Cain on triple-double watch; reaches 1200 career-point milestone in win against Morgan State


Senior guard Eli Cain dribbles against Morgan State guard Martez Cameron. Richard Bodee | The DePaulia

It’s a trick he’s pulled hundreds of times before.

In semi-transition, the DePaul Blue Demon’s 6-foot-6-inch senior guard Eli Cain found himself alone behind the corner 3-point line against a smaller guard. He drove hard with his left hand to the block, spun back towards the middle of the floor, and rose up with his right hand only to get smacked on the arm and earn a trip to the free-throw line.

In front of the Blue Demon student section, Cain calmly knocked down two free throws. It’s something he’s done 257 times prior in his four-year Blue Demon career. But in a 91-63 win against the Morgan State Bears on Monday evening, the second of those two free-throw attempts at the 5:54 mark in the first half counted for something extra.

It made Cain the 33rd player in DePaul basketball history to reach 1200 points in his career. By the time the night was through, he’d vaulted himself from 33rd on the Blue Demons all-time scoring list to No. 31 by passing Drake Diener and Ken Warzynski. If he matches his scoring output from last season (364 points) this season, he’ll finish his Blue Demon career with 1548 points which would be good for 11th most in Blue Demon history. So maybe stay tuned for another note in a tweet or an article down the road about how he broke the 1500-point barrier.

“The history of DePaul means for any individual to reach a plateau like that is extraordinary,” Blue Demon head coach Dave Leitao said after the game. “Coming from where he comes, [he] wasn’t as highly regarded going into college as a lot of other guys who haven’t scored nearly as many points as he has. Credit goes to him for staying with the process, not ever really giving up on himself, and dedicating himself to getting better.”

Cain said after the game he had no idea he was close to passing 1200 points, but that it was a “nice accomplishment.” He wouldn’t expound much upon what scoring this many points tells us about him as a player or as a person, so his teammate Max Strus did the bragging for him.

“That’s what he does, he puts the ball in the basket,” Strus said.

The 1200-point scoring milestone punctuated a great night of basketball for Cain. The senior was on triple-double watch for most of the game, finishing with 21 points on 7-for-14 from the field, eight rebounds, and six assists as the offense frequently ran through him.  In the first half, he had accumulated 11 points, five rebounds, and five assists and only playing 13 minutes in the second half because the game was a blowout didn’t assist his chances of staying on pace for that triple-double.

In addition to reaching 1200 points, Cain also reached 300 career assists becoming only the 11th player in program history to reach 1200 career points and 300 career assists. He leads DePaul with 14 assists this season.

The chemistry between Cain and  Strus continues to grow, as Cain was a +37 in 32:05 of playing time while Strus was a +40 in his 30:53 on the court. Continuing to keep those two in sync while integrating the new guy Jalen Coleman-Lands and adding Devin Gage back into the equation are key variables in the success of the Blue Demon’s season.

“Last year wasn’t as comfortable as we wanted to be, this year is obviously more comfortable,” Cain said. “We spend time together in the offseason, spend time off the court. The bond isn’t just between me and Max, it’s between all the players in the locker room. It’s pretty good.”

Cain’s status on this Blue Demon team is much more unique than his 1200 career-point scoring milestone. He’s the only player that has been with the program for four years. He arrived in Lincoln Park the same year that Leitao returned the second time, forming a long-lasting bond between the coach and his player as they’ve worked to reshape the program.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Cain said about being the longest tenured player on the team. “The results haven’t been what we want, but me and coach Leitao always tell each other we’re going through all of this for a reason. We’ve been telling each other that since my freshman year, because someday it’s going to turn and in my opinion it’s going to be this year. But whether it’s this year or not, I know it’s going to happen for sure. But, that’s definitely something I take pride in. Me and coach Leitao are probably the only two guys in the program who’ve been here day one since coach got here. I think we both take pride in understanding that we went through the bad times to get to the good times.”

Cain has never experienced a winning season or felt the rush of an NCAA tournament appearance at DePaul, both things that the 2-0 Blue Demons would like to check off his bucket list this season.