The DePaul women’s basketball team over the past year moved from the old Big East to the new Big East, a move that consists of such nostalgia, excitement, and challenges. But amidst such flux, the program has remained what it always has been under head coach Doug Bruno: a family.
“DePaul University was founded on family,” said Bruno. “DePaul has created a culture of family and I have just extended the culture of family through our women’s basketball program. It starts with the mission of DePaul, which is to serve others. Jean Lenti-Ponsetto and Fr. Dennis Holtschneider have fostered that atmosphere and we have tried to continue it through women’s basketball.”
The Blue Demons finished last year with a record of 21-12 (9-7 Big East). The team imprinted the DePaul single season record book, ending the season No. 4 all-time in field goal attempts with 2,145; No. 1 in three-point field goals attempted with 761; No. 7 in three-pointers made with 228; tied for the No. 8 spot in assists with the 2007 squad with 557; and tied the 2007 squad for No. 9 in blocked shots with 125.
Seniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry were part of a four-year span that saw DePaul finish with a record of 94-42, with one Sweet Sixteen appearance. As a subdivision of that team success, Martin finished as DePaul’s No. 6 all-time scorer, and Harry as the only player in DePaul history to score more than 1,000 points, grab more than 1,000 rebounds, and block more than 175 shots in a career.
Bruno knows what he has in this pre-season, but he doesn’t know what his team will become.
“This is a team in infancy because we have a lot coming back, but we also have a lot to assimilate into that. I think this team can win 20 games, but I don’t know yet if we can win 25 or 30 games. I think we have some very solid guard play, but how good is our inside game going to be? Jasmine Penny and Megan Podkowa can give us some inside scoring, but what level are Brandi Harvey-Carr and Kelsey Smith going to be at? At what level are we going to be able to create any kind of inside force? “
DePaul loses 10.7 rebounds per game from Harry, who led the team in rebounding in 26 out of 33 games last year. She ended up the Big East’s ninth all-time leading rebounder.
“I think we can shore up our rebounding,” said Bruno. “[Redshirt freshman] Brandi Harvey-Carr really can be a dominant force, and I think she is going to have to be dominant. She is really a key player in all of this.”
The equivalent of sister cities for DePaul last year was Kentucky and Louisville. The much anticipated showdown with the No. 7/6 Wildcats at Rupp Arena in early December was short-circuited by an opening barrage as the Wildcats led 25-2 six minutes into the game. Kentucky went on to a 96-64 win.
And as one-sided as the loss to Kentucky was, DePaul rebounded big in early January. The Blue Demons hosted No. 11/10 Louisville, beating the Cardinals 86-80 behind 22 points from Martin, 21 points from Brittany Hrynko, 15 points from Jasmine Penny, 10 points from Chanise Jenkins, and nine points and 13 rebounds from Harry. The Cardinals went on to beat No. 1 Baylor in the NCAA Tournament and eventually lost to Connecticut in the title game.
Jenkins offered this on what this year’s team needs to do to get back to Louisville form: “I think we need to be able to rebound, defend, and have more of a post presence and a guard presence. It is all about the inside-outside balance.”
The 2012 squad became only one of nine programs to qualify for the NCAA Tournament the past 11 years. The Blue Demons, a No. 10 seed, lost 73-56, to No. 7 seed Oklahoma State in the first round.
DePaul reached the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament for the eighth consecutive season. The Blue Demons are one of two teams in the Big East to play two games in each of the past eight Big East Tournaments.
Brittany Hrynko was selected First Team All-Big East and earned Co-Most Improved Players honors, Martin and Harry earned Second Team All-Big East honors, and Chanise Jenkins was named to the All-Freshman Big East team. DePaul’s four All-Conference selections were the most in school history.
The 2012 team received the Public Recognition Award from the NCAA for having a multi-year Academic Performance Rate (APR) score in the top 10 percent of all women’s basketball teams. The Blue Demons are one of four teams (Dartmouth, Harvard, and Princeton) nationally to earn the honor the last eight years.
The team’s GPA of 3.625 tied with St. Francis (New York) for the second highest GPA in Division I for the 2012-13 academic year. DePaul was one of just two programs (South Dakota State) to have gone to the NCAA Tournament and be ranked in the Academic Top 25. The 3.625 was the highest team GPA in school history.
The Blue Demons also claimed the highest team GPA among all Big East Conference schools for the sixth consecutive season, and they are the only Big East team in the poll. DePaul is also the only program from Illinois in the poll.
In the Backyard
The 2013 season begins with two exhibition games at McGrath-Phillips Arena, with DePaul playing St. Xavier on October 29th and Illinois Wesleyan on November 1st.
The non-conference schedule this year is deceptively difficult. DePaul hosts the fifth annual Maggie Dixon Classic on November 8-9, with the Cal Poly Mustangs, Duquesne Dukes, and Harvard Crimson rounding out the field.
Cal Poly (21-11, 13-5 Big West) advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. The Dukes (24-8, 11-3 Atlantic 10) defeated No. 17 Delaware and No. 20 West Virginia on their way to the second round of the WNIT. DePaul is 0-2 all-time versus Duquesne. Harvard (18-12, 10-4 Ivy League) beat St. John’s and advanced to the second round of the WNIT.
DePaul stays home to play Illinois State on November 18th. The Redbirds (24-11, 13-5 Missouri Valley Conference) advanced to the second round of the WNIT last year.
November 26 finds the Blue Demons at Notre Dame (35-2, 16-0 Big East), with the Fighting Irish entering their first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, but the all-time series stretching back to 1979 is knotted at 19 wins.
The Blue Demons travel to Northwestern (13-17, 5-11 Big Ten) on December 1st. The Wildcats defeated No. 24 Iowa last year. DePaul beat Northwestern 84-61 last year in Bruno’s 500th career win.
It is back to McGrath-Phillips Arena on December 7th for a match up with Loyola. The Ramblers are coming off a 17-15, 10-6 Horizon League record, but their first-year coach, Sheryl Swoopes, is a four-time WNBA champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
DePaul hosts Kentucky (30-6, 13-4 SEC), an Elite Eight qualifier last year, on December 12th. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.
The Blue Demons play Dartmouth (6-22, 4-10 Ivy League) at home on December 16th.
The team then heads to the heat in late December, participating in the eight-team Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas from the 19th through the 21st. The Blue Demons will play Pittsburgh, Washington, and Louisiana-Monroe over the three days. DePaul’s all-time record versus these schools is 7-4, 1-2, and it will play Louisiana-Monroe for the first time. The Blue Demons won the tournament in 2009, with guard Sam Quigley scoring 43 points in the tournament en route to being named MVP.
The non-conference schedule concludes on December 29th at Bradley (14-16, 8-10 Missouri Valley Conference). The two teams did not play each other last year. The Braves lost 116-112 in double overtime to Wisconsin-Milwaukee last year.
And as players leave programs, teams leave conferences. The Big East underwent an upheaval in the off season, with multiple teams exiting and Butler, Creighton, and Xavier joining the conference. The Big East this year consists of DePaul, Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova, and Xavier.
“The strength of the Big East is its top-to-bottom competitiveness,” said Bruno. “People mention what teams we lost, but what made the Big East strong were two things: the strength at the top, but also the strength from teams three through 16. DePaul is one of the component parts that made the old conference strong. It’s going to be a tough conference and a strong conference.”
DePaul was voted in the pre-season coaches’ poll to finish first in the conference.
“It always feels good to be on top, but it means you have a target on your back, and we gratefully accept that challenge,” said Jenkins.
Butler finished last year 17-14 (8-6, Atlantic 10). The Bulldogs were selected to play in the WNIT last year. DePaul is 4-0 all-time versus Butler.
Creighton (25-8, 15-3 Missouri Valley Conference) qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and in 2012, the latter appearance resulting in a first round upset win versus Syracuse. DePaul is 2-1 all-time versus Creighton.
Xavier (13-16, 7-7 Atlantic 10) qualified for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament all 18 years it was in the conference, winning the conference title six times. DePaul is 5-1 all-time versus the Musketeers.
DePaul played in its first conference, the North Star Conference, from the conference’s inception in 1983 through its demise in 1991. Xavier played in the North Star Conference from 1983-1986.
The Big East is partnering with Fox Sports, with 13 regular season Big East games to be televised on Fox Sports 1. The network reaches nearly 90 million homes. Fox will also televise the semifinals and finals of the Big East Tournament on March 10-11 at Allstate Arena.
The Blue Demons will have six of their games televised nationally this year, with five being covered by Fox Sports 1 and one game covered by CBS Sports Network.
DePaul will be part of the first Big East game to be televised on Fox Sports 1 when it travels to play the team picked in the Big East pre-season coaches’ poll to finish second, Creighton, on January 4th.
- Jasmine Penny
6’1” senior forward. Penny averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.0 rpg. She was second in the Big East and 12th in Division I last year in field goal percentage at 55 percent. Penny scored a career high 29 points versus Seton Hall this past year, shooting 12-15 from the field. She has averaged 55 percent shooting from the floor in her three years at DePaul.
Penny was selected to the pre-season All-Big East team. “I don’t think it’s necessarily pressure [being named to that team].” Penny said. “I still have to continue to work hard and do everything I can to earn that honor after the season.”
“I have been working on my shooting range, and that was one of my goals going into this past summer. I also want to continue to be in the top tier of field goal percentage, which I was last year.
“I have always been a leader by example. This year has definitely challenged me to come out more of myself and lead my team, and I know that is something I am going to have to do in order for us to be more successful.“
- Kelsey Reynolds
5’9” senior guard. Reynolds averaged 3.0 ppg and 1.7 rpg. Reynolds played double figure minutes in all but two games. She had 15 steals in 23 games. She earned her team’s Pat Ewers Unsung Hero Award. She missed nine games due to a broken foot.
- Kelsey Smith
6’4” senior forward. Smith averaged 1.5 ppg and 1.5 rpg last year. She scored a season-high eight points on 4-4 from the field and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds versus Northern Illinois. She then missed three straight games with a knee injury.
- Brittany Hrynko
5’8”junior guard. Hrynko and Martin gave the Blue Demons the distinction of being the only team in the Big East last year to have two players score 35 points or more in separate games.
Hrynko was invited to participate in the 2013 USA Women’s Basketball World University Games Team trials this past May.
“[I took away from the USA trials] trying to be more vocal and being more of a leader in practice and in games, showing the freshmen what to do and what not to do, and helping the returning players to better their games.”
Hrynko led DePaul in 2012 in points, assists, three-pointers and steals. Her 67 steals last year were the most by a DePaul player since 2005. She averaged 14.8 ppg last year. Her 160 assists rank No. 6 for DePaul’s single season record, and her 264 three-point attempts rank No. 3 for a single season behind Lenae Williams’ 271 attempts in 2001.
Her coast-to-coast drive and runner in the final seconds beat Pittsburgh, and her three-pointer in the final seconds against Rutgers was the game-winner. Hrynko scored a career-high 35 points in a loss to Marquette. And in perhaps her best all-around game last year, she scored 21 points, grabbed four rebounds, had seven assists and added four steals in the win against Louisville.
Hrynko has been selected the Big East’s pre-season Player of the Year.
“I feel a little pressure [being selected Player of the Year], but not a lot. I still have to work hard to receive the award at the end of the year.
“Coach [Bruno] always talks to me about making the simple pass, so that is something I worked on in the off season. I also worked on defending better and taking shots when I am open and finding my teammates when I am not open.”
- Megan Rogowski
5’9” junior guard. She averaged 8.1 ppg and 2.6 rpg. Rogowski scored a career-high 22 points in the win versus Northwestern. She scored in double figures in 10 games. Rogowski missed eight games due to a broken hand suffered during the win versus Louisville.
- Centrese McGee
5’7” junior guard. McGee transferred from the University of Illinois and sat out last year under NCAA transfer guidelines. At Illinois she started all 32 games. Her 5.2 rebounds there led all Big Ten freshmen. Her best overall statistical performance at Illinois was 12 points and 13 rebounds in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
- Chanise Jenkins
5’5” sophomore guard. Jenkins averaged 8.1 ppg. Her 4.1 assists per game was seventh in the Big East. She had 12 games with five or more assists. She was second on the team in assists with 132. She shot a team-best 79 percent from the free throw line. She made 17 of her final 19 free throws, including six straight to end the season.
- Megan Podkowa
6’2” sophomore guard/forward. Podkowa averaged 6.6 ppg and 4.2 rpg. She had 10 points and five rebounds in a loss to No. 3 Connecticut in the Big East Tournament. Podkowa blocked 19 shots in 26 games. She missed seven games due to illness or injury.
- Brooke Schulte
5’9” redshirt freshman guard. Schulte played in seven games before tearing an ACL. She scored a season-high five points in the season opener versus Nicholls State.
- Brandi Harvey-Carr
6’4” redshirt freshman forward. Harvey-Carr played in six games before sustaining a season-ending neck injury. She scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in 11 minute of play against Nicholls State.
DePaul adds the following recruits this year.
- Jessica January
5’9” point guard from Richfield High School in Minnesota. She averaged 22.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6.8 apg, and 4.5 steals per game her junior year. She helped lead Richfield to the state semi-finals her senior year, scoring 29 points in a 61-59 loss to Red Wing. A three-sport athlete, she won the state title in the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles as a freshman. She was named All-State in volleyball. She received the Athena Award for Minnesota’s outstanding female senior athlete. Her favorite subject in high school was calculus.
- ShaKeya Graves
5’9” guard from Westland John Glenn High School in Michigan. Graves averaged 19.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 5.0 apg her junior year. She scored 16 points in the third quarter and 22 points overall in the Michigan Class A quarterfinals this past season. John Glenn finished 24-2 for the year.
- Merri Bennett-Swanson
6’3” post from Vernon Hills High School in Illinois. Bennett-Swanson averaged 10.9 ppg and 6.0 rpg as she helped lead Vernon Hills to the Class AAA state finals this past year. She shot 51 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line in her senior year.
Her coach at Vernon Hills, Paul Brettner, said “Bennett-Swanson is a reliable scorer who will work as hard as it takes to earn minutes and trust from the DePaul coaching staff.”
One of the definitions of the word “family” from Webster’s dictionary is “a group of people united by certain convictions.”
Under Bruno (531-294), DePaul has gone to 18 NCAA Tournaments and four WNIT appearances, his teams have secured 20 wins or more in 11 of the last 12 years, and they have won four conference titles and four regular-season championships.
DePaul recently re-signed Bruno through the 2018-19 season.
From 1988 through the start of last season, DePaul has placed 146 players on conference academic honor rolls. It has placed 10 players on the NACDA Division I-AAA Scholar Athlete Team and has ranked in the WBCA Team Academic Top 25 for the past seven years.
The family tree at DePaul that Bruno has created and helped nurture is vast. His program has helped produce the following All-America selections since 1988: Latasha Byears (two-time), Kim Williams, Lenae Williams, Amy Lundquist, Khara Smith (three-time) Allie Quigley (two-time), Deirdre Naughton (two-time), Natasha Williams, Keisha Hampton, Sam Quigley, and Anna Martin.
DePaul women’s basketball enters its 28th year under Bruno. And just like the past 27 teams, this year’s team of players carried over from the past three years, incoming players, and the memories and legacy of players past continues to strengthen the DePaul tradition.
Old or new, it will always be family.