DePaul Women Seek to Extend Vertical Leap

The DePaul women's basketball team is back after finishing 29-7 and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in March. WeAreDePaul.com's Jim Niendorff previews the 2011-12 edition of the Blue Demons in this report.



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Squinting won't help. A magnifying glass? Nope. They are gone.

Quigley. Naughton. Chester.

These three played basketball at DePaul for what seemed like forever. But as graduation rotates classes, DePaul loses a trio of great ones.

Sam Quigley, fifth year point guard and second on DePaul's career assist list; Deirdre Naughton, sixth year shooting guard, 1,000 point scorer and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America; Felicia Chester, fifth year post player, 1,000 point scorer and the No. 14 pick in this year's WNBA draft.

They helped advance DePaul women's basketball as the Blue Demons garnered an invitation to the NCAA tournament every year each of them were at DePaul, and last year they helped lead DePaul to its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2005.

First Things First

The 2010 season was a stellar one for the Blue Demons, their fans, and the record books. DePaul achieved a school-best record of 29-7 and a school-best final Associated Press No. 10 ranking. DePaul set new single season records for points scored (2,650), three-pointers made (255) and assists (635).

DePaul was the only team last year to play and beat Final Four participants Stanford and Notre Dame, respectively.

Firsts were not confined to just the hardwood. The Blue Demons achieved their highest GPA in school history at 3.582, a score that placed them at No. 3 on the WBCA Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. DePaul was the only Big East team represented in the poll.

Seasonal Tendencies

And as last year's Sweet Sixteen loss recedes, the 2011-12 schedule advances.

DePaul begins this year with exhibition games at McGrath-Phillips Arena against Illinois Wesleyan on Tuesday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. (Central) and against St. Xavier on Saturday, November 5th at 5:00 p.m.

One thing that DePaul coach Doug Bruno strives for in non-conference scheduling is toughness, and this year is no different as the Blue Demons play four teams that were selected to last year's NCAA tournament.

The Blue Demons open their non-conference schedule hosting the Maggie Dixon Classic on November 11-12 at McGrath-Phillips Arena. 2010 NCAA tournament qualifiers Samford (25-8 last year) and Montana (18-15) face off in Friday's opening game and DePaul tangles with NIT qualifier St. Mary's at 6:00 p.m. in the other semi-final contest. Saturday's championship game tips off at 7:00 p.m.

DePaul will be on ESPNU in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 11th taking on Elite Eight qualifier Tennessee (34-3).

In addition to playing six Illinois schools, DePaul travels to play 2009 and 2010 NCAA tournament qualifier Princeton (24-5) on December 13th. The Blue Demons return to McGrath-Phillips Arena on December 16th to play NCAA tournament participant Arizona State (20-11).

And then there is the Big East.

DePaul finished 13-3 and captured second place in the Big East last year. The Big East placed a record nine teams in the NCAA tournament last year, with those teams combining for 19 NCAA tournament wins. 10 of the 16 teams in the Big East reached the 20-win plateau. Connecticut (36-2) joined NCAA runner-up Notre Dame (31-8) in the Final Four.

Connecticut travels to McGrath-Phillips Arena on January 21st. Senior night on February 27th versus Cincinnati ends the Big East regular season for the Blue Demons.

DePaul enters this year's campaign with a 19-game home win streak.

Positive Returns

The Blue Demons lose 37 percent of their scoring, 23 percent of their rebounding and 36 percent of their assists in Quigley, Naughton and Chester. But what DePaul loses in those numbers, the play of No. 24 may go a long way in helping determine the fortunes of this year's team.

Keisha Hampton has been All-Everything during her three years at DePaul. The 6'2" senior forward was selected Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America last year and was a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection. She averaged 16.0 ppg and 4.9 rpg and led the team in steals. She has reached the 1,000 point plateau. She was team co-MVP with Chester last year. This August she became the first DePaul player ever to be selected to play for the USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team. The USA beat Taiwan for the gold medal, a record-setting 8th gold medal for the USA at the Games. Hampton has again been nominated as a pre-season State Farm Wade Watch List candidate. She has been selected as one of 30 collegiate players vying for the Wooden Award. She was recently named a pre-season Sporting News First Team All-America.

Her career at DePaul, where she has started every game for three years, has been a continuum of the talent she exhibited while at Philadelphia's Carver Engineering & Science H.S.

"Through hard work, Keisha became the best basketball player ever at our school," said Carver coach Joe Ryan. "She was as coachable a player as I ever had and the hardest worker, which explains how good she is now."

The DePaul coaching staff is something that Hampton is quick to credit for how good she is now.

"The way the coaches have pushed me, they made me the player I am today," said Hampton. "They never gave up on me and they never let me give up on myself. They pushed me every day, day in and day out, and in every drill to make me a better player."

And with Quigley, Naughton and Chester gone, she realizes the need to improve her leadership skills.

"I have to work at my leadership skills," said Keisha. "I have had Sam Quigley and Felicia Chester for three years and they are two great leaders, so it's hard to follow in their footsteps, but I know I have the support of my coaches and my teammates, so I believe I can get it done."

Joining Hampton in the frontcourt is fifth year senior forward Taylor Pikes. The 6'2" product from Chicago King H.S. led DePaul in double-doubles last year with four. She rebounded back from a torn ACL in 2008 to capture last year's Big East Sixth Man of the Year award, averaging 7.0 ppg and 6.1 rpg while shooting 55 percent from the floor. She was selected by her teammates as DePaul's Most Improved Player last year. It was Pikes' assist to Chester that gave DePaul a last second win over Notre Dame in last year's regular season finale.

Junior Katherine Harry returns in a starting role. The 6'3" post player averaged 6.9 ppg and 6.3 rpg while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor last year. She led the team in blocked shots with 61.

And this year, Harry may have to play a big role both literally and figuratively. "Chester gave us something inside where Harry is going to have to step up and be a go-to player in the post," said Bruno.

5'9" shooting guard Anna Martin also returns as a starter. She averaged 10.8 ppg and was second on the team in assists behind Quigley. Her assist to turnover ratio of 1.5:1 led the team and was fourth-best in the Big East.

Senior guard Deanna Ortiz (3.9 ppg) shot 40.4 percent (23-57) from behind the arc last year.

Senior forward Maureen Mulchrone (1.3 ppg) and sophomore forward Jasmine Penny (2.4 ppg) round out the returning players.

Penny, who played sparingly last year, may end up being a much larger part of this year's team. "Jasmine has really had a good spring and summer and she is ready to play," said Bruno.

Sophomore Kelsey Reynolds transferred from Boston College after her freshman year. The 5'7" guard sat out last year under NCAA guidelines. Reynolds was a First Team All-State selection her senior year at Mishawaka H.S. in Indiana, averaging 22.4 ppg and 4.3 apg.

New in Blue

This year's recruiting class has been rated a top 25 class by various scouting services and Bruno believes that this is the best freshman class in DePaul history.

Brittany Hrynko, a 5'8" guard also from Carver H.S., averaged 19.2 ppg her senior year. She was a four-time All-Public League selection and a two-time All-State pick including First Team All-State Class AA her senior year.

"Brittany is the most instinctual player I have ever coached. She has great basketball acumen," said Ryan. "She can drive to the basket exceptionally well and she has a great three-point shot. She also has great defensive instincts."

Chanise Jenkins, a 5'4" point guard from Chicago Whitney Young H.S., averaged 13.2 ppg game her senior year as she was named First Team All-State and was a McDonald's All-America nominee. Jenkins led the Dolphins to the state 4A title game in three of her four years at Whitney Young.

"Chanise is a multi-talented guard who can shoot, drive, and create for her teammates," said Jenkins' high school coach, Corry Irvin-Carter.

Alexa Gallagher, a 6'1" wing from Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania, averaged 11.2 ppg her senior year. She was a Second Team All-State Class AA selection. She helped Germantown to a 23-5 record her senior year and led the team in steals, assists, points per game, three-point shooting and free throw percentage.

Her high school coach, Sherri Retif, sums up Gallagher's play: "She is fundamentally solid both offensively and defensively. She likes to attack the rim while getting everyone involved in the offense. She compliments her driving mentality with a quick step-back move."

Megan Rogowski, a 5'9" guard, was one of the best three-point shooters in the country her senior year at Chicago Hersey H.S. She averaged 23.5 ppg game her senior year. Her totals at Hersey include 2,365 points with 271 three pointers. She scored 42 points twice at Hersey. Rogowski was selected First Team All-State.

"Chanise and Brittany are two really good guards," said Bruno. "Megan Rogowski is a guard that is a really good shooter, so she compliments the ability of Chanice and Brittany to break down opponents off the dribble."

Karima Gabriel, a 6'2" post player from the Peddie School in New Jersey, averaged 18.3 ppg and 12.6 rpg her senior year. Peddie had won 14 straight NJISAA Prep A titles, a streak broken last year with a loss to Blair Academy in the state finals. Gabriel averaged 22.0 ppg and 15.0 rpg per game in the playoffs.

"Karima is very athletic and is capable of playing either facing up or with her back to the basket," said her coach at Peddie, Peter Kraft. "She has exceptional hands and is a good shot-blocker. She has a great deal of athleticism."

Stretching Out

The 2002 DePaul women's basketball team came off a 15-14 record the previous year to go 22-10 and qualify for the NCAA tournament. Led by three-time All-America selection Khara Smith, that team started a tradition at DePaul of nine straight NCAA tournament berths.

But great tradition carries great weight, a weight of the responsibility of extending that tradition to the present. Quigley, Naughton, Chester, and the rest of last year's team successfully bore the weight that was successively created by the eight prior DePaul teams. And so too will be the mission of this year's team: to bear the weight and extend the vertical leap.


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