(Portland ME) Gordon’s Eric Demers is still playing and hoping.
He is currently a member of the Maine Celtics in the NBA G League.
Realizing that the Maine team was ending its 2021-22 home season today, I made connections with Maine Celtics media director Evans Boston, and he arranged time for me to talk with Eric pre-game.
Eric grew up in Acushnet (on Cape Cod) “playing whatever sport I could play outside with my friends,” he said.
As he got better at basketball, it became his primary sport.
He attended Falmouth High School because there was no high school in Acushnet and he could choose where he went.
“There was a different lifestyle at Falmouth,” he recalled, “but it was a good place for me. I got better at basketball. I was coached hard and started for two years and was All-State my senior year.”
Eric was recruited by only two colleges: Springfield and Gordon. He considered doing a year at prep school.
When Gordon assistant coach Josh Theis called Eric during his junior year, he admitted that he had never heard of the place.
However, GC coach Tod Murphy and Josh persisted.
“They took the time to recruit me,” said Eric. “They spent time with my family and came to a lot of my games. They showed me that they wanted me. I was looking for a place that I could play at right away.”
“I drove up there a few times my senior year to play pickup with the team,” he said. “I committed there late in my senior year (2015).”
Eric thrived at Gordon. He was quick to point out that meeting his wife-to-be (Lauren) was at the top of his Gordon experience.
“I met Lauren my third year there. She was a sophomore. We met in the spring semester and eight months later we were engaged.”
Basketball was also good for Eric at Gordon. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. “I had the opportunity to start my freshman year. I played a bigger role than maybe I was ready for, but it helped me in the long run. I was there with Garrison (Duvivier), Noah (Szilagyi), and Jake (Haar). Being able to compete and grow with such a special group was good. I built some life-long friendships. Unfortunately, we never got to win a conference championship thanks to Nichols.”
Eric’s fifth season at Gordon put him on the national basketball map. How? “I had the opportunity to lead the country in scoring, be in Sports Illustrated, and get into the national spotlight. If that hadn’t happened, I’d probably now be playing in a small country overseas.”
But it did happen, and Eric signed a contract to play in New Zealand but couldn’t honor it because of covid restrictions.
So he stayed home and worked out in the Boston area with a few of the Celtics’ players including Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. “Over two months I worked out with them 4-5 times a week,” Eric said.
“I am always trying to network because basketball is going to stop bouncing for me someday,” he added. “The relationships I build during my career will help later on.”
Eric decided to be part of a team in the Million Dollar TV Tournament. “We only played one game (and lost) but it was televised on ESPN on a Friday night and there was significant national exposure. I did pretty well and later San Antonio offered me a Summer League spot.”
During that summer season Eric found time to meet with Remy Cofield who was the GM of the Maine Celtics. “I knew of him, and he knew of me,” said Eric. “When the G League, four-round draft took place, they were the ones who called my number.”
I asked Eric about what it was like when he heard that he had been drafted by the Maine Celtics: “I was at home with my family packing up because I knew I was going somewhere. We had people set up to sublet our condo. I had to leave the next day no matter where I was going. Thankfully, we were only an hour and twenty minutes up the road. It could have been anywhere in the US!”
The NBA G League season started in November. It is filled with established players. “Ten of the twelve players on our opening roster had NBA experience,” said Eric. “I had the chance to come in and learn from true professionals even though it didn’t correlate into playing time early on.”
When Covid, however, started impacting NBA teams, there were plenty of call-ups from the G League. That opened things up for Eric in Portland. “I had the opportunity to start eight-to-ten games in a row,” he said.
“I always wanted to be prepared and when my number was called, I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities and I think I did,” he added.
Lately playing time has been hard to come by. Eric hasn’t played at all over the past three games. “It’s kind of the flip side now as far as playing time goes,” said Eric. “The Celtics are assigning players down as they try to get ready for the playoffs.”
The players coming to Maine from the Celtics are going to get playing time which currently is influencing Eric’s playing time.
Maine (14-15) has three road games left in their season so maybe there will be some chances for Eric to play in the days ahead.
“It’s a league with a lot of movement,” he said. “You never know who is going to be in town that night to play.”
“My attitude is to stay ready and take advantage of the windows of opportunity I do get so that I can build my career going forward.”
Eric said that lots of his friends and family have come up to see him play in Portland. He added that even on the road he has occasionally seen Gordon sweatshirts and gotten some friendly waves.
I asked Eric about what his plans are after his G League season ends next Saturday: “I’ll head back to Beverly (MA) and enjoy some time with the family. We’re going to take a family vacation. I have been traveling and on the road so much. Then I’ll try to return to the cycle of going to the NBA Summer League and then finding out where I’m playing next year.”
You have to admire Eric’s optimism and his professionalism. The NBA and the G League are long-range leagues and Eric is a strong outside shooter. His last year at Gordon showcased that skill and his confidence in his shot. Now it’s all about getting a chance to prove to others that a Division 3 player from a small college in Wenham (MA) can produce at the highest level. I wouldn’t bet against it happening.
Thanks to Eric and Evans for their cooperation.
(The pictures will enlarge.)