Friday, October 28, 2016

No. 21 DePaul eyes another run deep into March as the 2016-17 season approaches

                            Photo Credit: DePaul Athletics

Despite making its second trip to the Sweet 16 in three seasons, the No. 21 DePaul Blue Demons continue to strive to be among the elite.

For that to become a reality, the offensive philosophy will have to take a detour as forward Mart'e Grays' season ended with a torn achilles tendon during fall practice. Coach Doug Bruno knows the focus will change as a result of Grays' absence.

“It was an unfortunate injury because she [Mart’e] was really coming into her own last season,” Bruno said. “It is one of those injuries where no one can answer it and we have some time to figure out whether it will be two guys up front or small ball. Despite what has happened, I expect our team to very good.”

With Grays out, senior forward Jacqui Grant's role could be increased as more than a shooter that can stretch the floor. Grant averaged 8.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, to go along with 31.7 percent from three-point range in 31 contests last season.

Should the Blue Demons opt to play a smaller lineup, expect freshmen Deja Cage, Kelly Campbell and Chante Stonewall to compete for playing time off the bench.

The Blue Demons stare a down a daunting non-conference slate which features three of the top four teams in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll with four-time defending national champion and top-ranked Connecticut, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Baylor.

Playing big games are what the Blue Demons live for and with the graduation of 2015-16 BIG EAST Player of the Year Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa, preseason conference POTY Jessica January and Brooke Schulte are expected to step up for senior leadership.

“They are definitely big shoes to fill, but we are not going to be able to replace [Chanise and Megan],” January said. “Everyone on the team will have to step up and bring the same passion and energy every game and have already done that so far in the practices.”

Schulte learned last season through Bruno's vision to embrace leadership immediately as opposed to waiting for senior year to come around.

“As the season progressed, Bruno went out of his way to say that as freshmen and sophomores, you can lead and as juniors, we started developing into the leadership role,” Schulte said. 

DePaul Blue Demons projected starting lineup:

G Jessica January (5-7, SR)
G Ashton Millender (5-8, JR)
G Brooke Schulte (5-9, SR)
G Tanita Allen (5-10, SO)
F Jacqui Grant (6-3 SR)

DePaul Blue Demons 2016-17 schedule highlights:

Nov. 19 vs Northwestern

Nov. 25-27 No. 4 Baylor/No. 6 Ohio State/No. 13 Syracuse featured in the Gulf Goast Showcase (Estero, FL)

Dec. 1 at No. 1 Connecticut

Dec. 10 vs No. 2 Notre Dame

Jan. 4 vs Creighton