When DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell left Clemson for Chicago in April of 2010, he was tackling one of the largest rebuilding projects in the last decade of Division I college basketball. Taking over for previous head coach Jerry Wainwright, Purnell had to restock a Blue Demon program stuck in the basement of a loaded Big East while also repairing many local relationships that were largely mishandled or ignored during the Wainwright Era.
Simply put: There was little to no local buzz surrounding DePaul when Purnell took over, and he didn't have a lot of Big East talent on the roster.
The turnaround after three seasons and a 30-64 record has come a little longer than many DePaul fans might have hoped, but this Blue Demon program has some depth and talent going into Purnell's fourth season with the program and the talent level at DePaul has increased.
DePaul can now add the highly-touted son of assistant coach Billy Garrett — a holdover from the Wainwright years — to the equation, as Billy Garrett Jr., a 6-foot-5 state-champion combo guard at Morgan Park, begins his freshman year after being committed since April of his sophomore year of high school.
Garrett Jr. should see immediate minutes on and off the ball for the Blue Demons, and along with 6-foot-10 freshman big man Tommy Hamilton IV — formerly of Whitney Young — that is two former Public League stars that could immediately start this season for DePaul.
In the 2014 class there is more local recruiting news to get excited about if you're a DePaul fan. Next season, Illinois transfer and former Orr star Mychael Henry will be able to play his final two seasons for the Blue Demons after sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer regulations, and he'll be joined in those two years by 6-foot-8 junior college power forward and former Farragut star Rashaun Stimage of Daytona State.
Both Stimage and the 6-foot-6 Henry could start next season and give the Blue Demons four starters from the Public League in DePaul's lineup, a testament to Purnell's persistence in recruiting Chicago after losing some tough local recruiting battles for players like Anthony Davis and Mike Shaw in his first few years.
Now DePaul will hope to round out the 2014 class — which also includes D.C.-area scoring guard Jon Davis — with Curie senior power forward Cliff Alexander. The good news for DePaul is it gained the first official visit from the 6-foot-8 Alexander back in August, and in the world of visits, you either want to be first or last. The Blue Demons have had some low buzz going throughout the city about their recruitment of Alexander going well, and they are definitely in strong. As previously mentioned in Illinois' local recruiting focus earlier this week, a rumor is going around that DePaul and Illinois could be the final two for Alexander, but Kansas and Memphis also remain with the Jayhawks looking particularly strong with an upcoming trip to Lawrence, Kan., for Alexander this weekend.
In the 2015 class, DePaul has honed in on a few targets and offered a few Chicago-area prospects already. The St. Joseph guard duo of Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash have both been offered by DePaul with Watson's offer coming this fall. DePaul has also offered St. Rita power forward Myles Carter and had him to Lincoln Park for his only unofficial visit to date. Plainfield East shooting guard Aaron Jordan and Morgan Park shooting guard Kain Harris have also visited campus.
In 2016, DePaul has had quite a few guys on campus thanks to its recent Blue Madness event. The state's top prospect, guard Zach Norvell from Simeon, was in attendance while Hinsdale South center Barret Benson, Whitney Young shooting guard Skylar Nash and Morgan Park guards Charlie Moore and Jarrin Randall were also present.
The freshman class has also seen some activity from DePaul's staff, as Evanston guard Nojel Eastern took in a game and North Lawndale center Manuel Patterson has been to Lincoln Park.
Purnell has been persistent in recruiting, and young players are always interested in how fast DePaul plays the game. Although Henry struggled at Illinois under two different coaches, DePaul's uptempo style suits his athleticism much better, and Stimage regularly put up triple-doubles in high school and has also put up big numbers in junior college games.
If Purnell can land one or two big-time recruits in the next few years, he has the experience getting a team into the NCAA tournament after a rebuilding effort and his roster has some talent now where DePaul could make a run at postseason play.