Blue Demons Ready for Tour de France

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell has had about 20 practices to get the Blue Demons ready for their tour of France, where they will play four games in 10 days. Purnell talks about his team's overall readiness in this report.

After DePaul's final day of practice, Blue Demon skipper Oliver Purnell talked about how that practice had gone for his squad.

"I thought it went OK," said Purnell. "I thought the guys were obviously excited and had a little nervous energy about leaving. I think it's more about the trip than playing right now. I thought overall it was a good mini-camp. We had about 20 practices altogether. I thought it went well."

One thing Purnell and his staff don't know much about is what lies waiting for them in the opponents they will face while in France and Monaco.

"I don't know a thing about them," Oliver said. "In the past we've gone over to France and Italy and played the pro club teams that are about ready to go to training camp. They'll get a hodge-podge of guys together, guys who are really, really good. Hopefully, our conditioning is a little bit better, because in all likelihood they're going to be better, older, and stronger, and all that."

Purnell is also concerned about the overall health of his team.

"We have some guys who are banged up," Purnell said. "We're definitely more athletic. We should be deeper if we can get everybody healed up. (Charles) McKinney probably won't play on the trip. He's got a slight tear of the patella tendon. He could play, but the doctor wants him to rest for at least a week."

Freshman guard Macari Brooks has also been dealing with knee problems.

"I don't know how much he'll be able to play," said Purnell.

"Other than that, everybody should be ready to go. We obviously have been concerned about the point guard position. Obviously, Brandon (Young) has been more than adequate. (Jeremiah Kelly) has played really well there. The question is playing them both at the same time. We'd like to start them both, but those are both your point guards. We still have to figure that out. McKinney was our emergency guy, but then he got hurt."

The concern for the point guard position stems from the recent transfer of freshman point guard Shane Larkin. Larkin's absence means that the Blue Demons will be relying on sophomore Brandon Young at point guard just as much as they did last season.

"(Young) is a guy who was on the All-Big East All-Rookie team," said Purnell. "We expected him to get better just like Cleve (Melvin). He along with Cleve and Moses (Morgan) were three of our better players at the end of last year. They got a lot of playing time, so a lot more is expected of them this year."

Purnell plans to use this trip to help solve his rotation patterns at the point guard slot.

"You like to have at least three guys in the program that can man the point guard position simply because if somebody gets hurt," Oliver said. "In our particular case, our two point guards were our two starters last year. So we have to figure that rotation out. Whether we're going to start them both and just come with somebody and now you've got another one ready. In the past when we've had two point guards on our team and they we're our two best guards. We started them and just came in for one very early and now he's ready to come back in. So we've just have to figure that out with this group. Without McKinney healthy and Macari's hobbling it's kind of hard to figure that out. That's something we've got time on."

One of the purposes of taking a foreign tour in August is to get a head-start on the season. While most schools start practice in Mid-October, the Blue Demons have been getting ready for this trip since June.

"That's a huge advantage to this trip," said Purnell. "If you've got something that you need to figure out. Now you get a chance to look at some of that stuff. You come closer together as a team. We're able to really try to teach the freshmen about the fundamentals of defense. We really didn't put all the presses and stuff in, but man-to-man defense, guarding the ball, blocking out, just the defensive mentality, I think we've been able to do that with this group. So when we start workouts and practice, we don't have to start from there. We can start with more of our schemes and stuff like that."

So what does Purnell hope to get out of this trip?

"We do have some plays in and we do have some secondary break stuff in and some fundamental defense," Oliver said. "Looking for guys to play the game the right way. Guys that compete, that play hard. That's the thing we have to do all the time. That's the habit that we have to develop. We have to play hard all the time and we're going to compete no matter what. As you look at some of the non-conference games that we have to play, you look at the Big East, you've got to compete throughout to give yourself a chance to win in the end."

Donnavan Kirk in Europe

DePaul sophomore big man Donnavan Kirk is not allowed to travel with the Blue Demons to France due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kirk is sitting out a year after transferring from the University of Miami. However, Kirk is eligible to play with the Global Sports Academy All-Star team in Europe. Kirk will be on a tour of England, Belgium, and Holland with GSA beginning this week.

"It's huge," Purnell said of Kirk playing overseas. "He hasn't played in awhile. He hasn't played since last season in the first semester. To play under a whistle, I think that's good for him. He was able to practice up until two days ago with us. So he got the bulk of our practices in. Now he can go get a few practices with an All-Star team and some games against men over there."

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