DeAndre' Bembry could hardly be hotter than he is at this very moment. After the Saint Joseph's junior went off for a 20-point first half against Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, everybody knew what Philadelphia has known for some time - the player from Charlotte by way of the Patrick School in North Jersey has a game that translates to the next level.

Bembry has now made official what just about everyone has been expecting. He is declaring for the NBA draft. And he has hired an agent so he won't be coming back to St. Joe's under any circumstances.

"I have officially declared for the draft, and I've signed with an agent,'' Bembry said in a statement released to the Daily News. ``This decision was extremely difficult, but at this point I want to focus all of my attention on the next phase of my basketball career and I'm ready to take this step.

"St. Joe's has been absolutely awesome and I'll always love the fans, players, and coaching staff. Coach [Phil] Martelli and his staff have been absolutely great for me but now it's time to start this new chapter. I appreciate all the love and support so much and definitely hope it continues in the future. The NBA has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, and now that it's within reach, I plan on taking full advantage of the opportunity."

If Bembry had not hired an agent, he could have come back to St. Joe's for a final season after going through the May pre-draft combine in Chicago and getting feedback from NBA types. Once a player hires an agent, he loses any remaining eligibility, according to NCAA rules.

Bembry's Hawk numbers will stand the test of time. He finishes with 1,590 points, 672 rebounds, 364 assists and 143 steals as perhaps the most versatile player in school history as well one of its most explosive and, most importantly, according to Martelli, one of its great leaders.

This season, Bembry was the Atlantic 10 and Big 5 Player of the Year as the Hawks won their second A-10 championship in three seasons and finished 28-8 after being picked seventh in the league.

If he had played a final season, Bembry would almost certainly have broken Jameer Nelson's school scoring record (2,094 points). Realistically, he can't do much more to improve his draft stock. His 101 college games are a pretty big picture.

NBA scouts certainly like his game. They would love his game if he were a better shooter. Athletically, there is no question he is an NBA player. Where he might get drafted is open to debate, but one thing is certain: His play in the Atlantic 10 tournament and NCAA Tournament did nothing to hurt his draft status and probably enhanced it.