Key Losses: G Drake Diener (14.2 ppg, 2.8 apg), F Quemont Greer (18.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg), G LeVar Seals (7.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Postseason:NIT: Defeated Missouri 75–70, lost to Texas A&M 75–72 in the second round
Benton Harbor, MI/Benton Harbor
Brooklyn, NY/Transfer from Miami
When Dave Leitao made the decision to leave DePaul after resurrecting the program in three seasons, finding a successor wasn't the only worry. The three players Leitao recruited -- Chandler, Currie and Woods -- comprised one of the nation's better classes. Chandler, Michigan's Mr. Basketball, admits he chose DePaul primarily because of Leitao, and his decision to honor his commitment may have influenced both Woods and Currie to do the same. Gladstone is a walk-on.
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The transition from Conference USA to the Big East was supposed to be DePaul's biggest (and only) offseason shakeup. That changed when coach Dave Leitao left for Virginia in April.
"Now it's new coach, new league, and quite honestly, new team," says Jerry Wainwright, who left Richmond to return to his native Chicago. "Dave inherited a young team when he came here (in 2002-03), and the last of them are gone now. Whether it was going to be Dave or me, it was going to be a whole new team this year."
Those departed seniors -- Drake Diener, Quemont Greer and LeVar Seals -- accounted for 57 percent of the Blue Demons' scoring for a team that just missed the NCAA tournament and ended with a 20-11 record.
What the Blue Demons lack in experience on the court figures to be made up on the sidelines by Wainwright, who has 20 years of college coaching experience, the last 11 as a head coach at Richmond and UNC Wilmington.
Wainwright inherits two returning starters in junior guard Sammy Mejia and senior forward Marlon Brumfield, but DePaul's season could hinge more on how sophomore guards Cliff Clinkscales and Draelon Burns, and junior forwards Lorenzo Thompson and Marcus Heard handle their increased roles. Each will factor prominently into Wainwright's 10-man rotation.
If anyone has a chance to replace Greer's 18.3 points a game, it could be Mejia, who had both eye-opening and head-shaking performances that contributed to DePaul's bubble status at NCAA selection time. The highly-touted product from the Bronx went through bouts of homesickness that led to a brief and sanctioned absence. He averaged 11.8 points, swinging from performances like his 21-point game against Louisville to four-point games against Charlotte and UAB.
"He's as good a player as I've ever seen," says Wainwright. "His next step is he has to take responsibility for his talent. He's a five-gear sports car who can't spend so much time in third gear."
Brumfield, considered more of a defensive presence, will be asked to score more. Thompson, a prep star at Chicago Crane, could have the kind of turnaround junior year Brumfield had last season, "but with Lorenzo, it's all about conditioning," Wainwright says of the 260-pound center.
Wainwright is hoping to get more production from Heard, a long-armed shooting specialist who lost Leitao's confidence last season, and in the process, his own.
"He can be a difficult matchup for teams because he's long. He could stretch defenses, but he needs confidence, and he needs to play," Wainwright says.
But the biggest addition could be incoming freshman Wilson Chandler, a smooth 6-foot-7 forward who was named Mr. Basketball in Michigan in 2005. Many believe he will start immediately, and Wainwright isn't discounting the possibility.
Newcomer Karron Clarke, a 6-6 transfer from Miami who sat out last season, will see action because "he has a chance to be a lock-down defender," according to Wainwright.
If a point guard is the extension of his coach, Wainwright is fortunate to have one he already knows in Clinkscales. The 6-1 Queens native is the best friend of one of Wainwright's former players at Richmond, and both were volunteers at Wainwright's summer camps. Clinkscales is a fiery competitor who averaged 3.4 assists in just 15.0 minutes per game and had the fourth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in Conference USA.
"He has a city game, but he values the basketball," Wainwright says. "He's not reckless, but he's fearless."
Burns, who was one of the first players off the bench for Leitao, has impressed Wainwright and figures to take on a greater role. But the two other new recruits, Jabari Currie and Rashad Woods, could also become immediate contributors. While Chandler has received more publicity, Wainwright believes Currie, who was Detroit's Public Schools League Player of the Year, and Woods "are physically more ready to play."
Wainwright is realistic about the challenge he and DePaul face by joining the Big East, but his experience and the team's talent should have the Blue Demons in the middle of the pack in the 16-team league and fighting for a berth in the NCAA tournament.