Transfer Deja Church primed to make immediate impact at DePaul


Jonathan Aguilar / The DePaulia

DePaul junior Deja Church dribbles the ball up the court in an open scrimmage on Saturday at Wintrust.

Deja Church knew she had a place to go.

Once her stint as a player at the University of Michigan began to wind down, DePaul was the next step in her collegiate career. The 5-10 guard from Southfield, Michigan was heavily recruited by the Blue Demons and head coach Doug Bruno before she elected to play her freshman and sophomore years in the Big Ten.

Church, a finalist for Michigan Miss Basketball in high school, played in every game as a Wolverine, starting all of her sophomore year. She averaged 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists through her two years. She was on her way to being a successful player at Michigan, but she was seeking something different in a program.

“Michigan just wasn’t a good fit for me, on the court and off the court,” Church said.

Church entered the transfer portal after the NCAA tournament in March, where she started on a Michigan team that made it to the second round of play. She was anything but unfamiliar with what the Blue Demons were doing over in Chicago. Church had an in, after having visited with DePaul coaching staff as well as the players.

“Out of high school, they were recruiting me and I knew I had good relationships with the coaches and stuff,” Church said. So mainly when I was transferring I was looking for a school that I could come into right away and impact the team. DePaul, they’re known for quick guards, shooting threes and playing 94 feet. I thought that was more my type of style from what I was used to.”

This style change was welcome for Church, as she felt a bit limited in the system at Michigan, DePaul plays a more free game with more three-point shots and speed. And the experience that she gained at Michigan made her a perfect candidate for coming to DePaul.

“I’m really excited about her growth,” Bruno said.

Church only started four games in her freshman year before stepping into a fuller role as a sophomore. Her numbers steadily grew and she scored a career-high 19 points in two different games. “Those aren’t shabby freshman/sophomore numbers,” Bruno said.

When she realized she could get into a role at DePaul this summer, it made things a lot easier. When a player transfers between colleges, oftentimes they have to wait a year in order to be eligible to play at their new school. Church’s waiver was granted by the NCAA and she will be able to play a key role on the court with DePaul this season.

The impression she has already made on her teammates is huge. “We are very excited to have Deja, she is very competitive and very talented so it’s really great that we have her,” senior guard Kelly Campbell said.

Getting transfers into the system is a lot different for a program compared to integrating freshmen. The change in the environment is something that takes time to get through, and transfers go through that early.

“That’s what a junior college or four-year transfer has already experienced,” Bruno said. “They’ve already been exposed to and taught the drill of ‘this is how you go to school when its in college,’ ‘this is how you write a paper when it’s in college,’ ‘this is the speed of the game when you’re in college,’ ‘this is how college coaches act’. They have a handle on the drill, freshmen don’t have that.”

After a player commits to another school, coaches and representatives from other schools can’t make any contact. So when a transfer like Church calls, it’s representative of a special connection.

“Transfering wasn’t easy but it was easier than I thought it was,” Church said. “The team and the coaches, they welcomed me with open arms. Obviously it was tough because I am playing right away and I got a waiver to play that I have to learn the style of play, what the girls expected, and what the coaches expected. They made it what it was, the welcoming was the best.”