MORE: Saturday's Open Practice
The DePaul Men's Basketball team hosted its annual open practice Saturday afternoon at McGrath-Phillips Arena. It was supposed to be a one-hour event, but head coach Oliver Purnell turned it into a near three hour practice, much to the delight of the Blue Demon faithful who stayed for the entire practice. DePaul was rusty and could be in better playing shape, but there were some positives taken from the first official practice of the year. Some players who stood out were Jamee Crockett, Cleveland Melvin, and Moses Morgan. Freshman DeJuan Marrero and Jodan Price also turned some heads with their play.
It's expected for Melvin to play well in practice; after all, he is the top returning scorer in the Big East. Athletically, Melvin is off the charts, as he had fans erupting with several emphatic dunks. One in particular, was poster-worthy. Melvin crossed over freshman Peter Ryckbosch and proceeded to slam home a vicious dunk, with the Ryckbosch contesting the shot. Upon landing, Melvin roared as the crowd cheered in approval. Melvin was most effective when driving to the basket and finishing near the rim.
Crockett was solid throughout the practice, mixing perimeter jump shots while also showing off his athleticism at the rim. He too had the crowd going crazy with some notable dunks. Much like Melvin, he is another freak athlete on the Blue Demon roster. He's a highlight waiting to happen.
Purnell has said that Morgan has the potential to be the best shooter in the Big East, and the swingman showed glimpses of brilliance Saturday. He was consistent from three-point range, with stretches where he was scintillating from way beyond the arc. When his shot is on, Morgan oozes with confidence, as evidenced by his body language Saturday. What stood out most were the charges he took during scrimmages. Morgan got in great position, set his feet, absorbed contact and drew two charges. The coaching staff and players cheered in appreciation of Morgan.
The Blue Demons welcome three scholarship freshmen this year, and Marrero and Price impressed in their debuts. Price showed off a solid shot from the perimeter, but that's where all his offense came from. He has great length for his position, but it will be crucial for him to get stronger to be effective in the Big East. Price's lack of strength was evident in practice, as his teammates had their way with him physically. Given the fact that the shooting guard/small forward positions are deep this year, his minutes may be limited early on.
Marrero was the one Blue Demon who demanded everyone's attention. Marrero was tenacious and persistent on the court. He plays very aggressively on offense, where he utilized his strong frame to crash the offensive glass. Once he corralled rebounds, he would finish the play at the rim consistently. Although he's only 6 foot 5, Marrero will surely improve the Blue Demons rebounding, one of their glaring weaknesses last year.
Where Marrero did struggle Saturday was his jump shot from the perimeter. His perimeter shots weren't falling, and most of his shots made came within close range of the rim. Marrero will have to develop a reliable jump shot to keep defenses honest. His style of play will surely make him a fan favorite this year.
All of the Blue Demons participated in the practice but redshirt freshman Montray Clemons. Clemons sat out last season with a ruptured patella tendon in his left knee, and DePaul appears to be bringing him along slowly. He worked with assistant coaches on the side, hoisting up shots. He also rode a stationary bike for a good amount of time. It remains to be seen what role Clemons will play this year and when he'll begin practicing with his teammates.