All that Mario Stula, a Croatian native, has wanted to do is play collegiate basketball in the United States. On Saturday he'll finally get that opportunity as DePaul takes on the 16th ranked UCLA Bruins.
It has been a long journey for Stula. In the spring of 2006, the 6'7" wing player decided to leave Croatia for Northwestern University. Stula fell just short of Northwestern's admission requirements, but would have been eligible at the time according to NCAA standards.
Denied the opportunity to play at Northwestern, Stula decided to come to the United States and work on both academics and basketball at Decatur Christian school in Decatur, Illinois in the fall of 2006.
Stula had been on DePaul's radar for awhile when the lefty shooter dropped 30 points on the Marshall Commandos in a 66-63 win at the Willie Little Shootout in December, 2007 in front of coach Jerry Wainwright.
At the time Decatur Christian coach Alan Huss said "He's just a pure shooter, 6-7 and about 210 pounds. He's just one of those guys when he gets an open look, you just expect it to go in. He doesn't have a lightning-quick release, but he's got a good quick release. He's got good size, good length and he showed that he can defend an athletic wing. He really does a nice job of keeping guys out of the paint and contesting jump shooters. He runs the floor really well. He's not an explosive athlete, but he's got a good combination of craftiness and athletic ability that really allows him to finish pretty well on the break also."
Stula played on the AAU circuit in the Spring of 2007 with the CAPS All-Stars. Wainwright and associate head coach Gary DeCesare trailed the prospect at the Pitt Jamfest. A few weeks later, WeAreDePaul.com was the first to report that Stula had committed to the Blue Demons.
Mario arrived on campus that summer. Unfortunately for Mario, the NCAA had just implemented a new eligibility clearinghouse for foreign players. Just as basketball practice was beginning in the fall, Stula and teammate Kene Obi received word that their eligibility was being reviewed by the NCAA.
In February, 2008, the NCAA notified DePaul that Stula would be ineligible for one season plus seven regular season games. DePaul Athletics immediately appealed the decision, but it was upheld by the NCAA's Reinstatement committee.
So after this long journey, the day has finally arrived where Stula will be able to see game action. With the Demons riding a three game losing streak, Stula will be a welcome addition to the lineup. Wainwright and Stula's teammates are looking forward to having him on the court this weekend.
"I'm hoping that with another wing player joining us we can really cut the minutes of some of our players and maybe get a better rotation going," Wainwright said. "Mario gives us another 15 minute player which I think will really help."
"He's a great shooter," said redshirt freshman Michael Bizoukas. "He opens the court up for us. When we drive, we can kick to him. He's a great kid too. Just having him on the team and involved in games will be a huge bonus for us."
"He's also a 6-7 wing," added junior guard Will Walker. "So that helps a lot on the rebounding to have another tall wing out there. He'll help in some key spots when we need it."
Stula to Debut for DePaul
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