Five Blue Demons to Watch for in 2015-16 Season

Over the last 11 seasons, the Blue Demons have failed to make it into the NCAA tournament. Looking to stop that streak, athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto brought back a familiar face: Dave Leitao. The head coach roamed DePaul’s sideline in 2004, the last time the program appeared in the big dance.

In order for Leitao to generate a winning team at the Allstate Arena, he’ll need help from his core in Billy Garrett Jr., Tommy Hamilton and Myke Henry, who’re all eying an improvement on both sides of the floor. If these Blue Demons hope to make a considerable jump in the Big East standings, the following five players must provide consistency around DePaul’s leaders.

Rashaun Stimage:

Stimage enters the 2015-16 campaign relatively healthy after overcoming a variety of injuries last season, including a left foot fracture that forced him to the bench during non-conference play.

Once he stepped on the court, the power forward was a force on the defensive end, averaging just over one block per contest. Offensively, though, Stimage struggled to find consistency, scoring only 4.6 points per game.

Over the summer, associate head coach Rick Carter, along with the rest of the staff, assisted Stimage to refine his game inside the paint. When DePaul traveled over to France this summer to face off with some foreign competition, the senior boasted his new skillset, putting up 7.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Playing alongside Hamilton in the frontcourt, the two will complement each other’s game if the power forward can finish at the rim.

Darrick Wood:

After transferring in from Hutchinson Community College a season ago, Wood dealt with tightness in both knees, slowing him down defensively.

“On past teams, I’d always guard the best player,” Wood said. “Last year, I couldn’t really slide and move laterally like I wanted to.”

Wood’s scoring ability also suffered as a result, posting just 4.3 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from the field. In France, the junior displayed how he can light up the scoreboard when healthy, leading the Blue Demons in scoring with 12.7 points per contest. If Wood commits to taking defenders off the dribble, he could turn into bona fide microwave off the bench.

Be sure to checkout the above highlight video of Darrick Wood in action. 

Erten Gazi:

Although DePaul finished in the middle of the pack offensively in the Big East last season, the same couldn’t be said for the other side of the floor, ranking dead last defensively. Luckily, though, Gazi brings just what the Blue Demons lust.

While playing for Pertevniyal Istanbul in Turkey over the last two years, Gazi faced off against very tough competition overseas. Hence, the freshman possesses terrific defensive instincts. During DePaul’s fan fest, where Leitao’s bunch took the floor for a scrimmage, Gazi stole numerous passes and impressed many of his teammates in the process.

“Erten is always in your face, picking you up full-court the entire game,” Garrett Jr. said.

Gazi could even take some pressure off Garrett Jr. offensively, too, exhibiting his ball-handling expertise during the scrimmage, as well as rocketing a few passes to his colleagues.

Eli Cain:

With Jamee Crockett donning a cap and gown over the summer, the Blue Demons lacked a replacement. Once Leitao and the rest of his staff witnessed Cain’s capability in France, though, a sense of comfort settled in. The 6-foot-6 swingman averaged almost nine points per game overseas, along with making a consistent effort to battle on the glass.

Yet, amidst his recent success, the freshman required a little assistance to attend DePaul University. 24 hours before the Blue Demons faced off with Creighton in the Big East tournament, Cain agreed to play in the red, white and blue uniform. Then, a couple of days following their loss, Oliver Purnell, the former head coach, resigned.

Since Wood knew Cain from their days of hooping together in New Jersey, he focused on convincing him to stay at DePaul, discussing how Leitao was determined to turn the Blue Demons into a defensive-oriented team,

“He’s like my little brother,” Wood said. “Players from New Jersey stick with one another.”

In Cain, the Blue Demons inherit an explosive athlete. During his junior year at Medford Tech, Cain averaged close to 21 points per contest and was dubbed the South Jersey Player of the Year. Whether he earns a starting nod or comes off the bench, Cain should have a big role this season.

Oumar Barry:

During Purnell’s tenure at DePaul, depth in the frontcourt tended to be a major issue. Even though Barry is only a freshman, the big man could receive an opportunity to land minutes immediately.

At the scrimmage, the West African native displayed tremendous agility for someone his size, frequently racing up and down the court to protect the rim. Last year, Barry was rated the 10th-best high school prospect in Virginia by ESPN.com, so his upside is pretty apparent.

Seeing that Leitao wants to make defense DePaul’s top priority, if the 6-foot-10 center earns the head coach’s trust, he and Stimage would seem like the perfect duo to close out a game with a lead. Barry should establish himself as the backup to Hamilton sooner than later, too.

 


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