Optimism and positivity filled the air Tuesday afternoon as DePaul basketball’s annual Tip-Off Luncheon took place inside McGrath-Phillips Arena. Men’s basketball head coach Oliver Purnell and women’s head basketball coach Doug Bruno both addressed feelings from last season and talked about preparation for the quickly approaching season.
Speaking with media before the luncheon started, it was clear that both coaches felt their respective teams had a lot to look forward to with the coming season.
“Today feels like Christmas day being here, but we want an entire Christmas year with this season,” Purnell said.
Despite coming off a rough season last year with a record of 12-21 that was plagued by injuries and illnesses, as well as some questions of character, Purnell mentioned that there was no question about the character and leadership of the members of his team this year.
“It starts with our guys who are returning from last year, with Billy Garrett Jr. and Tommy Hamilton,” Purnell said. “We’ve got some great leaders with some great character leading the way.”
Aside from the weight of last year’s struggles, Purnell focused on the positives from the end of the season, which included beating Georgetown in the Big East tournament.
DePaul upset the Hoyas 60-56 to end Georgetown’s chances at an NCAA tournament berth and was DePaul’s first Big East tournament since 2009.
Purnell said the Blue Demons have potential to surprise like that again.
“Nobody’s expecting us to do anything this year except for the people in this room, and we’re okay with that,” Purnell said. “I think we’re all ready to surprise some people.”
On the other end, Bruno was thrilled with last years Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA tournament, but cognizant of the work that needed to be done to produce similar results. With Texas A&M, who bounced DePaul in the Sweet Sixteen, being the first team on the schedule, Bruno and his team were eager to get back out on the court.
“We’ve returned a great group of players and I think this year has the potential to be very special again,” Bruno said. “We’ve continued to reinforce our effort, intensity and attention to detail, but every season and every game has a life of its own.”
With an impressive 29-7 record to show for last season’s success, Bruno said he was happy with the return of four impressive guards to accompany the great depth and newly featured freshman class. The strength of the backcourt includes starters Brittany Hrynko, Chanise Jenkins, Megan Rogowski and sophomore Jessica January, who provides aspark off the bench.
“We’re really optimistic and we’re ready to turn the page on last season,” Bruno said. “I’m really happy with what we achieved last year and that’s going to be a crucial motivational tool for us.”
The men’s basketball team is slated to kick of the season Nov. 14 against city rival UIC while the women’s team will be meeting with Texas A&M at McGrath Arena the same day. Regardless of last year’s successes or failures, both teams come into the season healthy and ready to take charge of the Big East Conference.
Athletic Director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto wrapped up the event by thanking all of the corporate sponsors, student-athletes, faculty and staff in attendance for the Tip-Off Luncheon. Although a minute of basketball has yet to be played, head coaches Oliver Purnell and Doug Bruno are confident in their respective teams ability to come right out of the gates with a fiery determination.