DePaul out to prove it’s up to Big East challenge
When high school phenom Jabari Parker revealed his list of top
10 schools, DePaul was right there alongside the powerhouses.
It was a small victory for the Blue Demons, a sign that maybe –
just maybe – they can play with the big boys.
Can they beat them, though?
Year 3 of the Oliver Purnell Era is about to begin and DePaul
insists it’s ready to jump out of the Big East cellar even if it
was picked to finish 13th after going 12-19 overall last season and
3-15 in the conference.
That the Blue Demons were in the running for Parker, the Chicago
phenom, turned a few heads even if they didn’t make the final
round, and it raised hope that the coach is making some recruiting
To that end, Purnell said, ”I think what it says to us is we’ve
got to keep hitting that rock. We’ve got to continue to work and
recruit the top kids in the city of Chicago and the state of
Illinois to start with and then go on out from there. We’ve got to
continue to do that. We’ve had a couple of guys over the last
couple of years that were supposedly the top players in the country
that were interested and that visited. But we didn’t get them.
We’re going to continue to do that and continue to work at it, and
sooner or later, that will pay off.”
Clearly, there’s work to do.
The Blue Demons are coming off their fifth straight losing
season and haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 2004.
They’re 19-43 in two years under Purnell, who came in with a
reputation for rebuilding programs. But the strides he’s made
haven’t shown up in the win column so far.
That’s something they’re looking to change this season, and they
do have four players back that started at least 15 games, including
their top two scorers in forward Cleveland Melvin (17.5 ppg.) and
guard Brandon Young (14.5 ppg.). Melvin, the top returning scorer
in the Big East, also averaged a team-high 7.4 rebounds as a
sophomore last season.
They’re experienced. They have their top players back. And they
believe they could be a sleeper team.
”I feel we should have a turnaround,” forward Moses Morgan
It’s a feeling that any DePaul supporter knows well,
particularly the old-timers who remember when the Blue Demons – not
the Bulls – were Chicago’s favorite basketball team, when Ray Meyer
was the coach and hometown products Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings
were electrifying the city.
It was a different time, a different era.
Now, the Blue Demons are looking to leave suburban Allstate
Arena, where they’ve played most of their home games since 1980,
and move back into the city. A new facility on the Lincoln Park
campus would be ideal, and sites elsewhere in the neighborhood and
downtown as well as one adjacent to the United Center have been
mentioned in reports.
”It would be a great idea for the program,” said Melvin, who
would be gone long before it’s built.
Athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto doesn’t think there’s room
to build an arena on campus and finding enough space in the crowded
Lincoln Park neighborhood isn’t easy, so downtown could be the
spot. The Blue Demons could conceivably play at the United Center,
at least on a temporary basis while a facility is built.
It would be a huge boost, a potential magnet for college fans in
the city and an eye-opener for recruits.
”I’m excited that there are discussions about an arena for our
program,” Purnell said. ”It’s clearly a great step that will help
us in a whole bunch of different areas, namely recruiting. It would
be a great home for not only our players but for our fans. I’m
really excited that there are serious discussions concerning the