Drew DeMond has not only been a solid basketball player at Southeast Missouri State University but also a fan favorite. Chants of 'D-R-E-W, D-R-E-W' filled the Show Me Center on his many blocked shots.
But fans won't have DeMond to cheer for next season in what would have been his senior year. The 6-foot-7 junior center/forward said he plans to transfer at the end of the current school year, probably to a Division II school.
DeMond would not detail why he was leaving, but emphasized he had no problems with anybody in the program.
"It's just personal stuff," he said. "People have been great to me. I'll miss the fans, the people, everything about it. But I just think this is best for me."
A native of Rockton, Ill., DeMond led the Indians in rebounding and blocked shots last season while ranking third in scoring. He averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and recorded 38 blocks to rank among the Ohio Valley Conference leaders.
As a sophomore starter two years ago, DeMond averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds, and blocked 48 shots. He was a freshman reserve on the Indians' 1999-2000 NCAA Tournament team, averaging 1.3 points and 1.8 rebounds.
DeMond said he wasn't sure where he would transfer, but indicated he is leaning toward Division II West Florida, where he would be eligible to play immediately next season.
DeMond is one of three Southeast players who will not return to the team next season, the others being 6-8 junior center Daniel Weaver and 5-9 junior point guard Kenny Johnson.
Weaver, mostly a reserve during his Southeast career, said he won't play next year because he will graduate in May and will be married in June.
"I just feel like I'm ready to get on with the rest of my life," he said. "I really enjoyed playing here, but I'm looking forward to graduating, getting married and starting a new job."
A horticulture major, Weaver has accepted a job as an assistant golf course superintendent at St. Albans Country Club in St. Louis.
"Coach (Gary) Garner understood and he's been really nice about it," Weaver said.
Weaver, a former transfer from Memphis, averaged 3.0 points and 2.2 rebounds last season after averaging 4.0 points and 2.2 rebounds as a sophomore.
Johnson was the Indians' starting point guard for a good part of the season after transferring in from Penn Valley Community College but he lost his job late in the campaign and played sparingly in the final few games.
Johnson, who averaged 6.2 points and 3.8 assists, said he plans to transfer to be closer to his 2-year-old son in Kansas City, Mo.
"I miss my son a lot," he said. "The season really didn't have anything to do with it. I know next year would have been better."
Johnson said he is not sure where he'll transfer, but it will likely be to a Division II program.
"All three are good guys and we wish them the best of luck in the future," Garner said. "It is not unusual for college players to move around. After a losing year, I really thought we would lose some players."
What will hurt the Indians, who went 6-22 last season, is that the defections could again make for a short roster because of the NCAA rule that prohibits teams from signing more than four players per year. The Indians already had four available scholarships, so they won't be able to replace the scholarships held by DeMond, Weaver and Johnson.
Southeast finished last season with 11 players, 10 of them on scholarship, which is three below the NCAA maximum of 13. As of now, next season's roster will once again feature 11 players (seven returnees and four newcomers), with 10 of them on scholarship.
The Indians have already filled three of their scholarships for next season and they plan to sign their final recruit soon.
New Madrid County Central High School senior point guard Dereke Tipler has said he will join the Indians as a walk-on next season, although nothing is official until Tipler enrolls in school this summer. Colleges are continuing to recruit Tipler.
"The big thing with the low numbers is injuries. Ten or 11 players are enough if we don't have any injuries," Garner said. "I feel good about the players who are returning and the players we've signed. We'll probably add a couple of walk-ons.
"I feel good about where we are. We will definitely be an improved basketball team."