Where are they now: Former Vulcan DeMaestri takes court sense into coaching

  • Former UHH basketball player Jay DeMaestri, 35, is a basketball coach at Redwood High School in Larkspur, Calif., and he coaches at North Bay Basketball Academy. (Courtesy Photo)

Jay DeMaestri would stroll down the basketball court with the confidence of a long-distance sniper, catch the ball from 35 feet out and fire away.

Sometimes, the shot went in. Sometimes, it didn’t. Either way, his confidence never dimmed to attempt another one or maybe another half-dozen from more than 10 feet beyond the 3-point line.

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That was the basketball style for the former 6-foot-6 forward on the UH-Hilo men’s basketball team, during a three-season span.

In the curious case of Where is he now?, DeMaestri, 35, is back where he belongs, on a court at Redwood High School in Larkspur, Calif., as the boys basketball coach since 2019.

He’s also a campus supervisor at the school and coaches at the North Bay Basketball Academy, an AAU club in Marin County. He’s coached at NBBA for over a decade.

DeMaestri is still a few credits short of his communications degree. His parents, Joe and Julie DeMaestri, are still on his case about his degree.

“My mom and dad are pushing me to go back,” he said. “It’s all about time. My life is busy as a coach.

“After I left Hilo, I returned home to the Bay Area, Marin County and my goal was to play ball overseas.”

He played in Cottbus, Germany, for the Cottbus White Devils and wasn’t a fit. The team wanted a post player, and his game was built on his perimeter shooting.

He was traded to the Paderborn Baskets, moving from East Germany to West Germany, where he found comfort in the style of play and lifestyle.

After a season of pro ball in Europe, he returned home and started at the bottom in his coaching career, working with the freshman team in San Rafael.

He coached the junior varsity team at Tam High then moved to Redwood, which has an enrollment of about 1,850 students.

In 2009, DeMaestri was named to the West Region second team and All-PacWest first team and led the Vulcans to a 15-12 record and third-place tie in the conference.

He had a solid senior campaign in the PacWest. DeMaestri was second in scoring with 18.3 points per game, third in 3-point field goal percentage at .383, and first in rebounding at 9.3 per game.

Before UHH, DeMaestri played two years at Cal State Monterey Bay for the late Bill Trumbo, a former Vulcan athletic director. Trumbo passed away in October 2018. He was 79 years old.

“I try to pass along to every kid that comes in my path what he taught me,” DeMaestri said. “Now, I’m working with kids who are in the fifth grade all the way up to seniors in high school. I talk about how to go about your business the right way and be accountable. That’s one of our cornerstones at Redwood. That’s what he taught me and I take into every day of my life.”

When he first arrived at UHH, DeMaestri used to shave his head, going for the Michael Jordan/Uncle Fester look. By his senior year, he let his hair grow long.

“It was down to my shoulder, and after I’d miss a shot, coach Jeff Law would yell, ‘DeMaestri cut your hair.’ At the end of the day, we found a way to make it work,” he said. “When I got to Hilo, I wanted to do as much as I could. My No. 1 spot was South Point. We went camping and fishing and jumping off the cliff. I’d never seen green sand before. It was incredible. One day, it snowed at Mauna Kea. I’ve been in the snow and seen lava. I’ve checked off a lot of boxes.

“The No. 1 thing I miss is the KTA poke bowl, two scoops of rice and spicy tuna ahi. I could eat that every day. That’s one thing I miss the most. The last time I was in Hawaii was 2010. I still had some friends on the baseball team and bought a ticket. It’s been a while since I’ve been back. I’m overdue.”

He is the grandson of Joseph DeMaestri, who played in the major leagues for 11 years and was on the New York Yankees’ 1961 team.

That year, Roger Maris hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s record of 60 that stood for 34 years.

One story he remembers is when Maris hit his 61st homer, the first one to shake his hand was grandpa Joe. When DeMaestri was 10 years old, he fielded a phone call for his grandpa. The caller was some guy named Yogi Berra.

His best moment as a coach was developing one of his players, who lacked confidence. He had the skill set and with DeMaestri’s encouragement eventually played college ball.

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“It’s not the number of championships,” he said. “It’s nice to see the hours of hard work and doing things the right way and making sure the kids are on the right path in life.”

DeMaestri would love to hook up his NBBA team to play on the Big Island and can be reached at jdemaestri@tamdistrict.org.

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