's second chance is turning out to be a difference-maker for the Montana Lady Griz.
Last season was supposed to be Deming
's final one at Montana, where the 5-foot-10 forward wound up after an all-state career at Westview High School in Portland, Ore. Then she landed on teammate Jill Henkel's foot in September 2002; by January her severely sprained ankle still wouldn't allow her to play.
"It was very frustrating," said the forward, who sat out the season as a redshirt. "It was the first time I'd not been able to play, and had to sit on the bench and cheer."
Her senior season wasn't lost, just delayed. This year Deming
is a big reason the Lady Griz are 15-4, and 4-0 in conference play heading into their home game tonight against Sacramento State.
"It's been great having her back, and she's been playing the best basketball of her career," said Robin Selvig, Montana's 26th-year head coach. "She's a pretty complete player. She rebounds, defends, she can score inside, and can shoot the three.
"She's been a huge addition. In fact, she's been better than I thought."
Keeping the faith There was a time when she could've ended up at the University of Maryland, or Oregon, or Oregon State. That's when Montana found the silver lining on a Deming
injury for the first time.
An all-around athlete who won Oregon's 4-A state high jump title as a sophomore, she got onto a select basketball team after her junior year. Then she suffered a stress fracture that spring.
"When I came back I was a little rusty, and I didn't play all that great in the tournaments," she said. "I think that's when a lot of schools passed me up.
"Montana kind of stuck with me."
So did Maryland, which plays in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I wanted to go there, but it was like my parents were, 'Absolutely not,'" Deming
said with a laugh. "And Maryland — their program was struggling, and when I compared the two, here there's a big-time winning tradition. Their attendance is basically the reason I ended up coming here. I like playing in front of people, I like that atmosphere. I had that in high school."
"Brooklyn (Lorenzen, Montana's point guard) and I were in pretty prestigious high school programs in Oregon, where we were always ranked in the top three, and were always playing in front of big crowds. That was a big deal, playing in front of people and having community support. That's a given, with this program."
Staying positive Montana drew a Big Sky-best 2,230 fans per game last year, although Deming
didn't get to enjoy those crowds as a player. The Lady Griz went 20-10 without one of their catalysts, and finished a game out of first for the second straight season.Deming
tried to stay upbeat.
"It was really hard at times, but I always wanted to be a good example and not pout or feel sorry for myself in front of people," she said. "I always tried to be the loudest on the bench. But deep down, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through."
It likely made her stronger. Playing pain-free, she's averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 rebounds at small forward this season. The Lady Griz are in position for the Big Sky crown that's eluded them since Deming
's freshman year.
"Every year we've been in the running and just come up short," she said. "It's not like we didn't have the talent — it's not like we come into each season without a positive outlook, because you don't have confidence in your teammates. We all trust each other, and we all want to work together."
To that, she added, "There's been one team we've played that's actually better than us — Texas."
Team first Deming
backs up that bravado with some stellar stats: She's fifth in the Big Sky in field goal percentage at .442, and would lead in 3-point percentage if she had more attempts (she's 23 for 48, for .479). She also third in steals at 2.32 per game. Not that Deming
is conscious of such things.
"Whether it's scoring a couple extra baskets or getting a couple extra steals, it doesn't matter to me," she said. "As long as we win."
"She adds creativity to the offense, and can create her own shot a little bit," said Selvig, who saw her get 11 of her game-high 16 points down the stretch in Montana's 60-44 win at arch-rival MSU last week. "I figured she'd be a good player, but I could be happier with the way she's come back and played. She is the team leader."
For her part, Deming
is enjoying every second of it. "It puts things in perspective when you have to sit out," she said. "Some people don't get that second chance, and I really took the second chance as a blessing, and I needed to take advantage of the opportunity."
She is, and the Lady Griz are seeing the difference.
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