Going into the 2016-17 season head coach Dave Leitao and the DePaul men’s basketball team knew a challenge was ahead, in-large part being shorthanded at the frontcourt position. With Peter Ryckbosch out for the season and freshman center Levi Cook being day-to-day, coach Leitao has looked to his bench to fill the void. Walk-on Joe Hanel and Tre’Darius McCallum have anchored the frontcourt this season.
As the season has progressed, so have their minutes. Hanel being a walk-on knew his minutes would be slim, but he’s made his opportunities worthwhile. McCallum transferring from Indian Hills Community Collegew, did expect to play big minutes, but how his play would translate to the Big East was unknown. Despite the uncertainty looming over the forward and center spots this season, Hanel and McCallum have answered the call put forward by coach Leitao.
Hanel and McCallum average 26 and 30 minutes respectively thus far in the season. Coach Leitao harped on trust being the factor to their increase in playing time.
“Tre is doing a lot for us and his value has increased day-by day and week-by-week,” Leitao said. “He’s gained the trust of us coaches and his teammates and (Tre’Darius) knows it.”
Tre’Darius opened the season with a slow start adjusting to the speed of D-I basketball. As his feet got acquainted with the pace of Big East competition he’s been a force to be reckoned with, averaging 10.4 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 assist.
“Typically when guys come from junior college it’s a whole year before they feel comfortable,” Leitao said. “He started off the season 0-18 from three, so you can go in a tailspin that you never recover from. But he has kept working and pushing and now he’s in a place where our trust factor in him is valuable.”
The pressure hasn’t got to McCallum jumping from JUCO to D-1 competition. He’s trusted the process of the coaching staff and now he’s solidified himself and the third-leading scorer on the team.
“Coach believes I can make plays and I can go hard every second I’m on the court,” said McCallum. “You still have to go out there and do everything else than just score. But picking and choosing what’s a good and bad shot is the only pressure, but it’s not a big deal.”
Peter Ryckbosh season-ending was huge loss for the Blue Demons, with his frame being 6’10 and 250 pounds. Despite the lack of size, Hanel has brought toughness and a lunch pail mentality with quality minutes for the team.
“Because of (Hanel)’s experience he’s assumed the role,” Leitao said. “Not many high-level programs have a 6’7 210-pound center and its not his natural position. But he’s done an adequate job and has held down the fort.”
It’s not just his height that makes Hanel a force, but the intangibles he brings to the game.
“It’s been nice to be out there, I appreciate coach for trusting me,” said Hanel. “A lot of what I do is defensively, I talk a lot on defensive. Offensively I’m going to keep doing my job by getting us rebounds and keeping the team focused for 40 minutes.”
Coming off a season-high in minutes for Hanel (40 min) and McCallum (42 min) against Butler, they look continue to help the team get on track after the three-game losing streak.
Getting over the hump doesn’t get easier, as the Blue Demons travel to No.16 Creighton who shoots 39 percent from the three-point stripe.
It’s imperative that the Blue Demons take control of the game early and quiet the Omaha crowd from the opening tip. Staying focused and playing possession-by-possession will be the key to victory.
“We have to win as many four-minute media timeouts as we can,” Hanel said. “We’re going to have to be aggressive and bring the fight to them. We don’t want to be the team where they figure things out, we want to keep them on their heels for 40 minutes.”
Look for McCallum to get going early offensively and cause pressure on defensive Saturday.
“Its going to be hard going in their place, it get’s crazy,” McCallum said. “Knowing their personnel, who can do what, and being together on defense is key. Everyone has to talk, if we do that we’ll be alright.”