Cody Demps is getting used to long road trips now that he’s a basketball player at Sacramento State, a school that is a member of the Big Sky Conference.
“Yeah, it’s not 20 minute bus rides any more,” he chuckled.
That’s what just about every road game meant for the 6-4 shooting forward when he was the man who primarily guarded the top-opposing scorer while he played high school ball at Pleasant Grove.
Traveling in the Big Sky means you are visiting spots like Montana, Montana State, Idaho and North Dakota during their coldest months.
But, when his Hornet squad is playing at home, in the diminutive Hornets’ Nest with his capacity of 1.012, everything is nice and warm. That’s been especially the case this season.
Sacramento State, for the first time in anyone’s memory, is in first place entering the final week-and-a-half of the season. A 13-1 record this year at home, including a perfect 9-0 mark for Big Sky games has brought out even the casual fans.
And Demps has absolutely loved it.
“I am not surprised we are where we are right now because we have put in the work,” he said. “But, what is a little surprising is to see all the overwhelming support we’ve got.”
The Hornets are the only team in the league not to lose a conference home game.
The Hornets are performing at a level that the area hasn’t seen in quite a while. It’s been since 1988 that a Sacramento State team has qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The last league championship was in 1976-77 when a member of the Far Western Conference.
They’ve never won a Big Sky basketball championship since joining that league in 1996.
But, they could be rewriting a few school record books in the coming days. Going into Saturday’s road game at Portland State, Sacramento State is tied with Montana at 12-3 atop the Big Sky. They’ll finish the season with games March 5 at Southern Utah and March 7 at Northern Arizona.
“We really work well together and coming into this season I knew that would be one of our strong suits,” Demps said.
Sixth-year coach Brian Katz has now improved the Hornets' conference win total in all six of his seasons. The Hornets won one conference game in 2008-09, three the following season, followed by four, and then five. The Hornets won eight in 2012-13, and ten last season.
Sacramento State's nine-game home winning streak is the longest for the program since 1972, and tied for the second-longest in school history.
Sacramento State takes a 18-8 mark into this week's games. The 18 victories are the most since the 1987-88 team, and is tied for the third-most in school history. The win over Northern Colorado on Thursday secured a spot in the postseason tournament for the second straight season.
Should the Hornets win the league title that means they will host the Big Sky Tourney, an event that would be too big for the Hornets’ Nest. Demps says the school will make use of its large recreation center, The Well, as the spot to host that tournament.
“The Nest just isn’t big enough for the amount of people they expect, they were thinking of moving it to Reno,” Demps said. “They’ve done their research and it looks like we’ll be able to host it at ‘The Well’”
Demps is averaging almost ten points of game in this, his junior year. With the presence of outstanding guys like four-year starters Mikh McKinney and Dylan Garrity, Demps says his role really depends on the opponent.
“I’m pretty versatile so if Mikh is having a good scoring night, I might be just be the facilitator and then get down on their top scorer and grab a rebound,” he said.
He’s the second leading rebounder on the club, averaging a little more than five a game.
With all this excitement about Hornet basketball, his memories are still quite fresh of his days quarterbacking Pleasant Grove to a Sac-Joaquin Section football championship in 2010.
“We had some real success at Pleasant Grove, winning the first (football) championship, but I was pretty sure from a young age I would try to play basketball in college,” Demps said.
Now he hopes that other outstanding local basketball players look more seriously at Sacramento State.
“When I was going through the recruiting process they were always upfront and honest with me,” he said. “(Coach Katz) told me he was in the business of recruiting good guys, good character guys, good basketball players and he told me that would take (the Hornets) to the next level.”