Work in Sports
Windy City stars have DePaul shining
By Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated
CHICAGO -- When Pat Kennedy came to DePaul three years ago, he said he would make recruiting the city of Chicago his top priority. Mission accomplished. Six of Kennedy's players, including three of his projected starters, are from the Windy City, and 12 of his 14 players are from Illinois. It's much more important for Kennedy to be successful in Chicago than it is for, say, Steve Lavin in L.A. or Mike Jarvis in New York City. "Chicago is a unique market. They really love their own," Kennedy told me. "In New York the high school kids get very little coverage in the newspapers unless you're a superstar."
Kennedy has brought in two more local stars this season, 6-2 point guard Imari Sawyer and 6-8 power forward Andre Brown. Sawyer prefers to make the spectacular (but not always successful) play over the boring sure-thing, but then again Kennedy isn't known for being a staunch disciplinarian. It may be a little touchy trying to divide time at the point between Sawyer and 5-7 junior Rashon Burno, but since this team is desperately lacking shooters and wing players, Kennedy will have to play the two of them together. That combination won't always look pretty, but at least it won't be dull.
Over the last decade, the teams with the most success in the NCAA tournament have had excellent guard play, and in that sense DePaul has some serious deficiencies. But the Blue Demons are so big and athletic up front that they should still be a factor on the national scene. Now that Quentin Richardson is gone, 6-7 junior Bobby Simmons should be the No. 1 option. Junior Lance Williams looked terribly out of shape during the practice I watched, but at 6-9 and 250 pounds he's still a load to handle on the blocks. Steve Hunter, a 7-0 sophomore, has a huge upside, as does Brown, who gets off the floor very quickly for a guy his size. Kennedy has also been criticized for not doing enough to develop his players' skills. The performances of Hunter, Simmons and Williams will shed light on whether that stigma is warranted. (Hunter, incidentally, is very much looking forward to the Great Alaska Shootout during Thanksgiving week, because that's when he'll face highly acclaimed Ohio State center Ken Johnson. )
The Blue Demons' best hope for success this season is to turn games into a slightly sanitized version of pickup ball. It's won't be enough, however, for opponents to slow down the tempo. They'll also have to hit their outside shots, because no one will beat these guys on the glass.
Several Sports Illustrated writers are touring college campuses and will file occasional Postcards for CNNSI.com.