DePaul honors five seniors in final home game


Maric trys to finish a contested layup Saturday hosting No. 1 Xavier in his final home game with the Blue Demons. (Jim Young | AP News)

All good things must come to an end.

On Saturday at Wintrust Arena, the DePaul athletic department bid farewell to five seniors on the men’s basketball team in a short ceremony that followed a 65-62 loss to the No. 3/4 Xavier Musketeers. With their families and friends in tow, DePaul recognized each senior by bestowing them with framed Blue Demon jerseys adorned with a picture from their time with the program. It was a moment of reflection and celebration for a Blue Demon senior class that poured everything they had into the program.

“It came real fast,” senior forward Tre’Darius McCallum said. “I want to thank Jean (Lenti Ponsetto) and coach Leitao for giving me the opportunity to come here and play for them and come to a great school in DePaul University. It’s sad, but I knew it was going to happen one day or another, so I’ll just have to see what the future has for me.”

On Saturday Peter Ryckbosch, Marin Maric, Joe Hanel, Tobias Dwumaah, and McCallum played their last game in a blue, red and white uniform on the Wintrust Arena hardwood in Chicago’s South Loop.

Ryckbosch has been with the Blue Demons since World War II (or so it seems; he arrived in Lincoln Park in 2012 and has stuck around for six years after receiving two medical redshirts for major knee injuries).

Maric seamlessly transitioned from the cornfields of DeKalb and Northern Illinois University to the big city for one season as a paint enforcer for the Blue Demons. McCallum trucked through two junior college stops in Iowa and Wyoming before arriving in Lincoln Park in 2016. Both made their impact felt in their limited time as Blue Demons.

“When you go to a program that is trying to build something but may not be established, you need to have a belief system,” an appreciative head coach Dave Leitao said. “A belief in yourself and a belief in the people who are trying to recruit you. For Marin to risk his last year, and not knowing what would happen, on people that he had to get to know and trust. (…) It goes without saying. It’s monumental. For Tre to spend two years here and leave here as a graduate with the type of basketball memories and future (to look forward to) made coming here worthwhile for him. You can’t put a tag on how much that means to me.”

Meanwhile, Dwumaah went from team manager to walk-on athlete his senior year. He scored two points against Central Connecticut on Dec. 6. Hanel’s college athletic experience was more traditional. He arrived on campus in 2014 and drained his eligibility in four years. Despite the different paths, and the fact that they all played together for only one season, they’ve forged an indelible bond as a group.

“We’re really close,” said Hanel. “Definitely untraditional (as a senior class). But, I think it’s a testament to our entire team. I think everybody is super close. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, fifth year, sixth year – we’re a really big family and a brotherhood. The five of us who graduated will have that bond for being the class of 2018 and establishing that culture. All of us together as a unit, everyone on this team, has a really strong bond.”

All five seniors underwent journeys that started completely differently, but happened to converge on a Big East campus in Chicago. On Saturday, that convergence entered the final paragraph of its DePaul chapter.

Although none of these seniors ever saw a winning season during their time in a Blue Demon uniform, losing is the last thing that will define them as a class.

“The four years I’ve been here the seniors have put the work in, and it hasn’t really resulted in a lot of wins,” Hanel said. “But I think we’ve really changed this program’s culture. A lot of the younger guys, I see them coming up and I think they’re going to be the ones who take the mantle from us and really turn this program around. So while it wasn’t us that get to share in those wins, it’s tough, but I think this program is definitely on the upswing, and this group did a really good job of laying down that foundation for that culture and rebuilding a strong culture.”

The Blue Demon senior class of 2018 has unfinished business. The game Saturday afternoon wasn’t their last, as they are still guaranteed at least 40 more minutes game time to help DePaul navigate its way through the Big East tournament next week.

As their journeys diverge away from Wintrust Arena, their shared experiences will become memories. Good thing there’s a lot of happy times to reminisce on.