If there’s one thing the DePaul 2021-22 men’s basketball team have in mind to enter their first full season since the start of Covid-19, it’s victory.
After checking in after their summer training camp ended, no player had their own individual goals other than doing their part to help the team win.
In the words of the players and coach Stubblefield, winning is what matters most to them right now.
“We have learned to lose”, junior center Nick ongenda noted. âMy goals are to help our team win. I’m sick of losing stuff. Obviously I’m trying to do my best and throw my body out there and get this win for all of us.
“We have to win, we want to win”, sophomore transfer Jalen terry noted. âThat’s all we’re talking about is winning. Everyone knows what to expect, so we’re in it together.
The Blue Demons haven’t seen a winning season since the 2018-19 season, when Max Strus, Paul Reed and Eli Cain led the team to a 19-17 record.
On a related note, the team has not had a record for Big East conference wins since the 2006-07 season, when Wilson Chandler was in charge of the Blue Demons.
However, this year’s squad is different from previous seasons the Blue Demons have encountered. The university head coach, assistant coaches, director of player development, strength and conditioning coach and half of the players all start their first seasons with the program.
DePaul lost 11 players from the roster last year. While it took a while to materialize this summer, the team is finally starting to solidify.
âIt was different at first,â said Terry. âEveryone had their differences at the beginning, but now everyone loves each other. Everyone gets used to everyone.
âWe have a lot of new guys,â Ongenda said. âAlmost everyone is new, especially the coaches, who play a huge role in development. I feel like the culture is a lot more serious. Everyone is at work.
While the team are new to each other, there are some connections from the past. One comes straight from Terry himself since he and Stubblefield were both in Oregon last year before coming to DePaul.
“[Stubblefield is] a great coach, âsaid Terry. âHe pushed me, in Oregon, as an assistant. He pushed me to do better and I need it. He knows what I’m capable of and he wants to push me to do it.
With a new team entering their first year of playing together, the team has reiterated that their selfless basketball style is critical to the success they have this season.
The team is adjusting to a faster pace of play, including off-court attack, with more inclusion and a focus on smart shots, according to Ongenda.
This will be imperative for DePaul’s success, given the team placed 10th in the conference in points per game with 65.4 points and 11th in offensive rating at 91.9 last season.
Even as the team emerges from last year’s loss record – 2-13 conference, 5-14 overall – and the schedule is revamped with new coaches and players, there is still a lot of optimism regarding the diversity of the team and the different experiences of each. of them had.
âFrom a competitive point of view the guys were challenged and played against top level competition,â said Stubblefield. âYou have a very historic program like Kansas, where Tyon (Grant-Foster) just. He found success at a very high level playing under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Bill Self. Yor (Anei) from the state of Oklahoma with this great tradition. Brandon (Johnson) was in the Big-10. I think all of these things play an important role.
With all eyes on the squad and overflowing with optimism about the start of a rebuilding program, the Blue Demons announced the first twelve games of their first season with fans since pre-Covid. The first nine games are all played at home, Wintrust Arena.
The Blue Demons’ nine-game home streak to start the season is highlighted by clashes with Central Michigan, Rutgers and rival Loyola, who upset Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
âI think it’s a very difficult non-conference schedule that we’re playing,â Stubblefield said. âObviously we’re lucky and I’m glad we’re playing the majority of these games at home. If you look at it, Loyola at home is a very difficult game, Rutgers at home. Both of these teams went to the NCAA tournament last season and have had great success in their leagues. It will give us a chance to be home and see what we’re made of.
The schedule only gets more exciting on the road after their nine-game stint at Wintrust. Louisville, the University of Illinois Chicago and Northwestern represent the next road games after the home stretch.
The regular season presents interesting challenges for the team to find out who they are. However, that is not the main focus of the season.
What do the Blue Demons have their eye on this season?
âUConn,â Ongenda said. “They came to the Grand Est and really killed him. I really want revenge on them.
Last season, after passing the first round of the Big East tournament by beating Providence, the Blue Demons fell to UConn at Madison Square Garden by a score of 94-60.
The Demons plan to âdream big,â as athletic director DeWayne Peevy would say, this season and reverse the stigma of having a losing basketball team.
If there is a contingency to the success of the team, Ongenda has defined it perfectly.
âAs long as our fans stop it would be great,â said Ongenda. “Support from the fans can really change the mindset and turn a ten point game into a five point game.”
The Blue Demons’ first game will take place in less than two months against Montevallo on November 4.