Save us, Romeo

DePaul lands top 2019 prospect over Michigan St., others

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Save us, Romeo

Michigan native and four-star recruit Romeo Weems officially signed his NLI Wednesday at a ceremony at his high school.

Michigan native and four-star recruit Romeo Weems officially signed his NLI Wednesday at a ceremony at his high school.

Photo Courtesy of New Haven High School

Michigan native and four-star recruit Romeo Weems officially signed his NLI Wednesday at a ceremony at his high school.

Photo Courtesy of New Haven High School

Photo Courtesy of New Haven High School

Michigan native and four-star recruit Romeo Weems officially signed his NLI Wednesday at a ceremony at his high school.

The DePaul Blue Demon men’s basketball team last week received a verbal commitment from a potentially program-changing recruit.

On an Instagram live video taken in his high school gymnasium, class of 2019 four-star small forward Romeo Weems picked the Blue Demons over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon.

“It was a hard decision, but I feel the decision I made was the best decision for me and my family to carry on my career,” Weems said. “Without further ado, I’m taking my talents to DePaul.”

The New Haven, Michigan resident is graded out as an 89 overall and is rated as both the best player in Michigan in his class and the No. 30 overall player in the country in his class, according to ESPN.com.

“I know everybody is going to ask, why DePaul?” Weems said. “But why not DePaul? They asked me when I came to New Haven, why New Haven? I’ve always been different. I feel DePaul is rebuilding, but when I get there we are going to be successful.”

Last season at New Haven High School, Weems averaged 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.8 steals per game. He led the Rockets to a 26-1 record and a trip to the semifinal of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Boys Basketball Championships. He helped his high school team win the state championship his sophomore year, and his team had a 52-game winning streak stretching across both those seasons before a semifinal loss in the state tournament this spring.

Weems also won a gold medal in 2017 as part of the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team at the Americas Championship. He most recently played for “The Family,” a top-ranked AAU team based in Detroit.

In the press conference after his decision, Weems cited his connection with Blue Demon assistant coach Tim Anderson as paramount in his decision to attend DePaul. Anderson used to coach for the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League MeanStreets AAU program, where Weems has played, and he was the founder of Ground Zero training.

There, Anderson has trained NBA players like Jabari Parker, Doug McDermott and Will Bynum. Weems noted the importance of going somewhere for college that would give him the best shot of making it to the NBA. The DePaul coaching staff even wrote down a detailed plan for Weems’ improvement, which appealed greatly to the teenager.

Due to NCAA rules, active players and coaches cannot comment publicly about unsigned recruits. Weems will have his first chance to make his commitment official this November during the early signing period for 2019 recruits. 

“I’ve had a good relationship with the coaches, me and coach Tim (Anderson) we talk a lot,” Weems said. “We have a good relationship, he’s worked with former pros, and I think he can take my game to the next level.”

What does taking his game to the next level entail for the best player in the state of Michigan?

“He needs to work on his shot a little bit and he needs to work on his ball handling,” Detroit Free Press writer Perry Farrell said. “Those are the two major things, maybe a better 3-point shot. Work on his ball handling skills. But as far as his athleticism and being able to defend, he’s an elite player at that level.”

Although DePaul hasn’t had a player drafted into the NBA since 2007 when Wilson Chandler accomplished the feat, Myke Henry is a recent example of a former Blue Demon who went undrafted but has carved a role for himself in the NBA. Chandler, a Benton Harbor, Michigan resident, spurned both Michigan State and University of Michigan in favor of DePaul, before leading the Blue Demons back to national relevance.

Weems is the first ESPN top 100 recruit DePaul has secured straight out of high school since 2013, when Billy Garrett Jr. decided to come to Chicago to play for the Blue Demons.

The surprise commitment also comes in the midst of an NCAA investigation into the Blue Demons. Neither DePaul nor NCAA have released any information about the investigation, but reports from the Chicago Tribune claim the matter involved a player and assistant coach who are no longer with the university. 

The Blue Demons infamously missed out on two class of 2018 ESPN top 100 recruits this winter (No. 99 Bryan Penn-Johnson and No. 100 Tyger Campbell), but Weems is a nice consolation prize to say the least.

“One kid can’t do it,” Farrell said when asked whether Weems can turn DePaul around. “But the thing about him is, he’ll be a leader, he’ll work hard. Guys seem to respond to Romeo, he makes his team better. He won a state title as a sophomore, he got to the semifinals as a junior. He knows how to lead guys, but college is such a different animal.

He’ll be the guy who won’t be afraid to take the last shot or defend the other team’s best player.”