularly on the perimeter, which should free up Demps for more open looks. His percentage should improve as a result.
But unlike his shooting, Demps' playmaking improved significantly. Per Kenpom.com, Demps' assist rate this year was 19.9, almost double last year's total of 11.8. When you combine that solid rate with his excellent turnover rate of 10.4, good for 87thin the country and by far a team-best, it's easy to be encouraged about Demps's prospects for next year, especially at the point guard spot. Northwestern will have a crowded backcourt, as I alluded to when discussing the ‘Cats' recruiting needs, but Demps' steady distribution and predilection for the big moments suggest he should be seriously considered for some minutes at the one.
But don't expect those minutes to come in the beginning of games. Demps started 27 of NU's 33 games on the bench last season, and Collins "loves him" in that role. I'd be shocked if Demps starting opening night; he simply fits into the instant-offense sixth man role. He should play a similar role to the one he played last year, but if Demps can improve his shooting while maintaining his ability to take care of the ball, he could emerge into one of the B1G's most effective guards.