For the first time since the 1993-1994 year the DePaul Blue Demons Men basketball team is 6-1 to start a season. I was senior in high school and would attend DePaul the following summer but I knew members of that team and they were a talented bunch lead by Tom Kleinschmidt.
But many of us wonder if this team is for real and as good as their record? Their lone loss was a double digit home loss to Lehigh of the Patriot League (who took out Duke in the NCAA post season tournament in 2012), and DePaul even has a good quality win vs a very good Standford team.
The last time DePaul's Mens basketball team made the NCAA postseason tournament was ten years ago following the 2003-2004 season and finished with a regular season (tie), championship of the Great American Conference. I was a season ticket holder that season and saw 14 of their 15 homes games and they were impressive, especially their regular season finale, a blow out of then hated rival Cincinnati. Drake Diener, Sammy Mejia & Andre "The Garbageman" Brown led them up and down the court playing solid ball that year.
And now its ten seasons later with a lot of losses in between and three different coaches. Current coach Oliver Purnell is known as a "rebuilding coach", he turned around teams at Old Dominion, Dayton & Clemson and made them into perennial NCAA postseason teams. Coach Purnell is in his fifth year but seems to have a good hoop squad led by last season's Big East rookie of the year Billy Garrett Jr.
Now granted their opponents have been Lewis University, UIC, Drake (not the Canadian hip hop artist), Northern Illinois, Chicago State & UW Milwaukee, admittingly not murderer's row. But in past years the Blue Demons have often struggled with some of the local schools. Lewis almost beat them last year and for a couple of years NIU was running them out of the gym not to mention there were some real close Chicago State games in recent memory.
Not this year, the boys from Lincoln Park handled their business and protected the home court and even went down to 95th Street to Chicago State and played DePaul basketball the way it should be played last Thursday night.
Many of us alumni are lifelong fans of the boys from Belden Ave and remember when DePaul made the NCAA tournament every year and went deep in the tournament. Obviously there was the 1979 Final Four team but into the late 80's and early 90's DePaul played quality basketball and put plenty of players in the NBA. Rod Strickland, Kevin Edwards and prior to them, the great Mark Aquirre, Terry Cummings and my man Tyrone Corbin.
There was a resurgence with Coach Pat Kennedy in the late 90's and early 2000's with Quentin Richardson & Bobby Simmons and then excellent 2003-2004 season with Coach Dave Leitao and that was it.
Since then there was Coach Jerry Wainwright (2005-2010), and only one season with more wins than losses.
But now it appears this team might be on the right track, I've seen more aggressive play from Billy Garrett, Myke Henry and a slimmed down Tommy Hamilton IV. Its actually inspiring and would mean so much to bring the DePaul basketball team back into prominence.
Their next games include George Washington (not the first president), Illinois State & Oregon State before heading to the Christmas Hawaiian tournament featuring George Washington, Ohio, Colorado, Loyola Marymount, Nebraska & Wichita State.
Lets hope the winning keeps coming and the Blue Demons become relevant on the college basketball scene again.
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