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State of the Blue Demons: Q&A with Laurence Holmes

In this report, WSCR 670 The Score Radio’s Laurence Holmes, who has called many DePaul basketball games for the station, delivers his impression of the program through its first 17 contests, along with some other tidbits.

Holmes is not only a DePaul alum, but he also teaches a sports broadcasting class at the university. 

On whether the team has lived up to his preseason expectations:

I thought they (the Blue Demons) would be a little bit better. The non-conference (slate) was rougher than I expected. That being said, I was encouraged watching the game against Villanova. Seeing them hang around with No. 1 team in the country, that’s a good thing. On a night in and night out basis, I think they’re actually giving better effort for 40 minutes than what we’ve seen previously.

You’re seeing them pick up close wins, like when they were down 12 (points) to Missouri State with eight (minutes) to play and came back. Two years ago, they lose that game by 25. There have also been disappointing games, like against UIC, when they lose their best player and DePaul ends up losing. In the Wyoming game, they showed a lot of heart even though they weren’t shooting well. If they would’ve won that game, even with them going up against USC the next day, being able to carry that into conference play would’ve been huge.

On Billy Garrett Jr.’s offensive resurgence over the last several contests:

Billy is as tough as nails. There are games when I see some of the hits he takes, going to the basket, and wonder how he gets up. If you talk to basketball historians from Chicago, they’ll tell you that point guards from this city are fearless.

For players, who want to find their way to a Division I university, work on your free-throw shooting. He (Garrett Jr.) has more makes (at the line) than some of the players in the (Big East) conference have attempts. You don’t ordinarily see that from your point guard. Since he’s dealing with Sickle Cell (Disease), sometimes they have to take him out of the game. But he fights through that and just plays hard. He’s so important because he’s from the city and is a state champion point guard. Now, DePaul has two of those (he and Devin Gage), and that’s huge for what it can do for recruiting.

On Eli Cain’s growth in his sophomore campaign:

I liked how hard he worked in the offseason. You can look at him and just see he’s in tremendous shape from where he was (as a freshman). And when he came in, we saw him be able to be a slasher and get to the basket. Adding the three-point element to his game is really important, not just for what happens at DePaul, but if he wants to play basketball professionally. Early on, he was saying how he thinks he’s the best player in the Big East, and I think he truly believes that.

The problem is always shot selection. Do you (Cain) need to take a three-pointer with 27 seconds left on the shot clock? That’s where he can improve. But I think he’s in a really good position to lead this university over the next couple years. He has really taken the idea to being the first option offensively.

On DePaul sustaining its fairly even (+.01) rebounding margin and the frontcourt depth:

I think that (rebounding) number is going to decrease as we get deeper into Big East play. But you look at what Tre’Darius McCallum is doing, and he has acclimated quickly (to head coach Dave Leitao’s system). When you’re a transfer, you have to adapt fast. I also can’t wait till all of the bigs start to realize their talent. I think Al Eichelberger has really good footwork, and he’s another guy to watch for after an offseason with training staff.

On his favorite moments for DePaul men’s basketball at Allstate Arena, as the Blue Demons shift to Wintrust Arena in the 2017-18 season:

Tommy Kleinschmidt’s four-point play against Louisville (in 1995). He (Kleinschmidt) was three years ahead of me, but we actually took a couple of classes together in my freshman year (at DePaul). Also, there’s the game against Kansas (in 2006), where no one was thinking DePaul was going to win. Zach (Zaidman) and I were calling that game, and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

There’s such a history for DePaul in Rosemont, and you can go all the way back to the (Mark) Aguirre years. People don’t realize that the (Chicago) Bulls weren’t a big deal in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. DePaul was the ticket. It was an event for people to come to the Rosemont Horizon, seeing the No. 1 team in the country filled with guys from Chicago. It was always packed and rocking with at least 18,000 fans.

On balancing his fandom while broadcasting the game and pairing up with Zach Zaidman, the play-by-play voice of the Blue Demons:

I try to be as honest as possible with what I’m seeing on the floor. You also have to keep in mind that these are students. You’re not supposed to take them out to the woodshed. I don’t yell at students in class, so why would I yell at these guys, who are working on their craft just as much.

It’s really easy (to call a game) when you work with Zach (Zaidman). He’s a testament to preparation and is always doing whatever he can to learn as much about the game as possible. There’s not much you have to do (alongside him), as long as you make sure to not embarrass yourself. After stepping away (from the broadcasts) for a little while (due to other duties), it was like putting on an old pair of shoes when I came back to do games this year.

What I find remarkable is that not only will die-hard DePaul fans listen to the broadcast, but people, who don’t care about basketball, will listen, too, because they’re entertained. If we’re doing that, then we’re doing our job. We joke that it’s the Laurence and Zach show, with a basketball game going on in the background.

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