With the college basketball season winding down, I got to thinking about what lies ahead for Chicago’s men’s college basketball programs. I’ll begin with the team I covered the most this season, the DePaul Blue Demons. The Demons finished the 2012-2013 season with a disappointing 11-21 overall record and just a conference record of 2-16.
They were the worst team in the “old” Big East Conference. DePaul didn’t get much press in the preseason. But after compiling a 9-4 non-conference record in November and December, this team had a lot of promise and high expectations. They began their conference schedule with a loss to Seton Hall but defeated Providence two nights later.
It would all fall apart from there as the Demons would go on to lose nine in-a-row. They finally broke their losing streak with an amazing six point victory over Rutgers back on February 16th. From there many had hoped the Demons would be able to turn the curve and salvage their season.
Unfortunately all hopes would wind up fading as DePaul finished the season with another losing streak, they would lose the final six regular season games. They would eventually get eliminated in the first round of the final “old” Big East Tournament against the same Rutgers team they beat a month before.
DePaul had a lot of talent on the court this year. They also had a solid coach in Oliver Purnell. But there were some flaws, and those flaws cost the Demons dearly this season. Turnovers, inconsistency, missed shots, and the inability to rebound were just the beginning of DePaul’s troubles.
Their defense let DePaul fans down when it counted the most. Allowing easy shots, giving up three pointers, a lack of presence in the paint, and unable to sustain second half leads also plagued the Blue Demons. DePaul lost 10 games by less than 10 points this season. They were also outscored by a total of 821-712 in the second halves of all of their losses this season.
In four of those games, DePaul either had the lead or was tied at halftime. This is a trend that must change if Oliver Purnell is to keep his job. Historically, DePaul has not fared well in the Big East. They were just 27-115 as an original Big East member. Hopefully entering the “new” Big East next season will help this program.
The defense must also improve. Heading into a new league next season, DePaul will have to contend with some of the best shooting teams in the country. Teams such as Butler, Creighton, and Xavier are all high percentage shooting teams. DePaul has the talent but there are some ways they can improve that talent and become a better team.
DePaul only had two seniors on this years roster, guard Worrell Clahar and forward Stuart Pirri. Pirri didn’t see much playing time, but Clahar’s three-point shooting will be missed. All five of DePaul’s starters will return next year:
PG Brandon Young
SG Charles McKinney
PF Cleveland Melvin
SF Jamee Crockett
3F Donnavan Kirk
Young, Melvin, and Kirk will all be seniors next season. If they want to get into the 2014 NBA Draft, they will need to step up their game tremendously. Young needs to become more of a true point guard. He shoots the ball too much, takes unnecessary shots, and tries to take matters into his own hands when the Demons are down.
He needs to start dishing out more assists, be patient, and not take as many shots. He needs to pass the ball more and give the guys on the inside more chances to get it done. Cleveland Melvin is the leader of this DePaul team, he just needs more help from his teammates. Melvin is already a second round draft pick in my eyes. But if he can get better assistance from his teammates, he can become a first round pick.
Then we have Donnavan Kirk. Even though he is listed as the “third forward” like most college teams have these days, he technically lines up as a center. He’s 6’9″ and has great length, leaping ability, wing span, and is a decent inside scorer. The only problem is that he only weighs 223 pounds. He always defends the biggest man on the opposing team. But sometimes 223 pound frame hurts more than it helps.
He gets pushed around easily and this allows teams to move him out of the box. And when that happens, the other team gets easy inside buckets, they can maneuver to out-rebound DePaul, and it puts pressure on his teammates. This was evidenced in the games against Connecticut, Villanova, and Pittsburgh.
Kirk should gain at least 15-20 pounds and become more physical in the paint. When his inside game is compromised, he tries to compensate for that by shooting jump shots. Shooting is not Kirk’s strong suit, he needs to spend some time in that weight room so he can be effective in 2014.
Then we have Jamee Crockett and Charles McKinney, they will be juniors next year. They are now ascending into leadership roles and Coach Purnell will be highly dependent upon these men. DePaul needs more production from McKinney. He averaged 20 minutes per game last season but only scored five points per game.
He will need to become a better scorer and be a more aggressive player if DePaul is to have success next year. As for Crockett, he is a great outside shooter. He hit plenty of clutch three pointers this past season. But if he truly wants to be a small forward in this game, he needs to become a better perimeter player and develop more of an inside game.
DePaul also has the remainder of their bench players coming back next season. Backup guard Cory Dolins will most likely be the man to give Young a breather. The soon-to-be sophomore only played in five games in 2013. Next year will be his chance to break out. Edwind McGhee will be a senior next year. He also only got into five games last season. He will end up being McKinney’s backup, he needs more playing time.
Then there is also Durrell McDonald. It’ll be interesting to see how/if Oliver Purnell uses him next year. Las Vegas native Moses Morgan will also be a senior come next school year. He’s already proven himself to be a solid player. If he can keep playing the way he did this past season, the Demons should be in good shape.
Then we have forward Montray Clemons. At 6’7″ and 235 pounds, he already has the physical tools to get the job done. As a freshman, Clemons only saw garbage minutes in DePaul’s drastic losses. He will be a year older and hopefully a year wiser next season. He will be the man to backup Cleveland Melvin in 2014. He needs to prove that he can play with the big boys.
Another youngster who could be something special is swing man Jodan Price. I’ve seen him practice, he’s a heck of a shooter and has some potential. At 6’7″ he can either come in for Charles McKinney or give both Crockett and Morgan a break. I would love to see what he could do with more playing time.
Then you have the reserve big men with Darrell Robertson Jr. and Peter Ryckbosch. Robertson was the main guy to backup Donnavan Kirk and will probably do so again. Measuring 6″10″ and 247 pounds he seems like he should be a monster in the post. But he seemed timid at times last season. He needs to unleash the beast and show that his size can match up to his game.
Ryckbosch will only be a sophomore next school year. When your 6’9″ your expected to do some great things. Unfortunately he’s only 225 pounds, he’ll need to bulk up about 15 or 20 pounds first. Then perhaps he’ll get more playing time to show what he can do. All of this of course doesn’t even count whatever recruits DePaul has coming in next year.
If DePaul’s roster can get it together, they can improve and make a run at the postseason. The new conference should help because there is no more UConn, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville, or Rutgers to make their lives miserable anymore. But they will have to contend with Georgetown, Villanova, and St. Johns.
I think DePaul will fare much better not having to worry about so many power teams. But it should be interesting to see how Butler, Xavier, and Creighton will play into all of this. But for now, things to look brighter for the DePaul Blue Demons.
Tonight I will be at the Allstate Arena taking in the Chicago Wolves game against the Milwaukee Admirals. You can follow me on Twitter during the game @GabeSalgado82 #Q101Sports