The cover of the 2011 preseason guide shows 13 players gathered on Doug Bruno Court at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Had the guide been re-printed in mid-December, the size of the cover could have been halved.
A season that started with senior All-America selection Keisha Hampton and juniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry soon turned into a downward spiral with injuries at every level.
Hampton, Martin and freshman point guard Chanise Jenkins were all named to the All-Tournament team as the Blue Demons captured the Chicago Maggie Dixon Classic. Hampton was named tournament MVP.
Jenkins then injured her ankle in mid-November and did not play again.
The Blue Demons' show of strength at Northwestern, an 88-72 win, with Hampton scoring 32 and Martin adding 21, was a reminder, still, of just how good DePaul could be.
An 84-61 loss to No. 7/8 Tennessee in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden was followed by a win at Princeton, with Hampton scoring 23 points against the Tigers.
Hampton's season was then done with a knee injury after 12 games.
A home win against Pittsburgh was followed by three losses in a row including the antithesis of the Northwestern game, a 66-63 overtime loss to South Florida. That loss was followed by an 88-44 loss to No.3/3 Connecticut, snapping DePaul's 28-game home win streak. Rutgers then beat the Blue Demons 65-64 on a last second layup.
But as any basketball player knows, rebounds don't usually fall into your lap, they must be tracked down and secured. DePaul did just that for the rest of the season. And for a squad that DePaul coach Doug Bruno nicknamed The Magnificent Seven, an NCAA Tournament berth proved to not be a bridge too far.
DePaul won five of its next six games with its roster of seven, with Harry breaking the McGrath-Phillips Arena rebounding record with 20 in an 86-61 win over No. 14/12 Louisville. The Blue Demons' Jasmine Penny scored a career high 24 points in the loss versus No. 2/2 Notre Dame.
A Senior Night win versus Cincinnati had Martin pouring in a career-high 36 points. A first round Big East Tournament win against South Florida cemented the Blue Demons as invitees to the NCAA Tournament.
Martin's 17 points and solid free throw shooting by freshman Brittany Hrynko in the final seconds led to a 59-55 first round NCAA Tournament win against Brigham Young, setting up a rematch with Tennessee at Allstate Arena.
DePaul, down 28-23 to Tennessee at the half, got a three-pointer from senior guard Deanna Ortiz to cut the Lady Vols' lead to 53-46 with 2:21 left in the contest. A charge call on Martin on the next possession fouled her out, effectively ending DePaul's upset bid as the Lady Vols won 63-48.
And there the seven ended: a team rebounding to being one of the final 32 teams in the country to be playing that night.
DePaul put up big numbers last year for a diminished squad. Its 23 wins tied for fifth in school history single-season wins. The team finished the year 23-11 (9-7 Big East) and 14-2 at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The Blue Demons set a program record for three-pointers with 256 and for three-point attempts with 753.
The Blue Demons last year played eleven opponents which qualified for the NCAA Tournament, including Final Four participants Notre Dame and Connecticut.
The Big East last year sent a representative to the Final Four for the sixth straight year. It was also the third time in the last four years the Big East had two representatives there. Nine Big East teams reached the 20-win plateau. The Big East was a combined 159-55 (.743 percent) versus non-conference opponents during the regular season.
The transition from locker room to classroom was seamless for DePaul last year as the Blue Demons repeated their third place finish in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25 Honor Roll from 2010, notching a 3.604 team grade point average, the program's best-ever cumulative grade point average. The Blue Demons have appeared in six of the last seven polls. DePaul was the only Big East team in the Top 25.
Each member of last year's team was selected to the Big East All-Academic team, and the team won the Big East Team Excellence Award for women's basketball.
This year's team plays a non-conference schedule featuring Dayton, Florida Gulf Coast, Hampton, Sweet Sixteen qualifier South Carolina, Elite Eight qualifier Kentucky and Princeton. All six of those teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, and the teams had a combined regular season record of 150-31.
DePaul opens its regular season by hosting Dayton, Mississippi Valley State and Nicholls State at the Maggie Dixon Classic at McGrath-Phillips Arena on November 9 and 10. The Blue Demons play in the second semifinal game versus Nicholls State at 5:30 CST. The championship game on Saturday starts at 7:00.
The Blue Demons travel to play in the Paradise Jam at the University of Virgin Islands on November 22-24. DePaul will play in the same division as Florida Gulf Coast, Hampton and South Carolina.
DePaul plays Kentucky at Lexington on December 7th, a homecoming for Martin, who played her high school ball at Lexington Christian Academy, where she led her team to multiple state titles.
"I went home for a little while in the fall and everyone that I have ever known my entire life was asking me and was excited about it," said Martin.
The Blue Demons engage in Big East action on February 10 at Connecticut, the start of five consecutive televised games for DePaul. The Connecticut game has been deemed the Big East Network's Game of the Week.
DePaul readies for the start of its season by playing home exhibition games against St. Xavier on October 30 at 7:00 and against Illinois Wesleyan on November 3 at 5:00.
The Blue Demons graduated forward Maureen Mulchrone, starting guard Ortiz, 2010 Big East Sixth Man of the Year Taylor Pikes, and one of the best players in DePaul history in Hampton.
Hampton was selected as the No. 22 pick of the Seattle Storm in this year's WNBA draft. She finished her career at DePaul with 1,574 points, 568 rebounds and 227 assists. Entering her senior year, she was an All-America selection, a unanimous All-Big East selection, was named to the Naismith Watch list and was a Wade Watch Top 30 selection. She won a gold medal with the USA World University Games team in China. She is DePaul's eighth WNBA draft pick since 1997.
Jenkins played in just two games due to her ankle injury and freshman wing Alexa Gallagher did not play at all due to a knee injury. Both players redshirted last year.
DePaul enters the season not ranked in preseason polling, but Bruno (510-282) entering his 27th season at DePaul waxes philosophically about polling and his team.
"Rankings are previews and we are always concerned with our reviews," said Doug. "True rankings happen on the floor."
He shares what he knows best: his team.
"I definitely think we can compete in the upper echelon of the Big East this year. It's too early for me to figure out exactly where, but I think we have the ingredients to be pretty good."
"We have to have our top eight players ready to play health-wise," Bruno said. "Everyone knows what Anna Martin is going to bring for us. Katherine [Harry] has to have a breakout year. Brittany Hrynko and Chanise Jenkins have to be solid in the back court. Jasmine Penny has to take the next step and grow off her sophomore year. Megan Rogowski has a chance to have a breakout year. All of those ingredients are why I am excited. We have more depth this year. Kelsey Smith will help us guard the inside rotation. The freshmen are good, but I can't tell where they are going to be just yet."
The Blue Demons, eying their 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, return 84 percent of their scoring and 87 percent of their rebounding.
Anna Martin, 5'7" senior guard. This year DePaul replaces one All-American with another one in Martin. A Wade Trophy finalist, Big East scoring leader at 19.1 ppg, unanimous First Team All-Big East selection and being named one of 22 winners of the 10th annual D1-AAA Athletic Directors Association Scholar-Athlete Teams were some of her accomplishments last year. Martin was second on the team on assists with 111 and second in steals with 57. She shot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc. Her 648 points last year was 10th best for a single season in DePaul history. She ranks 15th all-time at DePaul with 1,382 career points. Martin has been named to this year's preseason Wade Watch list and she is a Big East Player of the Year nominee.
"There was a point last year when I became the focus point of defenses, and you just have to play through it,"said Martin."[The preseason accolades] do make me want to become a better player. I had to step into the senior leadership role last year. I think it came naturally, and it is a big testament to Coach Bruno. We had a lot of one-on-one discussions last year on what it meant to be a leader."
Katherine Harry, 6'3" senior forward. Harry was selected Big East Honorable Mention last year. She averaged 9.3 ppg and 9.5 rebounds per game. She led the Big East last year in rebounds per game. Her 804 rebounds are sixth all-time at DePaul, and she is tied for for ninth all-time in blocks.
"I felt really confident coming into this summer and I thought I was playing well, working on post moves and trying to develop more of a jump shot," said Harry. "Being consistent was the biggest point I was trying to focus on in the off season."
Her leadership philosophy as a senior is a simple one: "Trying to be positive, to lead by example and to show the freshmen what we are about here at DePaul: working hard every day and never taking a possession off."
Harry is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in her foot.
Jasmine Penny, 6'1" junior forward. Her scoring average jumped from 2.4 ppg her freshman year to second on the team last year at 11.4 ppg. Her .560 percent field goal shooting was first on the team and was among the top five among Big East players.
The winner of her team's Most Improved Player award, Penny spent the off-season working on her game in a unique way.
"I played a lot of five-on-five with my brothers and other guys in order to work on running the floor because last year it was a struggle to get up and down the floor."
Kelsey Reynolds, 5'7" junior guard. Reynolds averaged 18.0 minutes per game and started one game last year. She averaged 3.5 ppg and 1.8 rpg to go along with 30 steals. She shot 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. Her family, residing in Indiana, hosted the team for dinner before the Notre Dame game.
Kelsey Smith, 6'4" junior forward. Smith played her prep ball at St. Charles North, St. Charles, Illinois, where she averaged 17.0 ppg and 9.4 rebounds per game. She finished her high school career with over 1,500 points, 1,000 boards and 500 blocked shots. She red shirted her freshman year at Michigan State in 2009, played there in 2010 and sat out last year per NCAA guidelines. She becomes eligible for the Blue Demons after the fall quarter ends on November 20.
Centrese McGee, 5'7" junior, who transferred from the University of Illinois. McGee will sit out the 2012 season per NCAA transfer guidelines. She averaged 5.7 ppg and had 53 assists along with 39 steals her freshman year in 2010. She led Big Ten freshmen in rebounding with 5.3 per game. She missed the 2011 campaign with a knee injury.
Brittany Hrynko, 5'8" sophomore guard. Hrynko was chosen a unanimous Big East All-Freshman team selection. She averaged 10.8 ppg and had team highs of 133 assists and 62 steals. Hrynko is the first freshman to lead DePaul in assists since 1978.
Megan Rogowski, 5'9" sophomore guard. She averaged 6.0 ppg and averaged 17 minutes per game. Her .379 three-point field goal percentage was second on the team to Martin.
Chanise Jenkins, 5'5" redshirt freshman guard. Jenkins started in both of the games she played in before injuring her foot. She averaged 7.0 ppg and had eight assists in those two games.
Alexa Gallagher, 6'1" redshirt freshman forward. She was a three-time MVP while playing at Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania. Gallagher was invited to try out for the USA Basketball U17 World Championship Team in the summer of 2010. She was a First Team All-Inter-Academic League selection at Germantown.
"Last year we had a lot of freshmen and they really had to grow up," said Martin. "I don't think they got a lot of recognition. Last year made our freshmen become sophomores and I think they have gotten even better."
Brooke Schulte, 5'10" freshman guard from Mater Dei High School, Breese, Illinois. She was a unanimous class 3A First Team All-State selection her senior year. She holds the Mater Dei career records in most points scored with 1,907 and most steals with 285. Her 29 inch vertical leap helped the Knights win the class 3A state volleyball title her senior year. A member of the National Honor Society at Mater Dei, Schulte wants to become a sports medicine physician.
Her coach at Mater Dei, Dave Kohnen, lauds Schulte's floor leadership: "when Brooke is on the floor, it is like having a coach on the floor."
Megan Podkowa, 6'1" freshman forward from Trinity High School, River Forest, Illinois. Podkowa was named Class 4A First Team All-State her senior year. She is Trinity's all-time leader in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots. She averaged 19.0 ppg and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent her senior year. She was a member of the National Honor Society at Trinity.
Her high school coach, Eddie Stritzel, says "as a player, there is nothing Megan cannot do. Her best quality is her unselfishness. Her teammates gravitate towards her and want to play with her."
Brandi Harvey-Carr, 6'4" freshman forward from the LEAP Academy in Camden, New Jersey. Harvey-Carr started playing basketball her sophomore year at LEAP. She averaged 21.0 ppg, 18 rebounds per game and seven blocks per game her senior year. She became a 1,000 point scorer in three years. Harvey-Carr rounds out DePaul's freshmen trio of National Honor Society members. She plans on becoming a dentist.
Some seasons end abruptly, while others end on a note of continuation.
With the clock winding down the final few seconds in the NCAA Tournament game against Tennessee and the Lady Vols ahead 63-48, there was Hrynko fiercely guarding Tennessee's Ariel Massengale as Massengale dribbled out those few seconds.
That total defensive effort when the game was already lost was more than just playing hard to the final horn. It was a symbol of a team that rebounded from much to finish with much. And rebounds can lead to bigger and better things. This year's team is coming off the rebound and is off and running.
2012 DePaul Women's Hoops: Off the Rebound
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