Veterans and Vision Lead DePaul Women's Hoops

CHICAGO - DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno's surprise guest appearance and performance with the Bucket Boys percussion quartet at Friday night's Blue Madness most likely will not cause anyone to mistake him for Buddy Rich, but if his seasoned squad plays up to its potential this year sweet music will be heard inside McGrath Arena.

Bruno, 437-252 at DePaul and entering his 25th year of coaching at his alma mater, has all five starters returning from last year's 21-12 squad (9-7 Big East) which lost to Vanderbilt in overtime in the first round of the NCAA tournament, his team's eighth straight appearance in the Big Dance.

"Not only do we have five fifth-year seniors, but this is some of the best leadership I have had in my 37 years of coaching. This is a great group with Sam Quigley, Felicia Chester, Deirdre Naughton and Jen Juergens," Bruno said.

And with that experience and leadership come expectations.

"I think this is the year we take our shot at winning the Big East," said Doug. "In the last couple of years one could say that, but it is pretty well established that UConn was a special team in the history of women's college basketball, but I think we can take a legitimate shot at winning the Big East."

But as 37 years of coaching have taught Bruno, potential remains just that.

"I think this team does have the potential to be one of the best teams I have coached at DePaul, but the problem with potential is that you have not done it yet. You can't be good without experience, and just because you have experience doesn't guarantee you are going to be good."

To continue the streak of NCAA tournament appearances, and to be able to challenge for the Big East title, the Blue Demons will need to have continued solid performances from last year's co-MVP's Quigley and Chester along with juniors Keisha Hampton, Maureen Mulchrone, Taylor Pikes and sophomores Katherine Harry and Anna Martin. Senior China Threatt was the Big East's Sixth Man of the Year in 2008-09, and she returns this year after battling knee injuries. Jasmine Penny is the lone freshman on this year's team.

Quigley, who at 1259 minutes played the third most minutes of any player in the country last year, brings back her 13.1 ppg average and team-leading 168 assists. Her point guard skills also earned her the MVP award at last year's Duel in the Desert tournament in Las Vegas.

And like all veterans, Quigley is quick to realize where successful seasons begin: long before the start of the first practice.

The team took a 10-day trip in August to France to play professional and club teams there, going 4-0 during the trip.

"It was a great opportunity for us to be able to play outside of the season," Quigley said. "It built team chemistry being together and allowing Jasmine (Penny) to get a feel for the game before the season starts. The competition we faced really tested us as to what kind of team we might have during this season. We were there for 10 days and played four games, so there were a good seven days where we were just hanging out together and experiencing France."

Chester returns for her senior year after having placed third last year in field goal percentage in the Big East at .550. She ranks fifth in DePaul history in blocked shots with 110. And as co-captain with Quigley, Chester realizes the responsibility that comes with that and how team goals and individual goals are a part of that.

"I am going to try and be a positive leader for the team this year," said Chester. "We have everyone coming back, so we should all be clicking on all cylinders this year. Everyone is focused on tightening up things that we did not do well last year, like defense, and we are really focusing on defense right now. I definitely want to be more of an offensive threat this year, and I know coach is always telling me to be that, so that is a personal goal of mine."

Sixth year senior Naughton remains in rehab from an ACL injury she sustained last year. Naughton averaged 14.2 ppg in five games last year before her injury. She has been named this year a preseason 2nd Team All-America by Sporting News Magazine and has been nominated to the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 list.

"Deirdre has not been cleared to practice yet," Bruno said. "Hopefully we can use the preseason to get her back in a comfort zone and hopefully she will pick that up a notch and by January or February we will have that sixth year experience."

Juergens averaged 4.9 ppg and was second on the team behind Chester in field goal percentage at .484 during 10 starts last year.

Threatt also should add to the scoring punch that Naughton has supplied in her three years at DePaul.

"China is another one that gives us the ability to break opponents down off the dribble," said Bruno. "We like to go up the floor and we weren't able to do that last year once Deirdre was injured."

Hampton, the team's leading scorer last year at 13.8 ppg, was named 2nd Team All-Big East and along with Martin was named the team's Most Improved Player. Her team-leading .337 three field goal percentage along with being third on the team in rebounds at 5.5 rpg and being second on the team behind Chester in blocked shots with 37 is a testament to the inside/outside force she brings to the Blue Demons.

Mulchrone averaged 2.3 ppg last year but notched her first first collegiate double-double with 19 points and and 12 boards in the win against Riems in France. Pikes followed suit with her first collegiate double-double of 15 points and 10 boards versus Cavigal Nice.

Sophomores Harry and Martin played last year like anything but freshmen. Harry, a 6'3" post player, proved to be a great compliment to Chester inside, and her averages of 7.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg along with five double-doubles helped her garner a unanimous selection to the All-Freshman Big East team.

With the loss of Naughton, Martin was vital in helping fill the void at guard. Martin averaged 10.5 ppg while shooting .396 from the floor and was second on the team in assists with 73. She scored 24 points in the loss to Vanderbilt.

As practices get underway and with the start of the exhibition season two weeks away, Bruno is beginning to see how his team might perform come the regular season. Great band leaders get their results from every musician knowing their part and then playing it. Bruno knows that college basketball is no different: "this team has 12 players who can all play."

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