Despite an extremely-underachieving first four years with DePaul, Oliver Purnell was given a vote of confidence by DePaul's AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto as he returns for the fifth year of a seven-year contract signed in 2010. While it's no secret that DePaul faithful, and critics alike, have become restless with the old ball coach and the direction of DePaul basketball, his history of turning programs around has given Purnell one last chance to show improvement.
A win over Georgetown in the Big East Tournament definitely helped Purnell keep his job. With a winnable non-conference schedule and a budding star in Billy Garrett, there is promise the Blue Demons can evolve into a middle-of-the-pack squad in the Big East. In order for that to happen, DePaul will need a strong, productive season out of its starting five. If not, Purnell's job could be on the line.
With that being said, let's take a look at the projected 2014-15 starting lineup for the DePaul Blue Demons. Of course, things may change, with some turnover in the roster and the chance for incoming players to get decent minutes come November. Barring a lights-out camp or preseason from the DePaul bench, this should be the five Purnell goes with on a regular basis this season.
Guard - Durrell McDonald (Jr)
McDonald is the only returning player who saw action in all 33 games for the Blue Demons last season. He started 7 games in 2013-14, averaging over 5 points a game and 41% from three-point range. He saw his minutes nearly 20 minutes a game, and provided some huge production in a few Big East games, namely against Seton Hall, scoring 15 points and shooting 75% from deep in a late February victory. Purnell values his solid defense, which made one him one of the conference's leaders in steals (1.1 per game). The junior will be asked to fill the shoes of the graduating Brandon Young, so a good season at the point will be expected out of McDonald to keep the wheels on this team moving forward.
Guard - Charles McKinney (Sr)
The senior from Evanston saw his least-productive season last year, making only 11 starts in 28 games last season. Hampered by injuries, McKinney scored 4 points a game in 2013-14, as other guards like McDonald and Billy Garrett saw considerable action. McKinney will have to come back for his senior season with a vengeance. Purnell needs a senior to call on in tight situations to help rally the team, and McKinney is his best option. A good shooter, McKinney will garner some nice numbers if he sees 25+ minutes a game this year.
Guard - Billy Garrett Jr. (Soph)
As if there were any doubt, Billy Garrett flourished in his freshman campaign in Chicago. The son of DePaul assistant Billy Sr., Garrett averaged 12.4 points a game last season, en route to being the Big East Rookie of the Year. Garrett's play improved as the season progressed, taking over as the second-leading scorer following the dismissal of Cleveland Melvin. Now Garrett will be called upon to be the No. 1 guy for the Demons. He'll need to improve his shooting in the off season, as he averaged under 40% from the field and beyond the arc. If Garrett can perfect his shot and continue to come up in clutch situations, his star will keep rising, and so could the Blue Demons.
Forward - Forrest Robinson (Sr)
DePaul is weak at the forward position, and Purnell may switch up his starter at the 4 throughout the season. For now, let's say Robinson is the guy he tabs come November 14th against UIC. Robinson, a JUCO transfer after spending his freshman year with the Mean Green of North Texas, has had a year to adapt to Purnell's system and get ready for a chance to start his senior season. He's somewhat of an enigma. A big with a jumper that allows DePaul to space the floor, Robinson has a lot of upside going into this year. He was caught behind Melvin and Sandi Marcius in the lineup, which didn't allow him to shine much. His 14 points in a first-round tournament upset of Georgetown had to give Purnell some confidence in him for the upcoming season. But if he doesn't leave it all out of the court in 2014-15, he will find himself in-and-out of the rotation this year.
Forward - Tommy Hamilton (Soph)
Hamilton opened a lot of eyes last season, but that shouldn't have been much of a surprise. He was one of the best players in the city of Chicago following his freshman year of high school, but injuries and weight issues slowed him down the rest of his prep career. Hamilton started 26 games for the Blue Demons last season, putting up 7.7 points per game and bringing down close to 5 boards a contest. A dual threat, Hamilton can hang with the best of them in the paint, but he also has the propensity to go beyond the arc and knock down the clutch three-pointer from time to time. A member of the Big East All-Rookie Team in 2013-14, expect the 6'10" sophomore to see his minutes improve into the high-20's as he looks to become one of the biggest low-post threats in the Big East in 2014-15.