Purnell Ready for Another Big East Grind

Oliver Purnell hasn't had it easy since he took over as head coach of DePaul in April of 2010. Purnell and his Blue Demon squad suffered through another losing season (7-23, 1-17), while taking their lumps in the highly competitive Big East. However, along the way, Purnell saw his team make strides and he is ready for a fresh start.

With a year of transitioning under his belt, Purnell is more at ease this year.

"We're really looking forward to this year based on the experience we had (last year) and this summer," Purnell said at Big East Media Day. "We had 19-20 practices, four games (in France), (so) I think we've learned quite a bit about each other. Now it's up to us to build on that. We've only been going at for about a week. We had a couple guys go down for the year, but we have still have a lot of new faces and got a good support group coming back. I'm awfully excited about it."

Purnell, at least, has the fortune of knowing what he's working with this year.

Purnell welcomes back a couple of impact sophomores in Big East Rookie of the Year Cleveland Melvin (14.3 ppg) and Big East all-rookie team member Brandon Young (12.6 ppg) as well as a couple of seasoned vets in Jeremiah Kelly (7.6 ppg) and Krys Faber (7.0 ppg and 5.3 rpg).

"The biggest difference (from last year) obviously is that I didn't know a lot about these guys sitting next to me," Purnell said in reference to Melvin, Faber and Kelly. "Jeremiah and Krys are now seniors who have experienced a new coaching staff (but) understand our system and our style. Both those guys are poised to have career best years. Obviously, Cleve had a very fine first year. We are expecting bigger and better things from him."

Although the Demons have suffered a few season-ending injuries (Montray Clemons and Tony Freeland) and lost freshman Macari Brooks due to academic issues, Purnell still has a positive outlook on the season and feels his team has a place in the rugged Big East despite how good the conference is.

"The Big East is the best basketball league in the history of college basketball," Purnell said while not mincing words.

While Purnell poured on the praise for the Big East, he knows the landscape of college athletics is changing and always evolving. A hot-button topic at Big East media day was of course conference realignment and Purnell addressed where DePaul stands in the whole scheme of things.

"I think it would be a bit premature to make a statement (about conference realignment) on how I feel because I don't necessarily believe it's all done yet," Purnell said. "I haven't been privy to a whole lot of the discussion."

Regardless of the conference merry-go-round, Purnell feels wherever DePaul ends up; they will be in a strong conference.

"I'm very confident we're going to be in a tremendously strong basketball league," Purnell explained. "Right now, we're probably in the strongest basketball league this season, so we have to worry about the present and get ready for that."

Purnell also dismissed the idea that conference realignment would have a negative affect when it comes to recruiting.

"I haven't heard a lot of that," Purnell said when asked if recruits are worried about what conference DePaul might be in down the road. "I think everybody is assuming we're going to be in a very strong basketball league and certainly recognize, at least for the next couple of years, it's going to be as is."

For now, Purnell and his team are only worried about the current task at hand and that is to just get better and be no pushover in the conference.

"A big goal of ours is to get better and move up the ladder in the league."

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