Laying down the law: DePaul men’s basketball players face suspensions and benchings

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In the midst of a four-game losing streak, head coach Oliver Purnell and his team aren’t frustrated. That being said, Purnell hasn’t been afraid to shake things up a bit.

“I’ve got the advantage of having a lot of experience and being through tough times before,” Purnell said after practice Thursday. “That’s what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. All of those things sound cliché but they’re true.”

This season, the Blue Demons’ coach has handed down suspensions and benchings to multiple players. Leading scorer Cleveland Melvin and reserve Jaime Crockett are currently on indefinite suspensions while Charles McKinney was suspended earlier in the season for one game. Brandon Young and Tommy Hamilton have both seen themselves benched for one half on separate occasions.

Is this a matter of discipline and maturity for the team?

“When you’re dealing with young people, you always need to have discipline and you always need to mature,” Purnell said. “That’s something our team needs to work at, but I think most teams it’s the same. Sometimes circumstances collide when you’re growing and maturing that happens.”

Purnell couldn’t comment on the reasons why Crockett and Melvin were suspended. He said, however, that anytime he suspends a player, it’s regarded as serious.

Melvin’s suspension, in particular, is surprising. The senior forward is DePaul’s leading scorer and one of the players coach Purnell looks to most for leadership. With him and Young being benched earlier in the season, it’s not hard to wonder if DePaul is lacking senior leadership.

“We’re not getting the senior leadership that we need,” Purnell said. “That’s on Brandon. That’s on Ed (McGhee). That’s on Sandi (Marcius) to bring that.”

Purnell continued to say that he knows Young is capable of bringing that leadership. He pointed to his performance at Seton Hall where Young had 23 points and five rebounds. In his next game against Providence, Young also had another solid performance with 12 points and nine assists.

Young, who missed the second half against Xavier due to Purnell benching him, echoed that the team wasn’t frustrated. The senior guard said that he doesn’t feel Purnell has the team on a shorter leash.

“That’s coach Purnell,” Young said. “Whatever he says goes. He’s the head coach and everybody listens to what he says. I’m behind him 100 percent.”

As for Melvin, Young said he has reached out to his friend in support of what he’s going through. Young and Melvin came to DePaul in the same recruiting class in 2011 and are both from Maryland.

“I’ll always make sure he’s good,” Young said. “I’ve been with him since my freshman year so he’s like my brother. Of course, I’ll reach out to him.”

Charles McKinney has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and freshman Billy Garrett Jr. has been out during that time with an illness as well. Purnell mentioned that he’ll tweak some areas when it comes to the team’s approach.

“There may be ways we shorten the game and shorten some of the things we might do,” Purnell said. “But you’ll still see some pressure. You’ll still see us playing big.”

Purnell doesn’t know when each player will return from suspension or injury. He said Melvin has to show something to him, but didn’t specify what that “it” was.

Purnell indicated that junior forward Jaimie Crockett should be back soon. He hasn’t played since Dec. 31 at Georgetown. He was suspended, but also contracted mononucleosis during his suspension.

“In some ways, he’d probably have been back already if it weren’t for that,” Purnell said. “I’m hoping to invite him back here shortly and am hoping he can start participating as early as next week.”

Until they return, the Blue Demons will keep on moving along. “You have adversity in life and it’s a great learning experience for our players,” Purnell said.

“You always have to look for a silver lining. I believe through adversity, there’s opportunity. That’s what we’ve got to see and then reach out and grab it.”