Like most inferior big conference teams, last season was a story of Jekyll and Hyde for the DePaul Blue Demons. Starting the season 9-3 in non-conference play, Oliver Purnell’s squad headed into January, and the Big East season, as optimistic as the program has been since their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.
Well optimism soon turned to pessimism, as the losses piled up in bunches over the second half off the season. A 2-6 January transitioned into an 0-9 February, which led to a 12-19 season, with just 3 conference wins.
While the three wins was an upgrade from the rather pathetic one conference win in the 2010-2011 season, Purnell did not leave Clemson for back-to-back last place finishes. However, as disappointing as the last couple of seasons have been, DePaul returns six of its top seven scorers from last season, including the conferences leading returner in Cleveland Melvin (17.5), who teamed with fellow junior Brandon Young to make for one of the best scoring duos in the nation.
With the teams two best players making great progress together, Purnell also brings in one of his better recruiting classes since coming to DePaul. DeJaun Marrero and Jordan Price give the Demons two more forwards who know how to score the ball, with Marrero coming off of leading Bowman Academy (the Indiana Class A champs in 2009) with 22.1 points and 15.3 rebounds, and Price being a highly touted deep threat, shooting over 41% from downtown for Detroit Country Day High School. Joining Marrero and Price is guard Durrell McDonald from Las Vegas. McDonald is a combo guard who Purnell feels will compliment Young well, as he can take pressure off of him with his ability to score (21.2 ppg as a senior), as well as run an offense.
As excited as Purnell should be to team his talented freshmen with his star juniors, the Demons will benefit from having more depth this season than they’ve had in recent memory. Donnavan Kirk, Moses Morgan, and Jamee Crocket all showed signs of being formidable forwards in Purnell’s high-speed offense, while freshman Charles McKinney and junior college transfer Worrel Clahar each contributed from the guard position while carving roles as new members of the team last season.
Things can’t get much worse for Purnell’s squad, but with a roster filled with young developing talent, and in a season where the Big East may not be as top heavy, this is as good of a chance for DePaul to catch some teams by surprise and try to find their way back into postseason play.
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