The DePaul Blue Demons lost five seniors from last year's squad including All-Big East First Team selection and WNBA draft pick Allie Quigley. They return just 53% of their scoring from last year and play 13 teams that made the NCAA tournament in 2007-08.
But Bruno, forever the optimist, declared that "one of the reasons we are excited about this year is our experience."
And the biggest part of that experience is senior center Natasha Williams and junior guard Deirdre Naughton. Williams averaged 10 ppg and 6 rpg and led the team in blocked shots last year. Naughton averaged 15 ppg, was Honorable Mention All-Big East last season, and is a player whom Bruno feels "has the potential to be something special."
Experience also comes in the form of hardship. In the Demons case, that hardship has been injuries.
Junior center Rachel Pierson transferred from Iowa State after missing her sophomore year there due to a season-ending back injury as a freshman.
Sophomore forward Felicia Chester redshirted the 2006-07 season due to a stress fracture in her foot after playing just five games that year. Chester was second on the team in blocked shots last year with 24.
Sophomore guards China Threatt and Sam Quigley both tore ACL's last year. Threatt, who played in 26 games last season, scored in double figures in five of them. Bruno stated that Threatt has made "the fastest comeback from an ACL tear that we have seen at DePaul."
Experience can also come from the future, in this instance the experience of the opposition. "We are going to find out real quick what we are made of," said Bruno of the team's schedule.
After starting the season in New Mexico on November 15th in the Basketball Travelers Tip-Off Tourney in Albuquerque, the team hosts the DePaul Invitational on November 21st and 22nd. That tournament features the perennially ranked Duke Blue Devils and 2007-08 second round NCAA qualifier Hartford, a team coached by former University of Connecticut and WNBA star Jennifer Rizzotti. DePaul then hosts Illinois State University on November 28th before traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee to play 2007-08 NCAA champion Tennessee on the 30th.
Even this year's freshman class of Keisha Hampton, Courtney Webb, Danielle Havel, Deanna Ortiz, and Maureen Mulchrone figures into Bruno's excitement as the coach stated he "would be surprised if four out of our five freshmen do not play this year."
And it might not be unusual to hear Bruno remind this year's squad of his own experience: his teams at DePaul are only one of 17 programs in the nation to play in the NCAA tournament the last six seasons.
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