We're over a month past the final home game for both Alex Olah and Tre Demps, but even at this particular point in time -- when my mind is strongly focused on getting better at golf and the hopeful virtues of Chicago White Sox baseball -- the only thing I really remember from that contest was when those two seniors walked to the fan section and gave their thanks to their student supporters.
In front of their parents -- in case you forgot, this was the first college game Olah's mother and father watched in person -- wife and other family members, Olah and Demps didn't go into the locker room to celebrate among themselves, their teammates and coaches. In that excited moment where Northwestern basketball was still alive for NIT postseason play -- and their destiny still in the clutches of their hands -- those two exemplary seniors made sure to pay it back to their supporters. To the fans that for the past four years watched them grow together. To the people that will remember their contributions forever.
And that, more than anything else, is what I will remember most about the Olah/Demps years. They were the type of guys regular fans of Big Ten basketball couldn't help but love. The kids that always did it "the right way". The type of dudes that fans on message boards gush over.
They were the guys -- as a fan from an opposing university -- that you admired from afar; especially after sticking it out through two totally different programs.
As an outsider looking in, I can't even count how many times during his four years at Northwestern that I wished Olah was in a black and yellow uniform. He was the ultimate "YMCA Sweaty Guy". His passion, grit, hustle and whatever other buzz word that describes a guy that "gives it his all" was always admirable. He always represented the program dutifully for both Bill Carmody and Chris Collins and with amazing grace.
From a pure basketball standpoint, Olah got better every single year. His senior season, despite having a nagging injury, was his best, most efficient offensive season in a Wildcats uniform. He developed a decent outside game (that he relied on a little too often) and a couple of strong post moves that he confidently used when Northwestern desperately needed a bucket.
He also learned how to be a rim protector and a shot blocker despite gravity working against his very wide rump.
And next year, when the Wildcats take the court, they are going to have a giant hole to fill without his presence on both ends of the court and in the locker room. Olah was an extension of his coaches and the Perry Ellis of the Big Ten.
The same can be said for Demps, who despite having a pretty ugly start to conference play, remained the one guy that could get a shot off when the Wildcats offense teetered from functional to sluggish. Sure, there were times when he was forced to take some bad shots and I'm sure he was glad to do it, but those shots aren't always the best of looks.
And his efficiency (and fan patience) wore a little thin at times because of this. He was who he was; a hero ball shooting guard, that never saw a shot he didn't like. And when he got hot, there was nothing you could do to stop him.
But all of that says nothing about how important he was to this team just from a sheer minutes standpoint. He never fouled (insert whatever "because he didn't really play defense" joke here) and seemingly never got tired. The dude just played ball. And a team like Northwestern needs guys like him who are unafraid of the moment with short term memories. He may not have been the the Chicago version of Robert Horry during the last five minutes of the game this season, but even with that down tick he remained Collins' best option for a safety valve.
While I know they didn't achieve the post season success that they dreamed of, Olah and Demps were extremely important for the growth of this program. They both had some great, all time moments in their purple and white uniforms. And those moments along with their unheralded leadership on and off the court after the regime change will always be one of the best things they ever accomplished:
Hard to believe they never got to the postseason. Reflecting on the careers of Alex Olah & Tre Demps https://t.co/bq6FGpny7N— Andrew Hilsberg (@andrewhils) March 14, 2016