Optimism Abounds for Purnell and DePaul

Optimism Abounds for Purnell and DePaul

There was a lot of optimism surrounding DePaul Blue Demons basketball at Tuesday's DePaul basketball Tip-Off Luncheon at Maggiano's in Chicago. Among the most optimistic and eager was men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell.

Although Purnell hasn't seen the turnaround he'd hoped for in his first three years at DePaul, with a new team with seven new players, he's excited to get to work with this year's group.

"(I'm) always excited for this time of year. You kind of wait for it all summer and you do so much running around doing different things from marketing for a building to recruiting but this is what you live for," Purnell said. "This is when you bring your team together to compete against other teams, so I guess this is kind of Christmas time for me."

Purnell returns what he described as his "top four players" on multiple occasions on Tuesday, but also adds lots of pieces to help out on last year's main weaknesses of rebounding and defense.

"I feel really good about our team," Purnell said. "We've got our four main guys back with two of the top five returning scorers in the Big East. We've got four freshmen, two junior college players, a four-year transfer. We've got three players at 6'10" or better -- and one at 6'9" -- so we've feel like we've got that core group of experience and scoring. We've really helped ourselves defensively with our ability to bang on the backboards. So the pieces are there, that's why I'm looking forward to bringing them together."

The added size of 6'10" four-year transfer Sandi Marcius -- who transferred from Purdue -- junior college transfers 6'9" Greg Sequele and 6'10" Forrest Robinson and 6'10" freshman Tommy Hamilton should help DePaul on the glass immediately.

"The main thing I think the size will help with is rebounding," Purnell said. "That was an area that was really lacking for us the last couple of years. You've got to be a better rebounding team to be a better defensive team. You can pressure all you want but if they get the ball up the floor and shoot and miss and get it back it really puts a lot of pressure on your defense when you don't rebound the ball."

While the upcoming season will certainly add an air of excitement to Lincoln Park, the new stadium also has Purnell very happy.

"Obviously I followed the process all along and saw of the designs last week or the week before. I'm over the moon about the arena moving forward. Not only the design but the partnership between McPier, and the city and DePaul. It will help us tremendously in recruiting," Purnell said.

One of the major benefits of the new arena will be recruiting. Players want to play in newer facilities and players from Chicagoland want to play in the city of Chicago.

"Usually when I had a conversation about prospects or people about DePaul the first thing they would say is, 'We're excited about the things you're doing over there,' and the second thing was always, 'Boy, I wish you had an arena in Chicago,'" Purnell said. "Well now that objective has been addressed and so that's huge. Not only has it been addressed but it's been addressed in a beautiful way and with a partnership with the city and the convention board. So it's a win-win across the board. People are interested in having DePaul men's basketball back in Chicago, they have been since I was here and I have a feeling long before that and now that's happening."

As if the new season and the new arena didn't cause enough excitement, it's also the first season of the new configuration of the new Big East. Purnell is particularly excited about the addition of Butler, Creighton and Xavier to the Big East.

"The configuration with the 10 schools -- the seven Catholic (schools) joining in with three other great schools -- that's the great part," Purnell said. "The bad part is that there's no nights off. Those three schools that we bring in have tremendous homecourt advantage. They're outstanding programs. Basketball is huge at these schools. This is a basketball-centric league. Clearly with everything that was going on in the college basketball landscape in terms of being influenced by football, this is groundbreaking for the world of college athletics."

Purnell also made the bold proclamation that the Blue Demons' goal for the season was to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.

"Looking forward to the new year, looking forward to starting practice this week and looking forward to having a big year," Purnell said. "Doug Bruno and his program have set a tremendous example for our program for many years and this year we look forward to following that example and our goal is to reach the NCAA Tournament. We think we have the pieces to do it. We know we have the players and the staff. Now it's up to us to go to work and get it done."

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