Oliver Purnell

City of Chicago, DePaul announce plans for new multipurpose facility

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Three days after it was reported that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel would announce plans for a new project that would include a new arena for the DePaul basketball program the mayor did just that, unveiling plans with the hope of beginning construction in 2014.

The multipurpose facility (which authorities hope will be completed in time for the 2016-17 season) will seat 10,000 and house both Blue Demon basketball programs, with the school and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority sharing the construction costs.

DePaul’s men’s basketball program has played the majority of its home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. since 1980, and if the project goes through as planned it will bring the Blue Demons back to the Windy City.

While the new development can serve as a catalyst to rejuvenate the neighborhood the question is this: can it also help rejuvenate a basketball program that has struggled for years? That’s the hope amongst those who support the team and the school at large.

“This facility will bring the Blue Demons much closer to the largest segment of our fan base and will add significantly to the momentum that our basketball programs have been building in recent years,” said DePaul president Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. in the release announcing the project.

In three season under Oliver Purnell the Blue Demons have avoided losing 20 games or more just once, going 12-19 in 2011-12. Since the program’s last NCAA tournament appearance in 2004, DePaul has won at least 20 games in a season just twice: 2004-05 (20-11 under Dave Leitao) and 2006-07 (20-14; Jerry Wainwright).

With the return of Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin coinciding with a “new beginning” of sorts in the reconfigured Big East, can DePaul begin moving in the right direction in 2013-14?

They’re going to need to, because for all that having a new building can do for a program there’s no better sales pitch than a winning product on the floor. That goes not only for season ticket holders and donors but also for recruits.

On DePaul’s 2012-13 roster just four players were natives of the Chicagoland area, with sophomore wing Jamee Crockett being the most productive of the bunch.

Could this project ultimately help DePaul on the recruiting trail in their own stomping grounds? That remains to be seen, but it won’t hurt to have plans for a new facility to show off.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.