Losing Cleveland Melvin Could be a Long Term Positive for DePaulPosted by George Hershey on February 15th, 2014
Last week DePaul announced that senior forward Cleveland Melvin was no longer enrolled in school. Melvin had not played in two weeks because of a suspension and it appears that whatever he was supposed to do to become reinstated didn’t get done. He was undoubtedly the Blue Demons’ best player, leading the squad in scoring (16.7 PPG) and rebounds (6.4 PPG) this season. After starting off with a 2-3 Big East record, DePaul has struggled mightily since Melvin’s suspension, losing seven in a row. At this point, there are six more games to play and wins will be tough to find. Still, although the loss of Melvin hurts their chances of winning games this season, it is actually a huge positive for the team going forward.
Head coach Oliver Purnell needs to be focused on the future of his program for the remainder of the season. In the next six games, it would be smart to play the underclassmen who will gain valuable experience against some of the Big East’s best teams. Freshmen Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton have played major roles this year, both averaging more than 25 minutes per game. They need to continue getting major minutes as they will be the face of the program going forward. There is another group of players who need to see extended time over the next few weeks as well. R.J. Curington leads that list, as the freshman has gone from the end of the bench to a solid scorer and contributor in the past five games. He has plenty of confidence and can shoot the ball well, but needs more real game experience to become comfortable and a smarter player. He is sometimes overconfident in his abilities and sets his mind on scoring, even if the opportunities aren’t there.
Playing alongside Garrett will be great for Curington as Purnell engenders an explosive backcourt that will pair together well for the foreseeable future. DeJuan Marrero is another freshman who should see ample time. He has played in nearly every game this season, grabbing nearly three rebounds per game in fewer than eight minutes per game. He isn’t the most explosive player, but he has solid size, can handle the ball, bang down low, and score around the basket. With additional playing time he will get a better feel for his teammates as well as what other teams in the league will throw at him.
Those four freshmen, as well as sophomores Durrell McDonald and Peter Ryckbosch, are going to play major minutes next year for a team losing its two best players (Melvin and guard Brandon Young). Charles McKinney and Jamee Crockett will be the team’s senior leaders, but they have never been primary contirbutors, although both are solid in their respective roles. Purnell has some young players who, if they stick around as a core nucleus a few years, are capable of finally leading the Blue Demons back to respectability. Next season may not start until November 2014, but DePaul can start preparing its future roster right now.