Monday, August 18, 2014

DeMello Setting PACE After Well-Traveled High School Career

Few embody the gym rat mentality as effectively as Pace University guard Mike DeMello.

The White Plains graduate went from bone-thin freshman, who arrived at Kennedy Catholic 120 pounds soaking wet, to shredded up senior.

 His orange sphere went with him every step of the way, as he hung up the soccer cleats and made hoops a 12-month focus.

Once the little kid traipsing the sidelines, DeMello's confidence and deceptive swagger, masked by an introverted focus, hit a crescendo during the summer of 2013.

That's when his brand new House Of Sports AAU squad pulled off a wild upset of New Heights.

In four years, four different coaches utilized and nurtured DeMello's game.

One coach put the 5-foot-10 guard's creative passing and oft-slashing style into immediate use at Kennedy-Catholic. 

Then-coach Frank Kelly discovered a cerebral guard capable of accelerating a breakneck attack, an art ingrained in him while growing up on the Mount Vernon Junior Knights circuit.

DeMello developed range on his perimeter game, pulling from well beyond the confines of the arc and penetrating the teeth of the driving lanes. 

Kelly and Mike DeMello's time together was ultimately cut short.

 A firestorm-sparking move, executed while Kelly was midway through a team camp at West Point, pushed the veteran coach (now an assistant at Manhattanville) out the door.

It ultimately relocated DeMello to White Plains.

The other coach, who happens to be his competition-crazed father, helped Mike rectify one notable weakness.

In his youngest son, Lou DeMello pinpointed a deficiency that prevents so many good from evolving into great: suspect defense.

Working at a maniacal rate to disrupt offenses, evidenced during a 25-point, six-rebound, five-assist, five-steal MVP performance in the Tigers' Slam Dunk Challenge victory over Middletown, the weakness was transferred into a strength.

Hounding, pursuing, swiping at an unprotected Spalding--DeMello seemed hell-bent on locking up high-volume scorers in a ZIPLOCK bag with nary a slither of breathing room.

One coach helped DeMello become more efficient, impacting the game without getting lost as a non-factor. 

Andy Borman placed extra value on team concepts over the dysfunctional, me-first streetball flair that tends to pollute the AAU scene.

And his last coach, White Plains head coach Spencer Mayfield? He now wishes he had another year with him.

Mayfield, having groomed a lineage of high-caliber guards with Sean Kilpatrick, Ra'Shad James, Jamell Cromartie, Dave Boykin, Devon Austin, Spencer Smith, Mike Devere and myriad others, gave DeMello the keys to White Plains' offensive cyborg.

DeMello arrived on an ailing White Plains team that lacked an identity and had been robbed of its traditional core of NCAA prospects.

They sputtered into free-falls.

It was an agonizing and arduous 2012-2013, as the Tigers failed to sustain a Section 1 brand name. As the Tigers wobbled and wilted deeper and deeper into the plankton at the bottom of Lake Abyss, DeMello helped re-charge the program pulse in 2013-2014.

There's the five points in 20-seconds during the Slam Dunk Challenge, during which his back-to-back pickpockets and Justin Tapper's supremacy on the glass pulled White Plains out of a nightmarish 9-for-38 first half funk.

DeMello took charges. He hit long 3-pointers. He drew defenders in and hit the open man.

He was a one-man clinic during a mid-February drubbing of Mamaroneck, dropping 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

 DeMello provided a late-game scare with back-to-back 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough in a 54-50 loss to eventual Section 1 champion Mount Vernon. 

It was DeMello and then-freshman shootist Jordan Tucker who combined for 33 of White Plains' 50 points. Tucker has since transferred to Stepinac.

It was DeMello who knocked back free throws at a 10-for-12 clip, handing Mahopac its first loss in a 51-43 grindout win in the Hoops For Cure showcase.

The Pace freshman is cognizant that the same number of doubters he faced in high school are sure to surface in college. And, oh yeah, his father will still be on his ass and coaching the snot out of him every chance he gets.

Perched in the stands for every one of his games since he was a third grader, Joy DeMello, his mother, has heard it all.

"He's too small."

"His father is pulling the strings for him."

"He's not quick enough."

"He's too white."

The DeMellos chose not to listen, even if Westchester County can trigger more controversy and division and online white knighting/blog beef than most care to entertain.

At Pace, DeMello will play for Pat Kennedy. 

Kennedy has had career stops at DePaul, Montana, Iona, and Florida State and has revamped the roster with transfers such as Kyle Pearson (FDU) and Shelton Mickell (CCSU).

At Florida State, Kennedy became one of five coaches out of 300 Division-I programs to earn consideration from legendary NYC school boy talent Felipe Lopez.

Lopez who played for DeMello's father at now-defunct Rice High. An All-American and all-purpose reminder of when homegrown prospects actually stayed local, Lopez went to St.John's.

 Kennedy did not get the Dominican wunderkind and Lou DeMello's prized recruit. He instead landed DeMello's son, who chose Pace over St. Rose and Southern Connecticut State.

DeMello On His Role At Pace

I really just want to do whatever it takes to help my team win at the end of the day. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help to be successful with the team. I definitely want to pride myself on the defensive end and just get after it on that side of the floor, and then the offense will just come to me.

On Getting Acclimated

Being on campus with the team was really good for us. We got to know each other's games and spent the whole time together. We love playing with each other and we definitely can't wait to get this thing started. It's a brand new team so this whole new thing is very exciting for us all.

On Being On Campus

I just finished up an online class to get a head a little bit, so that the work load could be a little less during the season. As far as the summer grind, myself and the team have been having runs and working out together as much as possible and it has definitely benefitted us. It's been nice getting to know the team and understanding our common goals and how we're going to be able to achieve them.

On His competitive friendship With Kai Mitchell and Rickey McGill

We definitely have a special relationship. Both Rick and Kai have become brothers to me and I can't wait to support them this year and wherever they end up at the next level. Playing with them is one of the most rewarding things for a point guard. We push each other and we're all behind each other with everything we do in our lives. I even embrace every time I get to play against them.

I'll never forget them knocking me out of the playoffs, but they are a hell of a combo together and they're going to be very dangerous this year. They both just keep getting better every single day.