DePaul Gets Ready for Big East Opener

The Blue Demons close out 2008 by tipping-off their Big East opener versus the seventh ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. In this report, we talk with DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright and sophomore forward Mac Koshwal about the New Year's Eve matchup and the start of Big East play.

Since joining the Big East conference three years ago, one thing that DePaul has learned is just how physical of a league the Big East is. For DePaul's newcomers like Devin Hill, Jeremiah Kelly, Krys Faber, Mike Bizoukas, Mario Stula, and Kene Obi, who have never played in a Big East game, it will be uncharted territory.

"It's like a different experience," said Mac Koshwal. "It's hard to play in the Big East. You can tell them about it, but they've got to see it for themselves. It's a see-it-to-believe-it type of league. They're isn't much you can do, except to help them out."

"They have no clue how physical it's going to be," said Wainwright. "You earn your free throws in this league. If you're waiting for a (foul) call, you have no chance to be successful in a league like ours."

"There has to be a sense of incredible urgency on each and every possession," Wainwright added.

In a league like the Big East where there are no off nights and every game is a big game, the psychological aspect of a team's approach to games is every bit important as the technical aspects of basketball. "You have to have kids on your team that manage attitude," said Wainwright. "Whatever happens you have to move on to the next experience. So much of it is trying to keep it even keel and stay positive."

While the leading scorers for Notre Dame are the reigning Big East Player of the Year in Luke Harangody (22.7 ppg and 12 rpg) and senior sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney (17.2 ppg), the engine that makes the Fighting Irish go is junior point guard Tory Jackson.

"Since Tory has arrived in South Bend, he's done a wonderful job of directing their team," Wainwright said. "I think he does it in two ways. One, he's a very emotional fiery leader. He's one of those kind of guys that loves to play. I think it shows in each and every possession. He gives them kind of a spirit. Then add to that the fact that he is their point guard. They're arguably one of the best offensive teams in the country. I think that says a lot about the guy who has the ball in his hands a lot."

"He gets big rebounds for them," Jerry added. "He makes key free throws. He really has a great sense of pushing the accelerator, he gets them running. Sometimes those kinds of guys are forgotten. He's one of my favorite players. I've never seen him emotionally down. He's excited on every possession."

In a Big East battle like the one on Wednesday night, the Blue Demons are going to have to bring their "A" game and get some production from someone other than sophomores Dar Tucker and Mac Koshwal. "I think this game is decided on players four through eight," Wainwright said. "I think if you look at teams, the two or three best players are always going to play pretty good, but what happens with players four through eight? Our guys in those spots are going to have to produce. They're going to have to make some baskets, get some rebounds, and do some things."

Two players that have improved as this season has progressed for DePaul have been freshman forward Devin Hill and senior guard Jabari Currie. Both are candidates for the type of production that Wainwright is looking for. Hill, who has started six games, is averaging seven points, 4.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team in blocked shots with 27 this season.

Currie is coming off a 12 point, four rebound, and three assist performance against Alcorn State. "Jabari has played better," Wainwright remarked. "He's been very productive over the last three or four weeks. He's been much more aggressive. He's learned to play off the ball which has helped us."

To have a chance in this one, the Blue Demons will have to close out 2008 with nothing less than their best effort. If everything comes together for them, they'll have a reason to smile when the clock strikes 12 on Wednesday night.

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