Growing up in the basketball-crazed community of Centralia, Brooks Demijan wasn’t a standout player and competed for just one season as a member of the Orphans.
But Demijan was a student of the game who had been consumed by the sport for nearly as long he could remember. Two decades later, his passion has led him to being hired as the new basketball coach at Columbia High School.
“From the time I was in the third grade until I was a freshman in high school, I was just consumed by it,” Demijan said. “I really couldn’t tell you why I only played one year of high school basketball, but even though I wasn’t on the team, I was around the program. All my close friends were on the team, I went to practice and of course I went to all the games. I went to Eastern (Illinois University) and while I didn’t know what I wanted to major in when I went to college, I knew I loved sports, had a passion for basketball and wanted to coach.”
After coaching stops at Central City School, Dupo and last year as the seventh and eighth grade coach at Signal Hill in Belleville, Demijan is taking over one of the top teams in the Cahokia Conference.
Demijan 34, takes over the Eagles’ from longtime coach Mark Sandstrom who resigned after leading Columbia to a 19-13 record this past season. Sandstrom led Columbia to a record of 252-173 in his 14 years as head coach.
“It’s kind of funny how things work out. Just by the grace of God that I ended up here,’’ Demijan said. “I’m very grateful to have had the chance to coach at all the places I’ve been. I’ve grown as a person and as a coach and developed some wonderful relationships with teachers, administrators and students at all of those schools.
“But I feel like I’m ready to be the head coach at Columbia. No matter what age of athletes, I’m coaching I hold them to a high standard and I hold them accountable for a lot of different things. I think that’s the main core of coaching is teaching kids about responsibility and being accountable for their actions.”
Columbia has had a solid run of success under Sandstrom in the past 14 years. Sandstrom led the Eagles to six seasons of 20 or more wins, six regional titles and three Cahokia Conference championships during his tenure.
Demijan hopes to continue to build on that success.
“The basketball program here at Columbia is and always been highly competitive and is a great passion for the citizens of this community. I want to continue and build on that,’’ Demijan said. “Coach Sandstrom has done a tremendous job of laying the framework for this entire basketball program.”
Demijan said he prefers to use an up-tempo type offense along with a pressure defense. But like all coaches, he wants his players to have the intelligence and court-awareness to make good decisions on both ends of the floor.
“I like to push the ball up the floor, but at the same time I want us to be sure we’re getting the best shot possible on every offensive possession,” he said. “But I’m also fine with changing the tempo. That’s a big key to the game, keeping your opponent off guard to where they can’t get comfortable.
“On defense, we’ll use a pressure. Whether it be full-court, three-quarters court or half court trap, it’s all about eliminating and minimizing mistakes on the offense and defensive ends of the court.’’