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Garrett and Cain: Destination Up

DePaul's Billy Garrett Jr. and Eli Cain have played just one year of college basketball together, but they already share multiple things together: a bond of friendship; an expectation of greatness at the sport they play; and a desire and expectation to parlay both of those things into higher accomplishments and achievements for their team.  

Garrett Jr., a Second Team Preseason All-Big East selection this year, led DePaul in assists last season  with 106, he was No. 10 in the conference in assists with 3.6 per game, and his 12.6 ppg average was second on the team last year. But all of that can be thrown out the window this season. 

"Now that I am a senior it is just about wins," Garrett Jr. said this past Friday at the Chicagoland Basketball luncheon. "I hope to lead this team to double digit victories and a winning season. Wins is all I really care about at this point in my career."

Garrett Jr. has played just one year for DePaul head coach Dave Leitao, but Leitao already sees what needs to be done by Garrett Jr. to get where the collective wants to go.

"For Billy, he has high expectations because he has been around for a long period of time and he has been a good player in this program for a long period of time," Leitao said. "The next step for him is to continue in that role from a leadership standpoint, but also to bring the team together to do some things they haven't done to this point. That is the challenge, as opposed to an expectation, that I think he is ready for and he is not going to shy away from. I think he is confident that he can make that happen, not only for himself but for the group."

Garrett Jr. and Cain speak highly of one another as friends, but neither one relinquishes a thing when the competition starts.   

"Bill is like my brother," Cain said. "He is a big, big reason why I stayed at DePaul. Mostly Bill and Darrick Wood are the two that made me feel comfortable staying. During the summer, Coach Leitao tried to keep me and Bill on opposite teams, so we could lead our teams separately, and when we are going at it we do it seriously, but at the end of the day Bill is my brother."  

"He is one of my best friends, working out together, practicing together, and watching film together," Garrett Jr. said. "The chemistry [between us] is definitely there and we are going to lead this team this year."

Garrett Jr. is a three-time Big East All-Academic selection, and Cain was selected to that group last year.  

Cain enters his sophomore year after averaging 11.1 ppg in conference play, one of just three freshmen in the conference top 25 in that category. Cain scoring in double digits in 16 games and in double figures in seven of his last nine games helped him garner a Big East All-Rookie Team accolade.

And as good as Cain was last year, he realizes what work he needs to do this year.

"I think versatility is one of my strong suits, and I want to be as versatile as I can," Cain said. "I felt like last year I was more of a two-way scorer, either going to the basket or shooting the three, so I have been working on my mid-range game to get me over that hump. I did not shoot free throws last year as well as I wanted to, so I have been in the gym every day shooting free throws."

"Going from freshman year to sophomore year is not easy," Leitao said. "[Cain] was able to do what he did last year without a whole lot of people noticing. Now he will be a focal point on a lot of people's scouting reports to try to stop because he had that successful year. I keep telling him that the ball is in his court to make some things happen for himself in terms of improvement and approach and his understanding that, play by play, he has to be as good as we need him to be and how he wants to be."        

And Garrett Jr., too.

"I tried to improve over the summer my post game, my ball screens, and my reads," Garrett Jr. said. "I  watched a lot of film on what coach Leitao wants from a defensive standpoint."

And as rocky as things got at times for DePaul last year, Leitao is counting on Garrett Jr. and Cain to try to smooth the ride this season.  

"Coach Leitao has really been talking to me about that, being more of a vocal leader," Cain said. "He talked to me about not letting the guys get down on themselves when things aren't going well and keeping the guys together. He talks about adversity a lot, and that is when he looks at me and Bill to be the best leaders."

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