We have a ton of great blogs here, but since DePaul currently does not have a site here, we reached out to John over at Chicago College Basketball to talk about the Blue Demons. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we talk about Oliver Purnell, Cleveland Melvin, and whether or not anyone will watch the game Thursday.
1. How is Oliver Purnell doing in his first year with the Blue Demons?
Purnell is doing a good job with what is going to be a long rebuilding process in Chicago. He's recruiting well both nationally and in the city. On the court the team did alright and headed into the Big East with a 6-6 record. Unfortunately the first seven games in conference have been rough. Teams seem to be figuring the Blue Demons out. It might also have to do a bit with how young this team is. When you're relying on freshman like Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin to power your offense, you're going to struggle in the Big East and later in the season.
Nobody said that this rebuilding project was going to be easy. This is the first season in a multi-year process and I think that DePaul fans are encouraged overall. Now DePaul just need to find a way to pull out a win in the Big East. Even one would be a significant milestone.
2. Cleveland Melvin looks to be a steal for DePaul. What has he brought to the team?
Melvin does appear to be a steal. He's become more aggressive as the season has gone on and he seems to be a perfect fit for Purnell's style of play. Melvin brings a long, athletic body and a soft jump shot. He's DePaul's best offensive player. At 6'8 he should fill out over the next few seasons and become a key contributor. He flashes into the key really well and also is able to get offensive rebounds because of his quickness. Melvin has real burst on the court.
3. Coach Purnell obviously has to fill in a lot of pieces. Who is he bringing in next season?
Purnell is bringing in a number of recruits from around the Chicago area and recruits that fit his style of play. Even after releasing Braeden Anderson from his Letter of Intent there are still a number of interesting players coming to Lincoln Park next season. That doesn't even include Donnavan Kirk, a mid-year transfer from Miami, who will play power forward and give Melvin some support up front.
Also coming in are a number of talented guards and wing players. Point guard Shane Larkin is the most talented player in the class. (ed note: FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU) He should give this team another player that can drive the offense and spell Young. Charles McKinney and Macari Brooks are two shooting guards and Jamie Crockett is a local commit who plays small forward and was one of Purnell's first signees at DePaul. The class is now a little light in the front court, but Derrell Robertson is another athletic big man from Mississippi that fits into Purnell's system.
Figuring out where all these players are going to fit in is going to be Purnell's biggest challenge. While it lacks the star power of some of the other Big East recruiting classes, it's a large class with a number of solid prospects.
4. Do you think DePaul will ever get back on track as a quality basketball program?
I do think DePaul is going to get back on track. The Blue Demons weren't prepared for the jump in competition that came from moving from Conference USA to the Big East and really failed to sustain the program. It seems like now they have a coach that has a proven track record of rebuilding, including in other difficult situations. If Purnell can make the NCAA Tournament at Clemson I have a lot of faith that he can do it at DePaul as well. He's got a fun system in place and he's shown the willingness to go back into Chicago and recruit local kids.
DePaul is making a conscious effort to support Purnell as he ramps the program back up to speed and eventually this team is going to make some noise again in the conference. While there are some other programs that do well at DePaul, nobody outside those very close to the university notices them. It's men's basketball or bust for the athletic reputation of the school for the common fan. I think that drives a lot of decisions.
It's not going to be easy. We're looking at a multi-year rebuilding process. 2012 isn't the year to judge Purnell I don't think. But if the results aren't there on the court come 2013 and beyond I think people will seriously wonder if the Blue Demons have gotten in a bit over their head.
5. Any predictions for the game? Do you think anyone besides DePaul and USF fans will watch this one?
It seems like USF is the type of team that struggles against ball pressure. This makes me think that the Blue Demons might be able to force some turnovers and get some easy baskets out of the press, which makes this team look a lot better. If DePaul can do that, I think the Blue Demons will at least hang around. USF probably has more talent at the moment and playing at home should pull out the victory, but it'll be an exciting game. Maybe if it's close late more people will turn on ESPNU and catch these two teams, but on a crowded night of hoops I somehow doubt it.