While most college basketball programs are still enjoying their summer, the DePaul men’s team is already preparing for the upcoming season. The Blue Demons fly to France Aug. 10 for some friendly games against European club teams.
The preseason trip will allow the players, both old and new, to get a true taste of what it’s like playing under new head coach Dave Leitao. And for Leitao, it’s the first time he can see his team in action.
“The timing of it is great because I just got here and it gives me the opportunity to get in the gym and coach,” Leitao said. “I get a chance to learn these guys’ weaknesses … and see a couple things we can experiment with. It gives me a much better feel on things that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to until October and November.”
A new coaching staff poses difficulties for players who are accustomed to a certain system and style of coaching; only to have it tweaked with the new coaches. Leitao understands this and says it’s a building point for this upcoming trip.
“Over time these trips have always proven to be good chemistry builders,” Leitao said. “We spend all day together, we see each other in different lights and different guys hang out together.”
Leitao’s preseason goal is for the team to grow together and learn more about each other.
“When we get back together in the fall, it’ll be easier to get certain things accomplished as one,” Leitao said.
Freshman Oumar Barry has only been in Chicago for about a month now, so building a bond with his new teammates is of the utmost importance right now. He’s also from New Guinea, so communication hasn’t been the easiest on the court between him and his new teammates.
“It’s not going to be easy right away, but little by little we’re getting to know each other,” Barry said. “I have really good teammates. Even if I don’t understand some things, they’ll come to me and explain it to me.”
Despite just meeting each other, Leitao has already made a good impression on Barry, and the Guinean forward spoke highly of him.
“He’s a really good coach,” Barry said. “Sometimes he gets on you, but you know it’s to make you better, not because he doesn’t like you. He makes sure everyone is focused and everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Veteran guard Billy Garrett Jr. said he is doing what he can to make sure the freshmen, like Barry, are comfortable with the new city, new team and new surroundings. But when it comes to the new coaching staff, he says it’s a new experience for everyone.
“It’s kind of like we’re all freshmen in that we don’t really know what they want from us and we’re trying to learn a new system,” Garrett said. “This gives us a head start so the bumps we’d normally hit in October, we can run into them now in July and August. When October comes, it’s smooth sailing from there.”
Garrett also explained what he’s looking forward to the most about traveling to France.
“The experience as a whole,” Garrett said. “Getting a chance to travel to Europe with these guys, getting a chance to play against European teams, just getting a chance to play some games before the season starts and play some games with this coaching staff.”
He also noted how nice it will be to have Barry along for the trip.
“We need him to help us out when we get to France because he speaks French fluently,” Garrett jokingly said.
As for goal for this upcoming season, Garrett kept it short and sweet.
“We need to win, it’s as simple as that.”