Patrick Sellers Holds Optimism for DePaul’s Frontcourt

When assistant coach Patrick Sellers first arrived in Lincoln Park in May of 2015, he was greeted with a mixed bag of treats.

Upperclassmen Myke Henry, Tommy Hamilton IV and Rashaun Stimage possessed talent, but each one owned an obvious flaw. Henry struggled defensively, Hamilton failed to utilize his size on the glass and Stimage lacked an identity on offense.

Although he and the rest of the coaching staff attempted to repair their faults, the three forwards persistently found themselves committing similar mistakes from the previous campaign. In particular, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Hamilton, who posted just 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 2015-16, didn’t transform into a go-to threat inside.

“Tommy definitely needed to lose weight and get stronger,” Sellers said. “A part of it was doing the conditioning, being aggressive and attacking the weight room. That’s something he didn’t do.”

Nevertheless, due to Henry and Stimage receiving their diplomas, along with Hamilton transferring to Texas Tech, the Blue Demons may throw a sizeable amount of minutes at freshmen Levi Cook, Al Eichelberger and Juco transfer Tre'Darius McCallum once the season tips off. Despite their shortage of experience at the Division I level, Sellers foresees the trio contributing where an absence of depth clearly lurks.  

Unlike Hamilton, Sellers expects Cook to play down in the paint 90 percent of the time; his numbers at Huntington St. Joseph Prep would agree. During his two seasons in Huntington, West Virginia, the 6-foot-10, 293-pound center never attempted a jumper from behind the arc.

As a senior, he shot 60 percent on two-point field goal attempts and accumulated eight rebounds per game.

Additionally, throughout the Blue Demons’ practices, the veteran educator has adored his willingness to set screens. According to Sellers, in one practice, Cook surprised his teammates with a flare screen, noticing an opening towards the basket. However, he was a step ahead of them, as many were unclear about how they should react.

“Levi is probably one of the highest, if not the highest, IQ guys on our team, and he’s very unselfish,” he said. “When you have those traits, guys love playing with you. He’s almost like a European guy with understanding how to play basketball.”

After taking a look into his crystal ball, he believes Cook could average close to eight points and six rebounds in about 22 minutes each game.

For fellow youngster Al Eichelberger, his maturation on the court has come along slower than Cook’s. Plus, he’s nearly three inches shorter than the East Coast product. Still, Sellers states his wingspan hovers around 7-foot-2, providing him an extra edge on the block at either end of the hardwood.

“He’s so long, and that is going to help him with post defense and rebounding,” Sellers said.

Between the newcomers, though, McCallum emerged as the most athletic one to Sellers, especially within DePaul’s Pack-Line defense. During the offseason, the 6-foot-7, 209-pounder exhibited the proficiency to defend any position.

“If Tre’ goes to the five, we could switch everything (on defense),” he said. “With Tre’, Brandon (Cyrus), Bill (Garrett Jr.) and Eli (Cain), you have four guys about the same size. We could really cause some matchup problems.”

On top of that, Sellers mentioned that the junior’s explosiveness rivals the aforementioned-Henry’s, who provided numerous crowd-pleasing plays during his two years at DePaul. Most notably, the Chicago native surprised George Washington with a poster last season.

He also expects the frontcourt to see a boost at the start of the in-conference slate. Senior forward Peter Ryckbosch is hopeful for a return from a knee injury around late-December.

Undeniably, fans display doubt in a coach’s projections prior to the regular season. But following his 20th season as a DI professor, Sellers has detected his fair share of talent through the recruiting scene.

Prior to hopping on DePaul’s bench, he loaded up the resume with pit stops at his alma mater Central Connecticut State (1999-03), as well as Massachusetts (2003-04), Connecticut (2004-10), Hofstra (2011-13) and Creighton (2013-15). While stationed in Omaha, Nebraska, he helped the Bluejays reel in point guard Maurice Watson Jr., who transferred from Boston University.

A season ago, Watson ascended towards Big East stardom, averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 assists per contest. Hence, Sellers distinguished himself from the rest of the assistant coaching crop fairly quickly.

“You have to really scratch and claw to get kids to come there (Omaha), but once they’re there, they’re blown away by how nice it is,” he said. “Chicago is an easier sell.”

Even with an abundance of knowledge, Sellers recognizes how head coach Dave Leitao has propelled him to become a more valuable asset to a program. According to him, Leitao gives the the coaches freedom to recruit and coach in their own manner, lending Sellers tools to copy if he led a program elsewhere.

In fact, he almost collected the opportunity to do so, interviewing for the head coaching job at Central Connecticut State over the summer. Sellers fell short of landing the position, yet he’s undoubtedly focused on this season’s task: amounting victories via the sweet success of his big men.

“I’m hungry to be a head coach of my own program, but in the meantime, I want to see DePaul make it back to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. 

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