Maine Celtics’ Eric Demers shows Ford Wildcat pride in Acushnet

ACUSHNET — Watching the team rosters for a student-staff basketball game as they prepared for a whistleblower at Ford Middle School earlier this week, it was clear each side had its advantages: Teachers had overall size on their side; the students had a professional player.

But the inclusion of Eric Demers of the Maine Celtics on the student side was no accident — after all, he’s a Ford Wildcat like them.

“I tell people all the time that I’m living a lot of New England kid dreams,” Demers told the Standard-Times. “And I don’t take that lightly, I take it as a privilege.”

Demers, 25, is an Acushnet native who graduated from Ford Middle School in 2012.

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Maine Celtics player Eric Demers has returned to Acushnet's Ford Middle School to help kids battle basketball staff.

Dare dream

Like many city kids, he grew up playing youth sports, including basketball for the Ford Wildcats in a regional college league. From there, Demers took advantage of a school choice opening to attend Falmouth High School, where his vision for a future in professional basketball began to take shape.

“I didn’t really get good at basketball until later in high school and then college,” he said. “I can’t say I didn’t dream of being a professional basketball player – I just didn’t know what it was like, so I didn’t see it as a full-time job or career. But as I continued and was starting to get national media attention in college and things like that, the view changed over time.”

After graduating from Gordon College in Wenham with a historic season as the NCAA’s leading scorer under his belt, a mixture of chance encounters, successful networking and, of course, other good ball games, would eventually bring Demers in basketball, this is the time to pursue it at a professional level. The pursuit paid off when he was selected to play in the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League and later selected in the 2021 NBA G-League Draft by the Maine Celtics.

Acushnet Public Schools Superintendent Paula Bailey, right, unveils the jersey of NBA G-League Celtics player Eric Demers who will be suspended at his former school, Ford Middle School, in Acushnet.

Score extra family time – for now

These days, Demers — who resides in Beverly with his wife, Lauren, and their nine-month-old son, Jordan — is grateful for how things turned out. “I was really excited to stay close to home this year, especially with a newborn,” he said.

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While awaiting the start of his second season with the team, Demers is currently undergoing a training schedule that sees him at the Celtics’ facilities in Boston. It was a schedule that allowed him to spend more time with his family before things picked up again.

“On a practice day, we’ll go around 9 a.m., we’ll do a one-on-one lift with our strength and conditioning coach; … player development; then we have team practices 11 to 1, so we’re there for about four-and-a-half to five hours a day,” he said. “So right now I have a lot of free time with my family compared to a lot of people who work. eight to ten hours a day, and I only work seven months a year.

“But at the same time it can get difficult when we have to travel eight to 12 days at a time, so there are pros and cons to everything.”

NBA G-League Celtics player Eric Demers returns to Acushnet's Ford Middle School to play on the kids' side in a student-teacher basketball game.

‘Who knew…’

John Roy, Demers’ former coach during his Ford Middle School days, recently retired from teaching but was back in the building Monday for the reunion occasion. “It’s great to see a kid pursue a passion and get really good at it and then watch it on TV in the G-League, I’m like, ‘I had that kid on my team. It’s amazing,” Roy said. “To be from a small town and play for a Division III college, lead the nation in goals, and then go on to play professional basketball…it really is a dream come true. reality.”

But if you ask the former coach if he ever predicted Demers’ future as a professional player, Roy will tell you that it came as a relative surprise.

“Eric was average height, his basketball skills were improving, but who knew where that would lead,” Roy recalled. “It just goes to show that if you do something enough, you’ll get really good.”

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“Practice, practice, practice”

In the middle school gymnasium on Monday, where the whole school was able to sit and watch the game, the excitement started before the game, with a chorus of excited voices roaring with every basket made during the pre-game shoot. match and continuing throughout. With a final score of 73-46 – the winners being the students and Demers – the event ended with Demers receiving a Hometown Hero Award and his #12 Celtics jersey, which would later be hung at the school.

In a brief press conference, Demers talked about being able to bring his wife and son to see his old playground. “It was pretty good…for them to come back to where I grew up and see the school and to see the community I grew up in,” he said.

NBA G-League Celtics player Eric Demers hands a basketball to his 9-month-old son Jordan Demers, held by his wife Lauren Demers, during his return to Acushnet's Ford Middle School.

Ford Middle School principal Michelle Sylvia said the event was part of a reward system known as PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), designed to recognize students for positive qualities such as responsibility and respect. This year, the game and Demers’ visit were used as a reward, with those who had earned PBIS recognitions throughout the school year given the opportunity to play.

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Sylvia said Demers’ story and what she has to offer today’s fifth through eighth graders made her appearance a perfect time for the occasion.

“Practice, practice, practice,” she told the Standard-Times. “You never give up on something you want. You’re not going to give it your all – that’s what he embodies.”

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