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Enthusiasm high at Chicago College Basketball Luncheon

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DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno said his team should have another successful season if they stay healthy “and stay whole” Friday at the Chicago College Basketball Luncheon. Five universities — DePaul, UIC, Loyola, Chicago State and Northwestern— participated.

 

Joe McKeown almost made it. As the longtime Northwestern women’s basketball head coach wrapped up his speech at the annual Chicago College Basketball Luncheon, McKeown couldn’t help note that his team were the city champs, referencing last season’s 97-91 double overtime win the Wildcats had over DePaul.

But — like the competitor he is — Doug Bruno couldn’t help himself either.

“Who was the only team (from Chicago) to win an NCAA tournament game?” Bruno blurted out before McKeown’s speech was over. “It was our 13th straight NCAA trip. This is the last time (we’re speaking) alphabetical.”

Bruno and McKweon’s bantering was all in good fun, but Friday’s luncheon marked the sign that college basketball is soon approaching. Five Chicago area universities — DePaul, Northwestern, Loyola, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Chicago State — from the men and women’s game gathered at Maggiano’s to discuss the upcoming season.

While each coach proudly touted their team, all 10 coaches tried to emphasize that Chicago is, in fact, a college basketball town.

“We’re going to compete against several of the gentlemen (at this luncheon),” DePaul men’s head coach Dave Leitao said. “I’m very, very happy to be back in this great city and to be part of the culture and fabric of Chicago sports. I want everyone to be healthy and we’ll see you all in March.”

Leitao’s Blue Demons will compete against three Chicago area teams this upcoming season: at UIC on Dec. 2, Chicago State on Dec. 5 and Northwestern on Dec. 19. But for all five men’s teams, it’s been 11 years since a program made the NCAA tournament.

Introducing himself to the other coaches, Leitao said he’s looking forward to build the culture at DePaul. Leitao previously served as DePaul’s head coach from 2002 to 2005.

Men's basketball coach Dave Leitao said he was looking forward to building the culture at DePaul. Leitao previously served as head coach from 2005-2005. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

Men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao said he was looking forward to building the culture at DePaul. Leitao previously served as head coach from 2005-2005. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

“For me, to come back to the city I was a part of for three short years, it was as rewarding as I’ve had in my 30 years of basketball,” Leitao said. “This is a wonderful, very intelligent basketball community that understands what winning is all about. Being back here has me elated and very, very anxious to get going about the work we have to do.”

On the women’s side, Bruno’s Blue Demons have been the pinnacle of success with 13 straight NCAA tournament appearances. This season, however, DePaul isn’t the only women’s program with success. Northwestern is entering the year ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press preseason poll and the Wildcats have beat the Blue Demons two years in a row.

DePaul and Northwestern also meet on Dec. 19. Bruno didn’t appear fazed by the Wildcats preseason ranking either.

“If we can stay healthy and stay whole, we have a chance to have another really good season,” Bruno said.

City wide, however, DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. said he has noticed the perception of Chicago basketball changing — ranging from the talent to the coaches in the city.

“It’s like a new breath of life in the city,” Garrett said. “It’ll be a great year for us.”

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Enthusiasm high at Chicago College Basketball Luncheon