Beyond the Arc with DePaul's Deirdre Naughton

To followers of DePaul University athletics over the years, the last name "Naughton" most likely brings up memories of different people. To past generations, the name probably evokes that of Clem Naughton, a football player at DePaul from 1937-1940 and a DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame inductee in 1982.

To the current generation, the name reference is to a 5'10" guard who is as great a three-point shooter as she is humble and soft spoken.

Deirdre Naughton's basketball career started as a sole venture, as no one in her immediate family had ever played basketball. She credits her father, John Naughton, with "driving me to be competitive in the sport. He definitely introduced me to the sport and kept me going."

Naughton's introduction to the sport has led to various encores.

Playing under the excellent tutelage of coach Teri Rodgers at New Trier High School, Naughton finished her career there with 2,144 points, the most ever scored by a boys or girls basketball player at New Trier.

Rodgers has called Naughton "the best basketball player the school has ever produced."

Deirdre led New Trier in her junior year to the Illinois AA state championship game, where the Trevians lost to Candace Parker and Naperville Central. In her senior year Naughton was named the 2005 Illinois Ms. Basketball runner-up and was named a Fourth Team Parade All-America.

After being heavily recruited by such programs as DePaul, Ohio State, and Boston College, she chose Wake Forest.

"Deirdre is as good a player as there is in the country at her position," said Wake Forest head coach Mike Petersen when she signed with the Demon Deacons. "She plays hard and is a strong three-point shooter that makes great plays in transition."

While Wake Forest struggled as a team during Naughton's freshman year, her basketball prowess continued to grow. She averaged 15.0 ppg and made 57 three-pointers that year. Against Savannah State she scored 37 points, a Wake Forest freshman record. She was named to the ACC All-Freshman team.

Naughton announced after her freshman year that she was transferring, and the sorrow surely felt in Winston-Salem was equaled by the joy felt at DePaul.

"Deirdre is a versatile player that can play all three guard positions," said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno at that time of her transfer to DePaul. "She is one of the most competitive players I have ever seen. (She) was the best player in Illinois as a high school senior."

After sitting out the 2006-07 season under NCAA transfer guidelines, the sophomore exploded onto the DePaul scene with 23 points against Southern Illinois in her first game as a Blue Demon.

During that 2007-08 season, she scored in double figures in 27 games and earned All-Big East Honorable Mention. She was also named to the Big East All-Academic team. She teamed that year with backcourt mate Allie Quigley, now with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, to lead DePaul to a near upset of #1 Connecticut, losing 77-76, and to a berth in the NCAA tournament.

As she enters her junior year at DePaul, Naughton compares the two coaches who have influenced her the most, Rodgers and Bruno. "Both of them let you play," Deirdre said. "Coach Bruno wants you to get out and run, and they are both huge on the defensive end and on conditioning."

She also talks about differences between ACC play and Big-East play.

"When I was a freshman at Wake, the ACC was probably the best conference that year," Naughton observed. "And then right when I came to DePaul, the Big East became the best conference. The ACC is known for its athletic running game and the Big East is also known for its running game. From top to bottom in the ACC you are going to get a team's best shot. At Wake we were at the lower end so we were the team everyone punched on."

The Demons have started the 2008-09 season at 10-2, losing away games to New Mexico on a last second lay up, and 88-67 to two-time defending NCAA champion, the University of Tennessee.

"The Tennessee game this year was perfect," said Naughton. "We needed a game like that so badly. We have played Hartford, New Mexico, and Illinois State, but Tennessee was just so physical. Tennessee will probably be the most physical team we play this year. You have to be a lot tougher than we were to even compete with Tennessee."

Naughton started this season tied for seventh as DePaul's career three-point leader. She was named the tournament MVP of the DePaul Invitational Tournament, scoring 35 points in a win against the University of Hartford in the championship game. She is averaging 18.8 ppg and leads the team in assists.

For a player who "would prefer a great pass over a great shot," she does have at least one personal goal as a basketball player at DePaul: to be First Team All-Big East.

"I think if we take care of business as a team, I will have the opportunity to put myself in that position," Naughton said.

And if Deirdre Naughton continues to play at her current high level of basketball at DePaul, future viewers of the university's Athletic Hall of Fame gallery may just find another plaque near that of Clem Naughton's, one that honors his granddaughter.

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