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DePaul Basketball Preview: ‘Fans will be in for a treat’

BY TONI GINNETTI

Special to the Sun-Times

Former Orr star Myke Henry expected the questions when he decided to transfer from Illinois, a Big Ten program where he played for two seasons, to DePaul, a struggling member of the Big East.

‘‘People said, ‘Why are you going to DePaul when you could go somewhere else?’ ’’ Henry said. ‘‘I didn’t listen to what they said because it was a good move for me and I’m happy with my choice. I’m closer to home and my family, and DePaul has a great history of basketball players who have come through here. I want to be one of them to help DePaul win.’’

That remains the unfulfilled wish for a parade of Blue Demons in a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2006-07 and has lost 21 or more games in five of the seven seasons since.

As coach Oliver Purnell enters his fifth season, the same questions remain for a program still searching for a glimpse of a turnaround.

‘‘Things take time,’’ Purnell said. ‘‘If you’re trying to build a program with integrity and discipline, it’s not a quick fix, particularly when your program has been down [for so long]. But we continue to build, and we like this group. I think we’ll surprise people.’’

Disciplinary problems arose last season, with leading scorer Cleveland Melvin dismissed from school for undisclosed indiscretions. They surfaced again before this season, with senior guard Charles McKinney — who was suspended for a time last season — also being dismissed.

DePaul endured more preseason woes when junior forward Rashaun Stimage suffered a fractured left foot, sidelining him for the first two months. And junior forward Peter Ryckbosch, a walk-on who was expected to play, was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Purnell will look to two sophomores — guard Billy Garrett Jr., the returning Big East rookie of the year, and 6-11 center Tommy Hamilton IV, who also was named to the Big East all-rookie squad — to lead the way. But Henry, who sat out last season as a transfer, also will be a key.

‘‘He’s very talented,’’ Purnell said. ‘‘He’s played in the Big Ten. He brings maturity, and he has a quiet confidence about him. . . . We had an opportunity to look at him a lot last year because he practiced with us. There were days he was our best player in practice, [but] it’s a little different when you’re on the scout team. There’s a little more structure now, and he’s adjusting well. We’re certainly looking to him to be a big contributor.’’

‘‘You learn a little more about the game by sitting and watching,’’ Henry said, referring to last season. ‘‘When to shoot, what’s the right shot — the smart things you wouldn’t necessarily see when you’re out there playing.

‘‘Staying positive has to be your focus. When you’re positive, good things happen. I think people will be in for a surprise with us. We have a great group of guys who work hard, and they want to win.

They’re tired of losing. We’re all on the same page, the coaching staff pushing us together. I think fans will be in for a treat.’’

ROSTER

0 R.J. Curington 6-5 G So.

1 Darrick Wood 6-5 G So.

2 Tommy Hamilton IV 6-11 C So.

3 Rashaun Stimage 6-8 F Jr.

4 Myke Henry 6-6 F Jr.

5 Billy Garrett Jr. 6-6 G So.

10 David Molinari 6-0 G Jr.

11 Forrest Robinson 6-10 F Sr.

13 Cory Dolins 6-0 G Jr.

15 Aaron Simpson 5-11 G Jr.

21 Jamee Crockett 6-4 F Sr.

25 Durrell McDonald 6-2 G Jr.

33 Joe Hanel 6-7 F Fr.

42 Greg Sequele 6-9 F Sr.

SCHEDULE

Nov. 14 vs. UIC* 9 p.m.

Nov. 18 vs. Drake 8 p.m.

Nov. 26 vs Lehigh 7 p.m.

Nov. 30 vs. Stanford 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 vs. NIU 8 p.m.

Dec. 4 at Chicago State 7 p.m.

Dec. 7 vs. Milwaukee 1 p.m.

Dec. 11 at Geo. Washington6 p.m.

Dec. 14 vs. Illinois State 3 p.m.

Dec. 18 at Oregon State 9 p.m.

Dec. 22** vs. Colorado 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 23**vs. GW/Ohio 1:30/3:30

Dec. 25** vs. TBA*** TBA

Dec. 31 vs. Marquette 4 p.m.

Jan. 3 vs. Xavier 1 p.m.

Jan. 7 at Creighton 8 p.m.

Jan. 10 at Villanova 8 p.m.

Jan. 13 vs. Georgetown 8 p.m.

Jan. 18 vs. St. John’s 1:30 p.m.

Jan. 22 at Seton Hall 6 p.m.

Jan. 24 at Xavier 11 a.m.

Jan. 27 at Providence 8 p.m.

Jan. 31 vs. Villanova 1 p.m.

Feb. 3 vs. Seton Hall 8 p.m.

Feb. 7 at Butler 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 at St. John’s 8 p.m.

Feb. 18 vs. Providence 8 p.m

Feb. 21 at Georgetown 7 p.m.

Feb. 24 vs. Creighton 8 p.m.

Feb. 28 vs. Butler 1 p.m.

Mar. 7 at Marquette 1 p.m.

Mar. 11-14 Big East tournament in New York

*McGrath/Phillips Arena

**Diamondhead Classic (Honolulu)

***Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, Nebraska or Wichita St. at 12:30, 3, 5:30 or 7:30