It's incredibly easy to jump on the DePaul Blue Demons stink at basketball bandwagon. It seems like nearly a decade -- because it has (2004) -- since they have made the NCAA Tournament. So, it is fair that they have been a Big East Conference afterthought whenever yearly predictions come out by websites and networks.
What is unfair, however, is overlooking individual players. Guys that might be able to put the program on their back for specific games and help DePaul become more than just the laughing stock of the conference. Players like Cleveland Melvin.
Melvin is as interesting as he is productive. What he can't be confused with, though, is being a winner. In fact, despite Melvin's contributions, the Blue Demons have never won more than 12 games during the power forward's time with the program. To be fair, however, you can't really blame the lack of success on him.
In his first year with DePaul, Melvin wowed the Big East. In only 26 MPG Melvin scored more than 14 PPG while making more than 52 percent of his attempts. He also averaged 5 RPG and ended up being awarded Big East Rookie of the Year. No small accomplishment for the always talented Big East talent pool.
A couple of more years passed and more productivity followed by team ineptitude followed. Melvin continued to score, but did not improve on his rebounding or defense. DePaul stayed on the path that has led to Oliver Purnell being on the hottest seats of any of the (once competent) coaches in the country.
There are more than a few holes in Melvin's game. As alluded to he is a marginal rebounder. He is also a wayward decision maker with the ball. Despite playing power forward -- which would require little "decision making" -- Melvin turns the ball over at an incredible two times per game over his career. Then there is his inability to defend. This is more an issue because of his lack of size and strength than it does with a lack of effort by him, though.
Being a 6'7" to 6'8" (depending on your scouting service preference) power forward comes with as many disadvantages as it does advantages. Melvin is regularly the quicker player in whatever match-up he is in. That goes for both sides of the ball. Which actually makes his turnover rate that much more eye-popping. It could be used as an excuse, though, as to why he has such a difficult time defending opposing players on the block. Still, because he has so much experience, you would hope he would have figured out a better way to defend by now. That is much his fault as it is Purnell's, however.
Melvin is an athletic player who can finish at the rim. It's also why his less than four free throw attempts per game become puzzling. Couple that with Melvin's affinity for settling for mid-range jumpers, he either needs to improve on that aspect of his game or realize his strength is to attack the basket.
Even with the glaring holes in his game, Melvin is an efficient, good and relatively wise player. Last season Melvin ranked seventh in points per game in the Big East and posted a player efficiency rating of 21.7 (anything around 15 or above is considered good in college basketball). Being just efficient, however, isn't going to be good for DePaul. Sometimes the numbers, whichever way you want them to tell the story, doesn't actually add depth or add a dynamic to it to make it complete.
It's pretty clear. This season is a big one for Melvin for multiple reasons. Currently, at least likely, perceived as a stats guy on a bad team -- Melvin can go a long way in changing folks' minds as to what kind of player he actually is. He is also in a position where his draft stock is on the wrong side of the second-round bubble. Really, he is unlikely to go drafted at all, but if he were to show the versatility to play small forward and a massive improvement in his mid-range game, he could at least get signed as an undrafted free agent.
Melvin's legacy at DePaul is going to be contingent upon this year's success or lack thereof. It's funny to think about a player's legacy -- because they haven't won a thing since he has been there -- but Melvin can be remembered as a member of the program who helped stop DePaul being the butt-end of bad jokes by people like me.
He has the talent. That has never been the question. Now, Melvin is one of the most experienced players in all of the Big East, has a great complimentary piece in Brandon Young and is in his last year to help revitalize the DePaul basketball program in the new version of the Big East. All he really has to do is transcend from being a really good "stats guy" to being an all-time all-timer in the aspect of turning his productivity to actually, tangible wins.
But hey, man. No pressure, right?