Get To Know Bryce Drew

Just over a week ago, DePaul and head coach Oliver Purnell parted ways. The biggest problem that weighed on Purnell over his five seasons with the Blue Demons? Defense. DePaul ranked dead last in the Big East defensively, allowing over 73 points per game. While the offense improved somewhat in 2014-15, the other side of the floor couldn't have gotten much worse.

Who’s the man to fix those struggles? Enter Bryce Drew, Valparaiso’s current head coach. Although he might be most famous for “The Shot” in 1998, when Valpo upset Ole Miss in the NCAA tournament, his resume is pretty stocked.

Experience:

Over his four seasons at the helm in northwest Indiana, Drew and his Crusaders won at least 18 games, including a career-high 28 victories this season. Protecting the basket led to a lot of their success. Valpo ranked 18th in the nation in defense, giving up just 59.3 points each contest. Opponents shot only 38 percent from the field, too. Experience didn’t factor into those numbers, though.

Drew only played one senior, Vashil Fernandez, their 6’10’’ center, with regularity; hence, leadership came directly from the man standing on the sidelines. At 40 years old, his expertise isn't something to laugh about, either. Drew was an assistant coach for seven seasons at Valpo under his father, Homer Drew, until pops retired after the 2011 season. He’s also the brother of Scott Drew, who’s the head coach at Baylor.

Now, even though fire and passion isn't Drew’s calling card, the toughness that he once played with seeps through to his players. The Crusaders faced off against the fourth-seeded Maryland Terrapins in the tourney and gave guard Dez Wells and company all that they could handle. Unfortunately, Maryland’s physical play came up clutch down the stretch, leading to their 65-62 win.

Yet, Valpo’s season wasn’t diminished by the loss; the Crusaders crushed Murray State by 35 on the road in late November and beat Green Bay twice, once in the regular season and another time in their conference championship matchup; both teams had their sights set on March Madness but fell short.

Recruiting:

Fans cringe when discussing how DePaul doesn't have enough of Chicago’s talent on its roster. Well, Drew is a part of the reason why. His team includes five players from Illinois and three of them directly out of Chicago. One of those is Darien Walker, who played with Jabari Parker at Simeon. He attended both John A. Logan and Arizona Western, both junior colleges, before hooping at the Division I level.

Although Walker wasn't garnering interest from the top-tier schools, Drew understood the importance of bringing in a blue-chip recruit. The guard ended up scoring 10.4 points per game this season, proving his worth.

In order to recruit the best, at first, DePaul will need to approach the recruiting process with their eyes set on some of the middle of the pack players. Drew’s expertise would be a huge assist.

Drew has even shown the ability to recruit talent from outside of the country. Valpo’s roster consists of two players from Canada, as well as one apiece from Croatia, Netherlands and Jamaica. The ability to add from all-around was something that Purnell mentioned but never really delivered upon.

Ivan Vujic, DePaul’s director of basketball operations, was actually recruited from Croatia when Homer Drew manned the staff at Valparaiso. He’d sure have some positive words to say about their family.

Is he “the guy”?

After back-to-back stints of older head coaches, athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and her gang must escort in a younger man for the job. After Maryland knocked Valpo out of the dance, Drew came out publicly and said he does “plan” on returning to his roots. However, that’s not something that a heavy load of cash can’t change.

The Horizon League only receives one automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Coming to the Big East would give Drew an opportunity to showcase his coaching scheme against the top dogs. It’s time to give him the chance to prove it.


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