Two and fifty-two. That is DePaul's record in the Big East the past three seasons. Oliver Purnell was brought in last summer to change the culture at DePaul and restore respectability to the once proud program. While the Blue Demons were again the laughing stock of the Big East in 2010-11, Purnell is starting to bring in his own recruits and delivering optimism to the direction of the team.
One of the bright spots last season was the play of Big East Rookie of the Year, Cleveland Melvin. The skilled forward was Purnell's first signing, leading DePaul in scoring. He and fairly stiff big man Krys Faber will start up front while freshmen Darrell Robertson and Montray Clemons will need to provide depth until Miami transfer Donnovan Kirk becomes eligible after the first semester.
Point guard Brandon Young experienced growing pains during his freshman season but also showed a ton of promise. He figures to share the starting backcourt with senior Jeremiah Kelly who was the team's top three-point threat. Tony Freeland will start at the three, while sophomore Moses Morgan figures to factor into the equation as well. Freeland is athletic and more physical than most small forwards but is a non-factor from beyond the arc.
When Purnell was hired, one of the expectations was that he would put a fence around the Chicagoland area and keep as many talented players in the city as possible. Purnell accomplished that with his 2011 class by keeping Charles McKinney, Macari Brooks and Jamie Crockett in the Windy City. All three players should add depth on the wing, while the best recruit of the class, point guard Shane Larkin, is expected to make an immediate impact.
DePaul does lose three players to transfer as Purnell continues to clean out Jerry Wainwright's old recruits and bring in his own talent. With 10 underclassmen, the new era is being ushered in. There is more talent on the roster and the Blue Demons could actually finish higher than last place in the Big East this season. While that seems like a little victory, let's be honest; winning more than one conference game this season will be a huge success for DePaul. Baby steps.
Player to Watch: Cleveland Melvin, F
The Baltimore native is lengthy, athletic, and explosive in the open floor. He also has a nice mid-range jumper and solid back-to-basket game even against bigger, stronger opponents. He averaged 14.3 points per game despite only playing about 26 minutes a night. Expect Melvin to see an increase in court time which should only give him more opportunity to add to his numbers. If he can improve his outside shot and become a more aggressive rebounder, it is not out of the question that Melvin could leave DePaul after his sophomore season.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24, 25, 27 vs. Arizona State, Dayton, Fairfield, Indiana State, Minnesota, Texas Tech and Wake Forest (Old Spice Classic)