In his first season as the basketball coach at DePaul, Jerry Wainwright's Blue Demons surprised some people during the non-conference season, but then fell short of expectations during a tough stretch in January in what was their first tour through the Big East conference.
DePaul finished up with an overall record of 12-15 and a record of 5-11 in the Big East, falling short of making the conference tournament. Wainwright recently reflected on that season. "I think we're still relatively young, I don't think we should get away from that," said Jerry. "We tried to be a team that belonged in the Big East. I think we did. I think our play indicated we were good enough to play with anybody in the Big East. In all honesty, as our kids will tell you, we didn't have a Big East year, because we didn't qualify for the tournament. We've got a lot to prove and I think we've been really motivated in the off-season to get better."
Last year the Blue Demons motto was the ‘Time is Now'. That still remains a goal for this year's squad. "It's probably from the ‘Time is Now' to ‘Seize the Moment'," said Wainwright. "We didn't live by the basic precept of our program which is don't beat ourselves. We missed free throws last year at key times. We made mental mistakes at key times. I would hope that this year we eliminate those things and live up to what we tried to do last year. You have no tomorrows in this game. You want to be a competitive team in the Big East and a competitive team nationally."
The Big East coaches and preseason prognosticators are predicting an eighth place finish for DePaul in the 16-team Big East this season. With the additions of freshman Thijin Moses and Will Walker and returning 94% of their offense and 86% of their rebounding, the expectation bar for this year's team has been raised. "I think there are a lot of expectations on us," Jerry remarked. "But, I don't think that any of the expectations that are on us are as important as the ones that we place on ourselves. I think we have really high expectations on ourselves. In all honesty, life without goals is really kind of hollow, it's not a lot of fun. I think people expect us to improve. I think people expect us to play better. But, I don't think that anybody expects more out of our team than our team itself. I really believe that."
The Blue Demons played their best basketball in February and March last year and Wainwright hopes that his team can pick up from there. "The big word is carryover," Jerry said. "We have to start where we left off. We can't go back to mid-season form or get off to a shaky start like we did. We have to start mentally and from an experience standpoint where we ended last year. We were a pretty good team last year at the end. That's where we have to start this year."
There are still some unanswered questions about this year's team. "The two big questions this year are – ‘will there be carryover?' and ‘who is going to be the leader?' That is to be determined. We have some people who certainly should lead. Whether they grasp it or whether they can handle it that's another factor."
With the loss of just one starter in Marlon Brumfield and seldom used guard Rashad Woods, Wainwright has a lot of firepower returning. "We have five guys (returning) with double-figure scoring with Jabari (Currie) right around nine (points per game). It's a nice situation, it's better than it was the year before. Our expectations are really high. We're going to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to realize it."
What might the DePaul fans see different in the Blue Demons this year? "I would hope that the fans will recognize a different level of confidence," Wainwright expressed. "That's an intangible. I thought we played really hard last year. I thought we played without fear. But, I'm not so sure we always were confident at the most important times in the game. That's the difference between hoping to win and believing that you're going to win. I'd like to see a kind of an inner swagger, not an egotistical swagger. I would like for our fans to recognize that our guys recognize that they're capable of doing a lot of good things."
Jerry Wainwright: Outlook on a New Season
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