Stratford boys basketball coach Troy Johnson has his first Division I player.
Senior wing player Demetre Rivers has committed to Mercer University after averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds last winter for the Knights. Rivers will clearly be the cornerstone for Stratford this upcoming season.
“The sky is the limit for him,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t know how great he could be. He’s capable of scoring 30 points per game. He’s a better person than a basketball player and some times that hinders him as a player.”
But the potential is there for Rivers (6-7, 190) if he can take his aggression to a new level, Johnson added. Rivers can already score from distance and to take the next step he needs to get more physical going to the basket. Johnson said the Knights will ride Rivers as far as he can take them.
“He means everything to us on the court and off the court,” Johnson said. “The kids look up to him. He knows that’s his role. We’re going to give him the ball and he can make plays. He doesn’t have to worry about sharing the shot opportunities this year.”
Rivers is the sixth former Knights player under Johnson to play at the next level, but the first to land at the highest college level.
“It’s a great opportunity to coach a Division I player,” Johnson said. “Most high school coaches don’t get that many opportunities to coach guys like that.”
While Mercer may not stand out as a household name in college basketball, the Bears have a lot of bite and have posted some notable victories.
Last season, they won 24 games and captured the Atlantic Sun regular season championship before advancing to the National Invitation Tournament.
“That team Florida-Gulf Coast that went to the Sweet 16 last year was from the Atlantic Sun,” Johnson said. “Mercer split with them in the regular season and then lost to them in the (Atlantic Sun) tournament championship. A kid going to Mercer has just as much of a chance to play in the Division I tournament as anywhere else. They have 65 wins the last three years. Last year they beat Florida State, Alabama and Tennessee. They are one of the top-10 mid-major programs in the country.”
They beat Georgia Tech the season before that and won the CollegeInsiders.com postseason tournament.
Johnson said Rivers wants to be a mechanical engineer and that played into his decision to attend Mercer.
“For him, it was as much about academic as it was athletics,” he added.
Practice begins on Nov. 4 and Stratford’s first game is Dec. 2.