DePaul Prepares for NIT

Within minutes of the announcement of the National Invitation Tournament pairings on Sunday night, the DePaul Blue Demons coaching staff had video in hand of their first round opponent Hofstra (22-9) and began preparing for Wednesday night's opener versus the Pride.

While DePaul has never faced Hofstra on the basketball court. Blue Demons coach Jerry Wainwright is familiar with the Pride. "We played against Hofstra when I was at Wilmington," said Wainwright. "Tom Pecora's done a terrific job. They had a wonderful year last year. They've already beaten a Big East team (St. John's). He's got city kids. They'll be fearless. They play a style that is typical of a lot of the teams in the Big East. They push the ball. They're guard oriented. I think he's one of the best young coaches in the country."

Hofstra has the nation's highest-scoring backcourt duo in Loren Stokes (20.7 ppg) and Antoine Agudio (20.3 ppg). DePaul fans will remember Stokes' brother Leonard who played at the University of Cincinnati. "I think it's a good matchup for us," Wainwright observed. "They'll be like a Bradley or maybe a UAB. A team that is really guard-oriented, shoots a lot of threes and is very quick. They have a lot of east coast kids. Our guys will be up to play Hofstra, based on the fact that there are kids on that team that they know and play against in the summer."

Wednesday night is an opportunity for the Blue Demons to host a postseason game on campus at McGrath Arena. Wainwright would like to occasionally schedule future games at the Lincoln Park arena. "There's always excitement about playing at home," said Wainwright. "I think it's a great opportunity for us to play here for a lot of reasons. I think it's a chance to reconnect with the students and neighborhood people. It will maybe give us a jump on next year and get more people interested in DePaul basketball. We were talking about trying to do a game here next year. This may be a good lead into that."

The NIT has been revamped in recent years and with a reduced 32 team seeded bracket and is more of an honor than a consolation prize. "From a team standpoint I think it's really important for our kids to continue to play," said Wainwright. "I think it's important that they recognize and see postseason play. The NIT is now an earned right. Our kids practiced the last two days. They went from disappointment to excitement knowing that they have a chance to play in the NIT. To them it's another opportunity to get to New York and I think that's important to our team. I think this will be a great carry over in the off-season into next year. Our heads will be up and we'll be excited about playing."

Wainwright also sees the NIT as a learning experience for some of his younger players, especially freshman Thijin Moses and Will Walker. "Our two freshman, I think they've really practiced well," Wainwright expressed. "I think it's important to maybe integrate those guys into a game like this early, because of the old phrase ‘to wet their whistle' for next year. I think both freshman have really come on and could be factors in a game like this because the size and physicality is a little bit different than in our league. They may be very important players because of that."

The finals of the NIT will be held in New York's Madison Square Garden in the last week of the month. After losing to Villanova in the Big East tournament in New York last week, the Blue Demons have to be thinking of the old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young lyric - "And we got to get ourselves back to the Garden".

"We talked about it right after the Villanova game," said Wainwright. "It's a long way to New York. Certainly it's manageable and something we can do. It has to be a goal of ours."

We Are DePaul Top Stories