DePaul picked 13th in Big East, Melvin earns second team honors

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DePaul picked 13th in Big East, Melvin earns second team honors

DePaul may not have a winning record or NCAA Tournament berths in the past two seasons to prove it, but people are beginning to take notice of the Blue Demons' improvement under head coach Oliver Purnell.
The Big East Preseason Coaches Poll was released today, and the Blue Demons were picked to finish 13th, in front of Seton Hall and Providence.
It may not be much, but it's the highest the Blue Demons have been picked in a preseason poll since Purnell took over in 2010. Last year DePaul was picked 15th, in 2010 and 2009 were picked dead last and in 2008, picked 15th in the preseason poll.
It may not signal the start of potential postseason tournaments, but it's a step in the right direction for Purnell, who took over a job needing plenty of roster turnover and, more important, a philosophy makeover.
"First couple days have been good," Purnell told CSNChicago.com. "Obviously I'm optimistic because of our core guys returning; that leadership group of Moses Morgan, Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin."
The Blue Demons finished last in the Big East a year ago with a 3-15 record, but even that was improvement from the last two seasons, when Purnell's groups won just two conference games combined. In 2008-09, the Blue Demons went winless before upsetting Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East Tournament.
But this year's preseason slotting, 13th out of 15 (West Virginia is now in the ACC), is indicative of a DePaul team returning its top four scorers, including junior Cleveland Melvin, who was selected as a second team All-Big East member.
Melvin averaged 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Blue Demons last year. He is the high scorer and fifth best rebounder returning to the Big East this season.
Melvin was the key piece to Purnell's first recruiting class, but his supporting cast has been almost as good.
Point guard Brandon Young and forward Moses Morgan, both of whom joined Melvin in the 2010 class, return as the Blue Demons' second and third leading scorers. Jamee Crockett, the team's fourth leading scorer a year ago, returns for his sophomore season as well.
"We feel like offensively we're going to be good. We feel like our pressure will be even better because of the experience we have, but we've got to make our half court defense a staple," Purnell said. "We've got to guard penetration, which can lead to teams really hurting you on the offensive glass which happened last year."
Last year the Blue Demons ranked second in the Big East in scoring offense (74.1 points) but ranked last in scoring defense (76.7 points). Young, who was in New York City this morning with Melvin, Morgan and Purnell, said the team understands their defensive struggles and has focused on improving it early in team practices.
"Coach has been stressing defense, defense, defense," he said. "And the first couple days of practice we had defensive mini-camp, everything is straight defense. So we're just trying to make sure our defense is much better this year."
One player Purnell noted would help on the defensive end was point guard Worrel Clahar, saying "what he gives us in addition to shooting is a lot of toughness defensively."
Purnell also gave his thoughts on incoming freshman forward DeJuan Marrero, who should be part of the rotation from Day 1: "He's part of the core of freshmen we've got. He has to give us some depth."
Purnell is confident that if the team can improve their defense and penetration, combined with the returning core, the Blue Demons will prove their voters right and be out of the cellar in the Big East standings.
"We've got to correct those 2 areas. If we do that, automatically we're a much better basketball team," Purnell said. "And in Year 3, we're really looking to make a jump."
Here are how the coaches voted on preseason polls and awards from this morning.
2012-13 Preseason Coaches Poll 1. Louisville (14) - 196 points 2. Syracuse - 175 3. Notre Dame (1) - 166 4. Cincinnati - 152 5. Georgetown - 136 6. Pittsburgh - 132 7. Marquette - 121 8. USF - 96 9. Connecticut - 83 10. St. Johns - 73 11. Rutgers - 63 12. Villanova - 61 13. DePaul - 48 14. Seton Hall - 42 15. Providence - 31 (First-place votes in parentheses)  2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva, Louisville   2012-13 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year Steven Adams, Pittsburgh   2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati, G, Jr., 6-4, 221, White Plains, N.Y. Otto Porter, Georgetown, F, So., 6-8, 205, Sikeston, Mo. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, C, Jr., 6-10, 225, Dakar, Senegal Jack Cooley, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-9, 244, Glenview, Ill. Vincent Council, Providence, G, Sr., 6-2, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.   2012-13 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, G, Jr., 6-1, 171, Roxbury, Mass. Cleveland Melvin, DePaul, F, Jr., 6-8, 208, Baltimore, Md. DAngelo Harrison, St. Johns, G, So., 6-3, 202, Missouri City, Texas Anthony Collins, USF, So., G, 6-1, 175, Houston, Texas Brandon Triche, Syracuse, G, Sr., 6-4, 205, Jamesville, N.Y.   2012-13 Preseason BIG EAST Honorable Mention Chane Behanan, Louisville, F, So., 6-7, 250, Cincinnati, Ohio Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, G, Jr., 6-5, 185, Bowie, Md. Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh, G, Sr., 5-11, 190, Brooklyn, N.Y. C.J. Fair, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-8, 212, Baltimore, Md.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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