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With his boyish demeanor, it's not surprising that the attitude of DePaul second-year coach Joey Meyer is: "What, me worry?" But after yet another disappointing season, can such an approach be rational? What's going on here? Has Meyer been attending est seminars? Has Norman Vincent Peale been infiltrating hard-bitten Chicago?
Not so. Meyer is just counterattacking after 12 months of personal hell. First, there was the pressure of having his Blue Demons picked as high as No. 1 in some preseason polls last season. In addition, there was the trifling matter of replacing a living legend named Ray Meyer. It's bad enough having to take over for an idol, but it becomes a Freudian minefield when the idol happens to be your father. Next came the disappointment of the season itself and DePaul's now traditional belly flop in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. Finally, there were the tragedies of his mother's death and the murder last November of Chicago schoolboy Ben Wilson, a top prospect DePaul had hoped to land. Joey Meyer has good reason to expect this season to be more pleasant.
Certainly the outlook is rosier now. The team has grown accustomed to Meyer's more disciplined approach, and this season pollsters have given the Blue Demons a break.
"I think DePaul's tradition intimidated us last year," says Meyer. "We were afraid of our image instead of being excited about the great opportunity we had." This season Meyer is trying to persuade his players to shed their tentative-ness and play with more abandon. "We weren't prepared for what happened to us last year," says forward Kevin Holmes. "Now we know how bad things can go,"
Much will depend on the performances of two players; one must erase a reputation, the other must establish one. The former is 6'9" junior Dallas Comegys, he of the gangly profile and the 42-inch sleeve, whose play has ranged from brilliant to lethargic. Meyer and Comegys claim that Comegys, conscious of the importance of the next two years to his pro prospects, has a new attitude. "If I can be consistent, I think I can play with the best in the country," says Comegys.
The star without portfolio is freshman point guard Rod (Don't Call Me Rodney) Strickland from the Bronx; he was MVP in the 1985 Dapper Dan Classic. Strickland will be the offensive threat that departing starter Kenny Patterson never was. The operative adjective with regard to Strickland is "quick": He has quick hands, quick feet and an exceptionally quick release. His one liability probably will be his apparent lack of man-to-man defensive experience. Strickland sees his role very simply. "My job is to control the game and to score when I have to," he says.