The 2011-2012 basketball season kicked off with a win for the new look Blue Demons versus Texas Pan-American (UTPA). Anticipation was high for everyone surrounding the program with the optimism of a new season after the debacle that has surrounded DePaul in the previous three seasons. Friday night was the first regular season opportunity to see what an Oliver Purnell team could look like with a roster compromised mostly of players he recruited.
Most Outstanding Performer (MOP) Candidates:
Moses Morgan - After a disappointing performance in the Lewis exhibition game, Morgan looked like a completely different player. Last season it took Morgan 12 games to hit his first 3, this season it took less than 2 minutes. Morgan continued his hot shooting going 4-7 from three-point range and finishing with 16 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Krys Faber - Faber showed similar resilience as Morgan. In the exhibition game Faber picked up his first two fouls in 90 seconds, but Friday night he first foul occurred with 5 minutes left in the game. Faber’s foul trouble has been well advertised, but the most impressive part was that he was able to stay out of foul trouble while still playing solid defense. Faber continually had good position throughout the night defensively, played the back of the press without fouling, and finished strong around the rim. It is important that Faber utilize the tools he possesses, and against UTPA he took advantage of his size and ability to run the floor.
Jamee Crockett – The first player to verbally commit to Purnell at DePaul played briefly in the exhibition game (4 minutes), but in extended minutes Crockett impressed. In 12 minutes, Crockett amassed 9 points (2-2 from 3) and 2 steals. As advertised, his energy played a key role defensively, but his shooting was the biggest surprise. If Crockett maintains consistent perimeter shooting combined with his ability to attack the rim, he'll compile an impressive stat line.
Turnovers – Purnell noted after the game that he was satisfied with about 20-25 minutes of the team’s defense. When the defense looked good, they were forcing turnovers and converting them into scoring opportunities like this Alley-oop from Brandon Young to Cleveland Melvin. The Demons forced 21 turnovers and scored 38 points off those turnovers. Throughout the game DePaul was able to overwhelm UTPA with their athleticism on defense. Continue to watch Charles McKinney’s minutes increase for the value he provides on the defensive end. When DePaul struggled it was because they were not getting back defensively and as a result, allowed some easy baskets. On the flip side, DePaul also committed 15 turnovers. The most discouraging being 7 turnovers by Young. Young’s demeanor seemed down the entire game, and it lead to him being benched to start the second half. Young’s 7 assists are encouraging, but they were negated by his 7 turnovers.
Three Point Shooting – The Lewis exhibition preluded that DePaul will have a new emphasis on three point shooting. Against UTPA, the Demons took 27 attempts and connected on 12 of them for 44.4% shooting. It’ll be tough for the Demons to maintain that rate, as they do not have roster of players known for their shooting prowess. Expect Purnell to continue to focus on their inside presence, particularly against smaller nonconference teams. It is encouraging though that they were able to be more consistent, because improved three point shooting could guide the team to a few additional wins than expected this season.
Jabari Parker – If you haven’t heard yet DePaul is not on Jabari Parker’s school list. At least that is what every recruiting website indicates. However, since October 10, Parker has visited the campus three times for a campus tour, an exhibition game, and the home opener. That does not include Blue Madness, where his father Sonny was present while Jabari participated in USA Basketball mini-camp. Compare that to every other school on Parker's "list" and DePaul leads 3-0 by all reported accounts. Last night’s visit was especially interesting because there has been rumors this week that Jabari would visit the University of Illinois campus along with teammate Kendrick Nunn. Demon fans can be excited in DePaul’s chances for Parker, but realize this will be a long recruitment. Regardless, it will be worth while because Parker is the type of player that can change a program immediately.
Up next for DePaul is Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (0-1), 7:30 at McGrath-Phillips Arena.