For top-dog Villanova, it was Jayvaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu. Butler filled its need with Kameron Woods and Andrew Chrabascz.
If the DePaul Blue Demons want to gear towards the same success, head coach Dave Leitao and company will need an improvement from Tommy Hamilton IV and Rashaun Stimage.
Hamilton’s sophomore campaign rode on top of a fairly rocky surface. Through his first seven games, the big man scored in double-figures, including a 25-point performance at Chicago State. After that stretch though, Hamilton failed to return to his rhythm, and DePaul’s results put that on full display.
As soon as the first game of the conference schedule hit, Hamilton was on the bench due to violating team rules. While the Blue Demons completed the comeback to stun Marquette, having an impactful player sit out shouldn’t happen; his talent came in flashes, but the focus, as well as consistency on the stat sheet, didn’t.
Finishing with an average of an even 10 points and just over five boards per game, Hamilton’s 2014-15 season wrapped up with many question marks. Offensively and defensively, he wasn’t using his body enough in the low-post. However, back at DePaul’s meet and greet in mid-May, one assistant coach delivered confidence to Hamilton’s doorstep.
“I said Tommy, you should average 10-plus rebounds a game next year,” Patrick Sellers, assistant coach of the Blue Demons, said.
Sellers is right on cue. DePaul needs Hamilton to bang down low with the tough and gritty big men of the Big East. He was seen all over the perimeter on offense way too much. Whether that falls on former head coach Oliver Purnell or not, the new coaching regime in town must make sure they use him more effectively in 2015-16.
Over on the defensive end, Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to use his body to hedge opposing players at the top of the key. With that being said though, DePaul couldn’t rely on Stimage to be the go-to protector of the paint.
The Farragut alumni fractured his left foot before last season began, leading to his cheerleading duties for the nonconference portion of the schedule. However, Stimage did impress during his return at times, posting 1.2 blocks each game.
Stimage only averaged 17 minutes per contest, too. If those numbers see an upswing, he’ll begin to become a reliable force in the paint defensively.
“We can hold teams out of that paint, make them miss shots and then we’ve got to clean up the rebound,” Sellers said. “If he [Hamilton] can get us 10 to 12 rebounds a game, and Rashaun can give us a good seven to eight, with those two big guys inside, that’s a lot of rebounds right from the jump.”
While the two bigs will need help to make a leap in production, there’s a decent chance the process is already taking place. Rick Carter, DePaul’s associate head coach, worked with center Matt Stainbrook as an assistant at both Western Michigan and Xavier. Last season, Stainbrook averaged 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, along with shooting over 59 percent from the field. Those numbers won’t make someone’s mouth drop, but he was part of an offense that had other scoring threats.
When any team makes a drastic improvement, it’s hinged upon their defensive effort. The Blue Demons ranked dead last in scoring defense, giving up over 73 points per game. During conversations with each coach on the staff, they’ve all stressed the importance of defense leading to offense. Hamilton and Stimage are the keys to their ignition.
DePaul will also be bringing in three freshmen - Develle Phillips, Oumar Barry and Frederick Scott this season to add some depth to the frontcourt. Although Scott is a smaller frontcourt addition at 6’6’’, he’s the first player to come to DePaul from Simeon Academy since Bobby Simmons in ‘98. Phillips and Barry are both 6’9’’ apiece.
All three will be part of Leitao’s plans to bolster the Blue Demons frontcourt in 2015.
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