Eric Demers has been a good basketball player for years. He was a two-year varsity starter at Falmouth High, where he averaged 21 points per game as a senior. In his sophomore and junior seasons at Gordon College, he averaged 23.4 points per game.
But he wanted more. After a summer devoting himself to improving his game, Demers is in the midst of a historic senior season. He’s averaging 33.8 points per game, which is the highest average in college basketball over all divisions.
Gordon plays in Division 3, where athletic scholarships are not offered, but he’s still outscoring the players on free rides. Markus Howard of Marquette leads Division 1 at 27.4 while Jordan Floyd of King University in Bristol, Tenn., leads Division 2 at 31.2.
Demers’s summer of preparation was divided into two parts, his time at home in Acushnet and a week in Irving, Calif., at the Jordan Lawley Basketball program.
At home, he worked out three times a day, lifting weights in the morning, working alone on his shooting in the afternoon, and then finding a group workout or pickup game in the evening.
“I didn’t have any summer internships or jobs,’’ he said. “I worked out every day. I treated it like a full-time job and I think it paid off.’’
There was no indication that this would be a special season when the 6-foot-1-inch guard scored 24 in a season-opening loss to Emerson. Then he scored 30 points in only 27 minutes against Lesley. Since then, he has been held under 30 only twice (it was 28 both times), and his big explosion was 49 points against Nichols Dec. 10.
His game is mostly outside the 3-point arc, where he connects on 40.9 percent of his shots. He also is an exceptional free throw shooter at 88.6 percent.
“I began as a basketball player as a spot-up shooter and kind of created my game off of that,’’ he said. “I score pretty well at all three levels — at the rim, mid-range, and three. I think a lot of people jump quickly to see how many points I score, but at the end of the day, I just want to be known as a winner.’’
With a young roster, that’s been elusive for Gordon. The Fighting Scots are 10-11, and with Demers playing nearly 37 minutes per game, they rely on him heavily.
“I think I’ve always had the capability of putting up numbers, but I had other guys around that I sacrificed myself for the team’s success, which I’m totally willing to do,’’ he said. “But this year we’re really young, and I’ve had an opportunity to really show off my skill set.’’
He developed more skills in his week at the training facility in Irvine, where NBA players CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, and Thon Maker of the Detroit Pistons work out in the summer.
“They have a pretty amazing facility where they have upwards of 50 basketball players coming through daily, starting at 6 a.m. all the way until 10 o’clock at night,” Demers said. “It’s pretty impressive.
“I played in some pickup games with some G League guys and overseas guys, but the NBA guys didn’t play in pickup.’’
With that experience behind him and his other hard work in the summer, Demers has been practically unstoppable on his level. He’s not the only big-time scorer on campus, either. Megan Foley of the Gordon’s women’s team is second in Division 3 at 24.3 points per game.
The Scots have only a handful of games left, and Demers is hoping for success in the conference tournament to finish on a good note.
After that, his goal will be to play professional basketball. He’s going to return to Irvine for 15 days in March, and the Gordon coaching staff has sent out tapes of his games to teams and agents. Tod Murphy, Gordon’s head coach, played in the NBA and has told Demers he can play professionally.
“He thinks with my ability to score there’s a team out there that could use me,’’ said Demers. “Obviously, coming from a Division 3 school is not as easy, so it may be a little bit different of a journey. It may take some time to get there, but he thinks it’s definitely possible.’’
Even with all the time he spent in the gym last summer, Demers still found time to get married. His wife Lauren also attends Gordon and she’s student-teaching in Lawrence this semester and will graduate in May. He says they’re both ready to pursue professional basketball, no matter where it takes them.
Joe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org