Saturday, October 15, 2011

Will The Previews Match The Reviews? Observations from DePaul's Open Practice

Going into the weekend, DePaul fans anticipated a look into the future. There were some reasons to be hopeful, but with news of Freeland, Brooks, and possibly Clemons out for the season, the outlook is more reserved.  ‘Under the El’ breaks down some observations from both Blue Madness and the Open Practice below:

Jeremiah Kelly – Kelly seems to be picking up where he left off last year. His shot was consistent throughout the practice. He along with Morgan will need to emerge as scoring options behind Melvin and Young if DePaul expects to see an improvement in the win column. I noticed Coach Purnell was tougher on Kelly than most, seemingly more frustrated when he made a mistake. Purnell will again expect Kelly to be an important part of this year’s team, but unlike some previous seniors, Kelly understands his role.

Krys Faber – Evaluating Faber is always difficult during practice because, since Mac Koshwal departed, there hasn’t been anyone with similar size to challenge him in practice. The situation is similar this year considering Melvin, Kirk, and Robertson are tall, but thin. Faber’s conditioning did seem improved. If he improves his rebounding numbers from 5.3 per game last year, to around 8 per game DePaul fans should be pleased with his senior campaign.

Tony Freeland – Freeland did not practice due to the injury announced yesterday. He was at the practice and seemed engaged. Purnell said that Freeland’s shoulder is a nagging injury, and they determined it was in his best interest to repair the shoulder now.

Worrel Clahar – Going into the weekend Clahar was one of the players I was most interested in seeing, because finding any evaluation or video on him is nearly impossible. Over the two days Clahar proved he can contribute to the team this year. His athleticism is obvious as displayed in the dunk competition yesterday, but I was most impressed with competitiveness and ball handling ability. He attempted a dunk during a transition drill, and I expect he’ll make Sportscenter’s Top 10 this season due to his dunking ability. He constantly battled Young the entire practice. Admittedly, Young got the better of him most of the time, but that is only a testament to Young’s ability. When Clahar signed, fans were nervous about a player that was still available in September. Credit to the staff for finding Clahar. I expect he’ll see similar minutes to Mike Bizoukas last year, but be more productive.

Cleveland Melvin – Melvin was clearly the best player on the floor. He has the reputation of being a tireless worker, and it was obvious he worked on his jump shot all summer. Melvin has extended his range to the three-point line, and Purnell will allow him to open it up this year. He’ll still be expected to defend other team’s fours, but he’ll intermix some perimeter game with his deadly frontcourt abilities. Last year Melvin had the advantage of being an unknown freshman most of the season. This year, he’ll be the focus of each teams defensive preparation. For him to see improved success, other players will have to step up.

Brandon Young – The player most fans expect to step up is Young. Young was solid throughout the practice, but still was fading on his jump shot at times. During Blue Madness and the scrimmage it became evident his athleticism has improved. He was attempting to dunk nearly every time when attacking the rim. What I thought was the most interesting part of the practice was after the team participated in a series of drills and broke out into a shoot around. With four baskets available, most had 3-5 players each, except one. Young was joined by Purnell as the Coach fed consecutive passes to Young. During the drills, Young was noticeably upset with his jump shot misses. Purnell recognized Young’s discontent, and during their one-on-one time his balance improved, and he was hitting nearly all of his shots.

Moses Morgan – Morgan is the best shooter on the team, but he must also become the most consistent. If his consistency improves, he’ll not only be the best shooter on the team, but one of the better shooters in the Big East. His high release is textbook, and the ball comes off his hand effortlessly. He seems like he trimmed down this summer too. Morgan is quiet leader on the team, and a great ambassador for the program. Can’t help but hope a kid like him succeeds.

Donnavan Kirk – Besides for Clahar, Kirk impressed me the most this weekend. His game is similar to Melvin’s and you can see the athleticism that earned him a high ranking out of high school. He is a very fluid athlete and was pretty consistent from 15 feet and in. Kirk will see some time at the 4 and 5. Some worried about his lack of a back-to-the-basket game, but I’m more concerned about his ability to defend opposing centers. If he can prove to effectively defend the basket on the back of the press, he might find himself in the starting lineup before the season concludes.

Jamee Crockett – Crockett showed his athleticism in both practice and the dunk contest. If you haven’t seen him before, he is one of the best two footed jumpers I’ve ever seen. The result is that he gets terrific elevation on his jump shot. His shot was inconsistent throughout practice, but he’ll make his impact on he defensive end.

Derrell Robertson – Robertson was limited during practice. When he did participate, he was limping. It was hard to know what exactly was ailing him, but I suspect it was cramping. The team practiced beforehand, and Robertson seems to be adjusting to college conditioning. When he did participate he seemed very raw. His most advertised asset, his athleticism, was not on display due to being banged up.

Montray Clemons – Clemons sat on the sideline, knee elevated in a brace, and icing. The prognosis doesn’t seem promising, and Purnell commented he “may be out sometime”. He’ll be evaluated later today, but prepare for the worst.

Charles McKinney – McKinney sat out the Open Practice, but did participate in the Blue Madness scrimmage. He didn’t stand out in Blue Madness, so it is difficult to anticipate how much he’ll contribute. McKinney was bothered by some knee tendinitis that hampered him before the trip to France too. His limited participation seems more of a precautionary measure, as he wasn’t wearing a brace or favoring his knee.

Macari Brooks – Brooks was not in attendance for the Open Practice. When I posted yesterday that he wasn’t at Blue Madness yesterday, a poster commented that they believed they saw him dressed in street clothes. I asked around again today, and no one recalled seeing him. Regardless, expect some news soon if Brooks chooses to maintain enrollment at DePaul.

Purnell addressed the crowd after the practice

There were a number of recruits in attendance. The most notable was likely 2014 guard Erick Locke, son of Brook High School Coach Bobby Locke. As part of the open practice too, they allowed fans to tour the upstairs facility. The second floor now includes a timeline of DePaul basketball and a wall of former player pictures that made the NBA. The tribute is really well done and a nice recruiting tool.

Coach Bruno and the women also practiced. Bruno intensely sold the men’s team on both days. Bruno did say something about his women’s team, but it also applied to the men’s team. After their most successful year in school history and the highest rated recruiting class ever, No. 21 by ESPN HoopGurlz, they are receiving a lot of preseason attention and acclaim. Bruno stressed that after four years they will find out if the “previews match the reviews”. Bruno can only hope the previews match the reviews. Purnell and the men’s team are in the opposite situation, but the same mindset applies. After a 7 win season and an unranked incoming class, what matters most is if the incoming team proves that the previews don’t match the reviews.