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Sunday / March 09 / 2014

Ex-PBA import and New Orleans GM Dell Demps recalls Philippine stint

The author with former PBA import Dell Demps, who is now the Pelcians GM. (Photo by Bernard Pagusara/ Philippines)

Ex-PBA import and New Orleans GM Dell Demps recalls Philippine stint

By Absalon Inocian Jr for Philippines

NEW ORLEANS ? Back in 1992, popular import Dell Demps was a slippery, sweet-shooting guard who led the then Pepsi franchise to a bridesmaid finish in the Reinforced Conference of the PBA.

A year later, Demps joined to NBA where he had a productive, albeit a few seasons stint. But his basketball journey has taken him back to the NBA, where he has been the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans since 2010.

When the Pelicans hosted the Milwaukee Bucks last Friday night at the Smoothie King Center, the very gracious Demps granted Philippines an interview shortly before tip-off. Philippines: Filipinos love their basketball so much so that they still care much about former PBA imports such as Billy Ray Bates, David Thirdkill, Michael Hacket, Sean Chambers, Norman Black, Tony Harris, etc. Have you kept in touch with any of them?

Dell Demps: I've talked to Tony Harris (Swift Might Meaties import famously known as "Hurricane") a couple of times and he comes to some Pelicans games, about three to four each season. He's still in great shape.??

Tony lives an hour away from New Orleans. I remember he scored 105 points in one PBA game. I remember that. I remember playing with him in the finals, telling myself, he?s not getting 105 points. He might get 99 but no way he?ll get 105 points (chuckling). I remember the excitement surrounding the games and awe the fans had. Philippines: Having played in the Philippines and having been immersed in our culture, what are the qualities that you admire most about Filipinos?

Dell Demps: First of all, that was my first professional experience playing in the Philippines. The people are just so friendly and that?s the thing that I remember the most. I remember the Pumaren family and that I had played under coach Derek Pumaren.

They went out of their way to make everything great. So many good relationships from people that I met back then. I hold those friendships dear and still contact them from time to time.

Second, is the passion of the Filipino people have for basketball, it?s just so unreal. I have never seen anything like that. Philippines: When was the last time you went back to the Philippines since your playing days?

Dell Demps: I haven?t been back to the Philippines in about six to seven years but I need to get back. I came back to visit a number of times since my PBA career ended.

My wife wants to go back. We just love the country. I know how huge basketball is for Filipinos, not only in PBA but also in the college level. I remember watching like De La Salle and Ateneo University, it was an interesting battle.

A lot of times I get calls from Philippine coaches asking about Filipino-Americans playing here in the United States. Philippines: Speaking of coach Derek Pumaren, how is that friendship now, after all these years?

Dell Demps: We still stay in contact. You know, Derek is a great guy. When he comes to the States he always calls. Then we find time to get together, you know, have lunch, or dinner and talk about basketball and life.

And that friendship I think lasts forever. Philippines: We?ve have a few Filipinos, most recently Japeth Aguilar, who got close to playing in the NBA but never quite made it. What advise can you give them in terms of reaching the pinnacle and playing in the NBA?

Dell Demps: You know the world has gotten smaller. I would tell the young players to go watch the game on the Internet. The key is understanding what the key players are doing and aspire to reach or exceed that highest level.

I know it?s going to happen, Filipino players will eventually make it in the NBA and I can?t wait for that day to come to light.

If I remember correctly, the Philippines qualified for and will play in the World Championships. That?s a big step. You know I?ve been following. That?s a great opportunity for young players to see where the bar is.

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