Men’s Basketball: Tre Demps, Alex Olah reflect on Northwestern’s historic campaign


Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Alex Olah streaks toward the hoop. Olah and Tre Demps, both former players who graduated in 2016, have followed the Wildcats’ historic season from Belgium, where they play professionally.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor

On March 1, sophomore center Dererk Pardon scored off a miracle heave from senior forward Nathan Taphorn with 1.7 seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats over Michigan.

An ocean away, Northwestern alumnus Tre Demps awoke just in time to watch the historic sequence.

“My heart was racing,” said Demps, who graduated in 2016 and is currently playing professionally in Belgium. “It was a surreal moment, just seeing the hard work from those guys pay off.”

The basket was more than your average buzzer-beater, and was worth a lot more than just 2 points. After 78 years without an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Cats — whose push to end the drought can be found in their “Pound the Rock” mantra — saw the rock split in two.

And though Demps and his fellow NU alumni are no longer on the roster, the Cats of seasons past are watching their alma mater proudly, hoping their contributions helped set the stage for the historic moment.

“I want to think that I helped to get the program where it is now,” Alex Olah said. “Now it’s time for these guys and the next generations to take it to the next level.”

Olah also graduated in 2016, and is currently playing alongside Demps for Belfius Mons-Hainaut in the Belgian League.

The duo’s time in Evanston spanned two distinct periods of NU basketball. Recruited under former coach Bill Carmody, Demps and Olah carried the Cats into the Chris Collins era, where they saw the seeds planted for the record-breaking 2016-17 campaign.

And while they could not join their former teammates on the Welsh-Ryan Arena floor, Demps and Olah followed NU on its season-long journey from their homes in Europe.

“We’ve watched every Sunday noon-ish game together,” Demps said. “We can call out all the plays, we laugh at coach Collins — we know what he’s yelling. So it’s a lot of fun reminiscing.”

As the Cats depart on the the next portion of the journey, Olah is confident in the team, admiring its “toughness” and “togetherness.”

“I’m going to have them go all the way to the championship game,” Olah said with a laugh. “I don’t care about my bracket.”

But the team’s visit to The Dance won’t be without nostalgia. Just a year removed from the team, Olah said he never anticipated how much he would miss NU.

“Seeing what they accomplished this year, I wished every moment that I was back there and battling with them,” Olah said. “Knowing that they’re going to go to the tournament, you want to be there even more. It’s bittersweet, but I’m so proud.”

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