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May 16, 2016

Bembry and Hart reignite Holy War rivalry at Sixers workouts; Embiid continuing to progress

A little over five months ago, DeAndre’ Bembry and Josh Hart were going head-to-head on City Line Avenue. Monday morning, they were back at it. Same street, different venue. 

The atmosphere in the gym (with the likes of Bryan Colangelo, Brett Brown, and Marc Eversley looking on) at PCOM wasn’t nearly as raucous as a packed Hagan Arena, but at least individually, the stakes were still pretty high. With six college players in total working out for the Sixers, the Holy War rivals found themselves matched up against each other in 3-on-3 situations. 

This wasn’t anything new to them, though.

“We’ve been playing against each other since we were 14 or 15 years old,” Hart said. “I think in a game sense, I always top him, so I’m always going to hold that over his head a little bit.

“It’s a great matchup every time we go at it. He wants to see me do well, I want to see him do well. We definitely go at each other, but it’s all love.”

In their college careers, Hart definitely had the upper hand (“kicking us,” as Bembry described it), as ‘Nova went 3-0 during the two players’ careers against St. Joe’s with three double-digit wins. Now separated from their programs, they have to fend for themselves. 

The tables might not have completely turned, but it’s fair to say that Bembry and Hart now find themselves in fairly different situations.

Bembry, who already hired an agent and therefore won’t be back in school, was one of the best players at the past week’s NBA Combine. He looks the part of a first-round pick, although you could very well argue that has always been the case you were paying attention (we were, FYI). Bembry certainly thinks so.

“I always had this confidence in myself,” Bembry said when asked about his draft stock potentially rising. “I think that’s pushing me. I feel like a lot of people got to see me that didn’t or may not have seen me throughout my years at St. Joe’s.”

The major knock against Bembry is his jumper, and in a league that punishes poor shooters come playoff time, it’s legitimate. The 6’6” swingman only shot 27 percent from three as a junior at St. Joes. Here he is talking about trying to improve that critical aspect of his game:  

This was Bembry’s first NBA workout (he will fly to Boston and Toronto later in the week), and it just so happened to take place a couple of blocks from where he went to school for the last three years. Phil Martelli, his college coach, was there to take it in. 

After the workout ended, Bembry was headed back to spend some time at St. Joe’s. His counterpart on this day was impressed by the basketball IQ Bembry showcased during his time there.

“He was the main option, but he didn’t take too many bad shots,” Hart said. “He got guys involved, I think he averaged four or five assists. He’s just a good all-around player.”

Hart, on the other hand, has a real decision to make. The 6’5” wing hasn’t hired an agent yet, and unlike Bembry, he has the chance to return to a loaded roster that has a legitimate chance to defend the national title. Not only that, Hart would unquestionably be “The Guy.” 

That said, these decisions aren’t usually easy. You get paid to play professional basketball and returning to school doesn't guarantee that your draft stock will improve. Hart says he’s still 50-50 at the moment. 

“It’s very difficult,” Hart said. “The NBA is my dream, what I’ve been working towards since I was five years old. On the other hand, Villanova has a special place in my heart. Obviously we have a good chance to repeat (ed note: they do) if we continue to get better and play Villanova Basketball. It’s going to be a tough one.”

Hart, who already worked out with the Clippers earlier in the month, also has workouts scheduled in Boston, San Antonio, and Atlanta. Here is what he said about some of the feedback he’s been getting:

Hart said that he will take all of the time to make a decision that the rules allow. He plants fly back from the Atlanta workout on May 24th, sit down with his parents, host family, Jay Wright, and assistant coach Baker Dunleavy (who also attended today’s workout) and make a decision on the 25th, the deadline. 

“It’s going to be more a feel,” Hart said. “Obviously everyone wants a first-round guarantee. It’s tough to get that a full month before the draft. There’s so many different variables.”

Embiid works out, too

We also got to see Joel Embiid work out for the first time in months. No official update, but here’s some video:

Embiid Workout 051616 from Rich Hofmann on Vimeo.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann