Going into DePaul's four game tour of France and Monaco in August, Purnell outlined three items of importance for his team's trip.
"We had three goals," said Purnell. "One of them was to have a great educational and cultural experience. Clearly that was there. To get better and closer as a team. I think that happened. To utilize 20 practices, that's preparation time that 85% of the teams don't get. We got to do all three of those things. "
The trip was an opportunity for four of the team's freshmen to bond with the upperclassmen.
"They all just kind of naturally took an opportunity to learn more about one another," Purnell said. "I think that's a great trait that you're interested in knowing about your teammates. I think that's a good people thing."
After sweeping the foreign competition 4-0, it's safe to say that DePaul accomplished their mission overseas.
The Blue Demons played professional teams in France and Monaco that featured older and more physical players. Purnell lined up some good competition for his young team.
"I thought it was great for us in that it got progressively better," said Oliver. "The last team we played, because of where they finished in Division 2 last year, are moving up to Division I, a team out of Monaco. That was a team that had a Croatian on it who was really good. They had a Big 10 defensive player of the year from four or five years back and a lot of older players. I thought it was a really good team."
Purnell learned some things on the trip about what sort of team he'll have this season.
"It's not just the competition, it's also what you're going through," said Purnell. " You have a long hot bus ride, and then you play football on the beach till two, and now you got to go out and play where the other team is sitting there. I really liked the fact that we had to go through some of that and our guys didn't use that as an excuse. When it was time to play, they came to play."
At least two of DePaul's freshmen were a pleasant surprise for Purnell.
"Montray (Clemons) hadn't played that great in practice and then really stepped up and gave us a big lift in the last two games where we had to win it in the fourth quarter," Purnell said. "Then Charles McKinney, who had been hurt and didn't play the first two games, just being able to play as well as he did in the fourth game, when I didn't expect a whole lot out of him. "
"Those were two guys who emerged a little bit and said ‘Hey, look at me'. "
Purnell is also looking to his returning upperclassmen to step up their game this season.
"Krys Faber has been having a good summer," said Purnell. "(Jeremiah Kelly) has been having a good summer and Tony Freeland too. I'm not surprised, because they've been in our system for a year. If those guys have career best years, that's as important as the impact of the new guys. Those guys have some experience. They've been around. They've been in the weight room. They know how hard we work. That's really important."
The four games and 20 practices that the Blue Demons got in this summer are valuable in getting a huge jump start on a season that for most NCAA schools doesn't begin until mid-October. While Purnell accomplished a lot with his team, there is still much to work on before the Blue Demons home opener against Texas-Pan American in November.
"We didn't press a whole lot," said Oliver. "We really worked on defensive fundamentals in our mini- camp and man-to-man defense. Now we'll start to add more pressure. Now we'll find out a lot more about who can do what."
With classes starting again this week, Purnell can work with his team on a limited basis for the next six weeks.
"We can start working our guys out for two hours a week when we go back to school," said Purnell. "Then October 15th, we're ready to go. "
There are always aspects of the game that Purnell is looking to improve upon.
"We wanted our young guys to get a good fundamental base," Purnell said. "We have to work on our execution in our running game. We have the ability to fly down the floor, but we have to make sure we're finishing. "
Purnell is also looking to work on some zone offense and see who his best shooters are.
"We didn't play against a lot of zone," said Oliver. "We have to test whether we can beat that from the outside. "
The overseas trip provided the Blue Demons with enough memories to last a lifetime. In a couple months, DePaul fans will be able to see just how much better the trip made the Blue Demons.
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