April 24, 2014 9:56:01 PM
WEST POINT -- Demarius Calvert doesn't mind doing the "dirty work."
While some undersized post players would shy away from banging bodies with taller and stouter opponents, Calvert relished the opportunity.
Throughout the 2013-14 season, though, the West Point High School senior standout played a dual role. On game days, Calvert would roam the baseline, clean the backboards, and swipe passes at the front of the press to fuel the Green Wave. In practice, Calvert would hone the other parts of his game with an eye to a future as a guard at the next level.
Calvert's hard work attracted attention and paid off Thursday, as he signed a scholarship to play basketball at Meridian Community College.
"It is a blessing I will never forget," Calvert said. "I am happy I am able to sign with Meridian and am going to be able to help them out."
Calvert is the third player from a team that won 20-plus games and advanced to the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North State tournament to get a chance to play basketball in college. He joins Tre Williams, who signed with East Central C.C. in Decatur, and Juan Davis Jr., who signed with East Mississippi C.C. in Scooba.
Calvert smiled when asked about the work he will have to put in to become a shooter like Williams and Davis, who displayed an uncanny knack to be 3-point snipers. West Point coach Brad Cox, though, said Calvert has a good outside shot even if not many people had a chance to see it because the Green Wave needed Calvert patrolling the paint.
At a 6-foot-3, 161 pounds, Calvert played much bigger than his listed size because of his quickness, his length, and his lightning fast jumping ability. In fact, Calvert was so quick off his feet he was able to go up for loose balls and rebounds twice before other post players could complete one jump.
"What is so special about him is how hard he works," Cox said. "In a game, nobody plays harder and his attitude is always good. You can tell he loves basketball because every day he comes in and you can tell that is the highlight of his day."
Calvert played with that enjoyment. The Green Wave used Calvert at the front of his press, which is where he created havoc with his combination of freakish athleticism.
"It was fun," Calvert said of this season. "I liked playing the position I played in high school. If I could, I would still play it again, but I understand when I get to the next level I need to work on things I have never worked on to get to the top of the next level. Coach always prepared me for that and helped me get that extra workout in."
Cox, who has coached Calvert the past four seasons, said Calvert has known all year he had to develop his other skills -- ballhandling and shooting -- to transition to becoming an off guard or a small forward at the next level. Cox said Calvert is versatile enough that he can defend a smaller guard and he can use his athleticism to guard a forward who is a little taller. He feels those qualities will fit in well in MCC's system that includes pressing and a high-paced attack.
"He made our press go," Cox said. "In the district championship game (against Oxford), we went on a run where there were three or four possessions in a row in which they didn't get the ball across halfcourt. It was him right up at the front of it when it was happening. He fits in with what Meridian wants to do. His athletic ability makes him seem like he is taller than he is because he jumps so well, but he jumps quick, too."
Calvert paced West Point in scoring at just under 13 points per game.
Cox said Calvert's knack for getting offensive rebounds or running the floor on fast breaks kept the Green Wave in games. He believes Calvert's ability to lead a talented team in scoring essentially playing out of position speaks volumes about what Calvert has the potential to do when he focuses his energy at the guard position.
"He is talented and he is athletic, but how hard he plays he is going to get a couple of those buckets where he just beats everybody to the ball because he wants it more than everybody else," Cox said. "That is what separates him from another player."
Calvert feels the blue-collar work he did in the paint and the energy he played with showed another side to his game. He spoke confidently about "when" he developed even better guard skills he really could become the "wild card" player Cox often called him. Calvert realizes polishing those skills will be a challenge, but credits Cox for believing in him and pushing him to get better. In time, he feels he will be ready to face off against Williams and Davis Jr. when their teams play next season.
"Coach always prepared me for that," Calvert said. "Tre and Juan are a little better than me because they have been doing it for the past couple of years. Hopefully, I will be ready because my coaches at West Point have always pushed me and my coaches at Meridian will push me. I think I will be ready for it."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.