Although the Blue Demons’ frontcourt lacks depth, their backcourt oozes with plenty of competition for minutes. The group consists of seniors Billy Garrett Jr., Darrick Wood, Chris Harrison-Docks and R.J. Currington, as well as underclassmen Eli Cain, Erten Gazi, Devin Gage and the aforementioned-Cyrus.
Nevertheless, the Canadian native’s hopes of cracking the rotation from the get-go have been aided by Cain, who consistently communicates with him in practice in order to assist with his progression. Their connection doesn’t halt after vacating the hardwood, either. The two are roommates in the school’s student housing sector.
“He’s like my big brother,” Cyrus said. “But I always eat his snacks in the fridge.”
While he’s just a sophomore, Cain’s tutelage is served with memorable experience of dealing with adversity himself. Following DePaul’s first five in-conference games last season, he seemed lost on offense.
Yet, the 6-foot-6, 204-pounder began to find his rhythm after receiving a heap of motivation via head coach Dave Leitao. Cain went onto score in double figures in 10 of the Blue Demons’ final 14 contests, including a 22-point outing against Providence.
According to Cyrus, he and Cain are constantly discussing ways for him to generate offense, along with how to mentally decelerate on that end of the floor.
“He [Cain] always tells me to ‘look at the game and think the game,’” he said.
Beyond the up-and-coming star, Cyrus says Wood also lent similar insight on where he can rectify his game. For instance, in one practice, the 6-foot-5 guard grabbed a rebound and hesitantly raced down the court. Then, suddenly, he halted his dribble and passed the ball to forward Dave Leitao III at the top of the arc.
Immediately, Cyrus recognized his blunder. Still, Wood rushed over to the youngster and told him to slow down in those moments.
Throughout the offseason, the 6-foot-5, 189-pounder has strived to improve his jumper off dribble handoffs and screens. Even though Cyrus produced a sound-48.2 field goal percentage in his senior campaign at La Lumiere, a prep school in Indiana, he only shot 27.8 percent from behind the arc.
Additionally, he predicates a part of his offensive prowess around cutting and driving towards the basket.
“I love playing fast,” Cyrus said.
Considering their cohesion in practice, Cyrus states he enjoys operating alongside Garrett Jr., who averaged 12.6 points per contest a season ago. Furthermore, the veteran always preaches how to conduct oneself as a leader, both vocally and through his performance.
“As a senior, he [Garrett Jr.] sees the entire floor, understands pace and where the ball needs to go,” Cyrus said.
If the guards end up playing side-by-side in the backcourt once the season tips off, DePaul would boast an obvious matchup advantage. Garrett Jr., who seemingly bulks up each campaign, stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 213 pounds. However, the coaching staff utilized small-ball lineups throughout the team’s open practice and scrimmage, too.
Hence, fans could witness spurts where the Morgan Park product receives minutes at either forward position, creating a hole at the point guard spot. Subsequently, Cyrus and his fellow teammates understand the importance of strengthening their handles.
On top of that, Cyrus possesses experience of playing in similar lineups, citing his time with Team Canada in the Jubilee Games over the past summer.
Moreover, he desires to alter DePaul’s defensive reputation, which has haunted them in countless games over the last decade. Most recently, the Blue Demons yielded 75 points per contest in 2015-16, ranking ninth in the Big East.
“Nobody [in general] wants to play defense,” Cyrus said. “They see it as petty. I take it upon myself to lock people down and take away their offense.”
Amid numerous conversations with Leitao, he referenced the coach’s desire for him to impede the opponent’s offensive flow. Cyrus’ handled similar defensive duties at La Lumiere, employing them in the quarterfinals of the Dick’s High School National Tournament. In one matchup, he limited David Beatty, a 2017 four-star recruit, to just five points on 1-of-12 shooting.
Plus, the guard exhibited his physical on and off-ball defense in the aforementioned-scrimmage, coming up with a couple of steals in the process.
Despite not knowing when he’ll step onto the floor versus the Robert Morris Eagles in the regular season opener, Cyrus is awaiting his opportunity to seize the occasion by the wings. Likewise, he’s already anticipating the Blue Demons’ duels with the top dogs in the conference, such as against the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats.
“I love having that chip on our shoulder, going out there and knocking down those giants,” he said.