DePaul has become a word on the level of cancer and ghostwriting. Before you jump up and yell "ALL DISEASES MATTER!", hear me out.
When you learn someone has cancer, generally everyone in the room is hit with sorrow and despair. When tapes get leaked (or your album doesn't go gold), suddenly rappers' emotions get tangled and they accuse you of having a ghostwriter. Fans get charged up, DJ's get hurt, rappers get obliterated. It's a word that evokes so much negativity.
Quite like DePaul. When you hear the word DePaul, an image of Mick Foley jumping off the top of an 18-foot cell in attempted (scripted) suicide while screaming "GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD!!!" comes to mind. It's basketball team has been the Vanderbilt of the Big East - stuck in mediocrity without a gleam of hope in the distance.
But Dave Leitao, the last coach to take the Blue Demons to the dance, returns to be that silver lining, to restore the program to respectability. The hire appeared like an RKO; no one saw it coming, but even in a miniscule amount, it makes sense. No coach in the Big East is familiar with the Chicago market than Leitao, and with a new arena on the way, the new old ball coach is building the resources to exploit the local recruiting scene.
That's down the road, and DePaul fans, suffering as they might, are stuck in the here and now. And while it doesn't look like the worst is in the rearview mirror, the Blue Demons have a crew that will generate intrigue later this winter
Point Guard: Aaron Simpson
2014-15 stats: 4.8 PPG, 1.1 APG, 2.0 RPG, 38% FG, 35% 3PG
Simpson arrived as a JUCO transfer in 2014 and earned the trust of the departed Oliver Purnell early last season, starting 10 games. He's a troublesome defender, which comes natural in-game when you're going up against Billy Garrett in practice. Simpson flashed the offensive potential that made him a top recruit coming out of North Chicago High School (his best stretch came in mid-January, where he averaged 11.5 points and went 9-of-18 from outside in four games). His playing time was limited by season's end, but it would best serve Leitao to lean on veteran leadership and tab the senior as his starting point.
Shooting Guard: Billy Garrett Jr.
2014-15 stats: 12.3 PPG, 3.9 AST, 2,4 RPG, 40% FG, 33% 3PG
Now that Purnell is out of the fold, Garrett has an opportunity to shape a new identity of DePaul basketball. The junior is a projected to be a draft pick in 2016, and with a new head coach, the sky is limitless for the rising star. He led the Blue Demons in points and assists in 2015. Those numbers are expected to spike as long as his maturity and leadership follow suit. His third year is crucial in terms of evolution, but if the last two years are any indictation, expect a major leap in production for the former Big East Rookie of the Year.
Forward: Myke Henry
2014-15 stats: 12.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 AST, 46% FG, 37% 3PG
The Illini transfer returned home and started every game for DePaul in 2015, averaging 12 points in 32 games and leading the team in rebounds. Given an opportunity he wasn't afforded in Champaign, Henry took advantage of his playing time, shooting 46% from the field in 28 minutes a game. Henry, Garrett and Hamilton represent the core of this upperclassmen-heavy squad, and with Henry being the fifth-year senior, it might be Garrett's team, but Henry is the unquestioned leader of Leitao's bunch.
Forward: Rashaun Stimage
2014-15 stats: 4.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 BLK, 48% FG
Stimage joined the Demons in January after missing the non-conference season with a broken foot. But when he arrived, his athleticism and versatility made him a reliable option off the bench. The senior is the type of physical defender that can guard the stretch 4 and still protect the rim against bigger forwards like Roosevelt Jones. Offensively, he opens up the floor for offensive threats like Garrett and Henry to attack the rim and it allows Hamilton room to bang inside and play the pick-and-roll. Stimage brings a whole new dimension to the DePaul lineup.
Center: Tommy Hamilton IV
2014-15 stats: 10 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1 APG, 51% FG, 47% 3PG
It's very rare that you get an inside presence - 6-foot-11, 255 pounds - who's unafraid to jump outside and take a three, but we saw plenty of that from Hamilton last year. The junior shot 57% from deep in conference play last year, 51% from the field in 16 Big East games. He saw less time on the court due to a number of reasons, only starting 16 games in 2015, but his numbers increased across the board. If Hamilton can stay slim and improve defensively, DePaul has an anchor inside for the next two years.