This weekend’s open practice for men’s basketball brought in a respectable crowd. The Blue Demons have been a bottom-feeding team in the Big East for the past few seasons, their best recent season being last year’s seventh place finish. Despite this lack of recent success, the stands were near capacity on Saturday, filled with fans ranging from life-long to brand new.
From the most recent to longest tenured fans, the general outlook on the team was optimism. After all, the Blue Demons are currently tied for first.
“I just want to see improvement,” Fabrice Lekina, a junior, said. Ever since he transferred to DePaul, Lekina has been a consistent force in the stands for the Blue Demons. “I want them to do as well as they can and I know they can do it: they have to play hard.”
It’s a tough sell to cheer on the Blue Demons as a casual fan. Their play has been poor, and the team plays nearly 45 minutes away by bus. However, a winning season can change the fan support by the Blue Demons immensely.
Lekina’s positive view of the team’s potential was bolstered by the practice. It was many fans first look at what the new coach, Dave Leitao, looked like in action. The team communicated well, and ran the court with authority. For some fans, however, this wasn’t the first time they’ve gotten to see the team under the Leitao braintrust.
“We got to see them play in France,” Richard Dolins said, father of senior Corey Dolins. “Hopefully they bring that to the season and get some fans at Allstate.”
Dolins is drawn to see the Blue Demons for familial reasons, and he was not alone in that regard. Much of the stands were packed by friends and family close to the players, practically the entire middle section of the bleachers.
Some fans came to McGrath-Phillips Arena Saturday to keep the legacy of Blue Demon support going within the family. Peter Chrissen, a graduate of the class of ‘98, brought his two sons to watch the team play.
“I grew up a DePaul fan,” Chrissen said. “My family used to love watching Rod Strickland, more so than even celebrating my March birthday.”
Meaningful March basketball is the goal of the Blue Demon squad. They return their core group of starters with Billy Garrett Jr., Myke Henry, and Tommy Hamilton IV and are poised to move up in the Big East standings.