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Corzine has improved his disposition as well as his skills. "In previous years I tried to be fantastic, and if I wasn't, I got very frustrated," he says. "I came into this season with the attitude that I would play as hard as I could, and if I didn't do well, I'd forget about it. I don't worry anymore that I might let everyone down. When I shot 0 for 12 against Duquesne this year it didn't bother me because we won by 25 points. In the past I would have gone crazy."
The big center is flanked by a pair of three-year starters at forward, burly Joe Ponsetto, the second-leading scorer and rebounder, and Curtis Watkins, the Demons' most accurate shooter. The guards are Gary Garland, who has shown pro potential as both a player and singer—he is Dionne Warwick's cousin—and Randy Ramsey, a walk-on who takes defense so seriously that Meyer says, "If you score on him, he'd like to break both your legs." Another reason for DePaul's success has been the play of Forward William Dise and Guard Clyde Bradshaw. who have come off the bench to combine for 16 points a g�me.
Players like these have sparked new enthusiasm for basketball at DePaul. The games are still played in 5,300-seat Alumni Hall, which looks like a high school gym. but the crowds have grown from an average of 1,500 four years ago to 4,500. "People are coming to see us now and not some big-name opponent like Marquette or Notre Dame," says Meyer. "That's the big accomplishment of the year."
There have been some other significant changes in the last four seasons. The school now has its first full-time sports-information director in Marty Hawkins (at least he is full-time when he is not assigning handball courts and renting out lockers) and an enterprising athletic director in Gene Sullivan. A former Notre Dame assistant coach, Sullivan has lined up radio and television coverage of the Demons, and he saw to it that Ramsey would be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament, to which DePaul is sure to receive a bid.
Ramsey, who did not play as a freshman, would have been ineligible under NCAA rules for postseason competition as a fifth-year senior. But Sullivan pushed through a retroactive change at the NCAA convention in January that permits the redshirting of freshmen. "I really did believe the rule should be modified," Sullivan says, "but I didn't bother to tell anyone exactly why I felt so strongly about getting it done this year."
This kind of wheeling and dealing seems out of place at DePaul. An hour before a game the players start wandering onto the court, where they finish putting on their socks and sneakers, sign autographs and casually throw up practice shots. This kind of informality would just not do at Marquette or Notre Dame, Midwestern Catholic independents that have long overshadowed DePaul. When the Blue Demons upset the Irish 69-68 in overtime two weeks ago, thereby ending Notre Dame's 22-game home winning streak, Meyer was deluged with congratulatory phone calls, letters and telegrams. A sign at the Wisconsin-Green Bay game said: DEPAUL HAS FAME, IT BEAT NOTRE DAME.
After 563 victories, Meyer probably never imagined that one more would be needed to gain renown. And to his mind, there have been other moments more worthy of cherishing, such as the coaching convention in Atlanta last year when he sat on the podium between Rupp and Wooden and reminisced about basketball. "I felt proud just to be there," he says. "It made me feel like I was somebody."
He was, and as this year's team proves, he still is.