On DePaulHoops.com’s website, there is an image of the Blue Demon logo as it appears above the Chicago skyline in much the same fashion Batman’s call looks over Gotham City. With DePaul in need of a local hero to save its program, it’s only fitting we paraphrase Batman quotes (like I did in the opening of this blog post) when it comes to local basketball prodigy Cliff Alexander.
A lot has been made of Alexander’s college choice and where he will end up, which will become official this Friday. At the moment, Alexander has a final four of Kansas, Memphis, Illinois and DePaul. Alexander has all respective fanbases on pins and needles hoping he’ll be the centerpiece of their recruiting class.
Obviously you know the story regarding Alexander. The Curie High School big man is a unanimous Top-5 recruit according to many services. He is No. 5 in Scout.com’s Top 100. He has been heavily recruited for years and all the waiting will be done once he announces on Friday afternoon.
Be sure to read WeAreDePaul’s interview with Cliff’s High School coach – Mike Oliver --
Cliff Notes: A Local Decision for Alexander
So, where does DePaul stand in all of this? Sources close to the program, and Curie coach Mike Oliver, believe they are in the thick of it and there is a belief that Alexander may be up to the challenge of restoring DePaul’s proud history.
Sure, DePaul has struggled in the past and a lot of negative recruiters will often belabor that point. Yet Oliver Purnell is gradually rebuilding the program. If you put Alexander on a team with other Chicago-area products and friends of his in Billy Garrett Jr., Tommy Hamilton IV, Myke Henry and Rashaun Stimage, there is an appeal of this becoming Chicago’s team and a team that can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t see any reason why that group, which would also include two other Chicago area kids in Jamee Crockett and Charles McKinney (who would be seniors), can’t make a run for it.
If Alexander were to choose DePaul, he would be lauded as a local, Chicago hero. Sure, Illinois has some appeal as another in-state school, but a three-hour trip down I-57 to Southern Illinois is not exactly what I would call home. The Windy City is home, not Urbana. Besides, Illinois is a solid program already and they have enough solid recruits to build around. DePaul needs Alexander.
Alexander can own the city of Chicago if he has the guts to do something guys like Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Jabari Parker would not do. It’s simple to take the easy way out and go to a winning program like Kansas and Memphis, but as far as legacies go, Alexander picking DePaul could cement his status as a Chicago icon and legend.
Chicago is thirsty for a high school phenom to stay in the city. Too many times, high profile Chicago-area blue chippers leave the state (see Parker to Duke, etc.). Fans in Chicago would instantly flock to the Allstate Arena to see Alexander play. While attendance at Allstate hasn’t been the greatest, if you put a marquee name in Alexander and an all-Chicago team on the floor, attendance would rise dramatically.
Plus, I don’t want to hear about which school would best prepare Alexander for the pros. Alexander could go to Kentucky, Ball State or Alcorn State — it doesn’t matter, he will get selected in the NBA Draft. NBA Scouts would come in droves to Allstate Arena to see Alexander.
Another draw for Alexander to DePaul would be the relationship the school has with Fox Sports 1. As a network in its infancy, they could set a stage for Alexander to grow his brand. Fox Sports 1 will have their first real star to hype and build the network around. You get Alexander to come to DePaul, the Fox crew of Bill Rafferty and Gus Johnson would be making many pit stops in Chicago, as Alexander would be the cover boy, if you will, of the network. So, with every game on Fox Sports 1 and on national TV, Cliff would have a great platform to showcase his skills to the world.
After Hamilton just scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in his DePaul debut on Saturday, and looking every bit the big-time player he was earlier in his High School career, can you imagine him tag-teaming and playing alongside Alexander? DePaul would control the paint and with Garrett Jr. and Henry on the wings, DePaul could do a lot of damage. Again, I don’t see why this team can’t make a deep run in the tournament.
It all starts with one.
Just as Mark Aguirre (who could be a mentor to Alexander, as he is part of the program now) put a budding program on the map back in the late 70’s and took them to the Final Four, Alexander has the chance for a similar path to success.
So, when Cliff thinks about making his final decision here’s hoping he makes DePaul the pick, as he is the guy Chicago not only deserves, he’s the player Chicago needs.
Cliff, this is your city.