Camara, Mbengue headline DePaul’s early 2023 recruiting class

DePaul head coach Tony Stubblefield and staff will head back to the drawing board this offseason after a disheartening end to the 2022-23. The team will need a significant overhaul to replace several starters and key pieces from last season’s roster.

“Being from Chicago, it’s tough for DePaul to bring in top-level talent because they can’t lean on their history and tradition to lure top recruits anymore,” Vermont Women’s Basketball Broadcaster Ryan Zimmerman said. “They’ve never built upon that.” 

The team will lose Javan Johnson, Umoja Gibson, Eral Penn, Yor Anei and Brendan Favre to graduation as well as Phimon Gebrewhit and Ahamad Bynum to the transfer portal. 

“I was honestly surprised,” avid college basketball fan Samuel Blackhurst said. “I thought he would finish out his career at DePaul. Hopefully Stubblefield is able to find someone in the transfer portal to replace him because he was a really good three-point shooter.”

DePaul will have seven players left from last year’s roster, opening up opportunities for Zion Cuz and Caleb Murphy to have expanded roles.

Stubblefield will need to find a way to replace both Johnson and Gibson’s offensive production as they combined for 42% of the team’s point total. Both players were on the court for more than 34 minutes each game and rarely saw the bench last season.

“Hopefully they aren’t on the roster yet,” said the owner of a popular DePaul sports social media account, who requested anonymity. “Caleb [Murphy] and Da’Sean [Nelson] are going to need to step it up offensively if we don’t land some major impact guys in the portal to match what Gibson and Johnson gave us in terms of offensive output last year.”

Stubblefield and staff have already signed three-star center Babacar Mbengue and JUCO Triton junior guard Keyondre Young to letters of intent, while receiving a verbal commitment from four-star guard Dramane ‘Ladji’ Camara from NBA Academy Africa.

Babacar Mbengue is a seven-foot, 225-pound center from Olympus Prep High School in New Jersey. He was ranked as the No. 20 center in the 2023 class by and is a native of Senegal, where he played with the national team in the 2020 FIBA U18 African Championship.

Mbengue officially signed on Nov. 10 and chose DePaul over USC, Xavier, Utah and Seton Hall among others.

“Babacar [Mbengue] is a really talented young player with an incredible amount of potential,” Stubblefield said. “He has developed a lot over the last year or so and we are looking forward to getting him on campus and continuing his growth. He is a strong physical presence inside and has a desire to keep learning.”

Keyondre Young has bounced around over the last few years, as DePaul will now be his third school in three years after he spent his freshman season at Valparaiso, appearing in just eight games and last season at Triton College.

Stubblefield has shown success with junior college recruits since his arrival on campus. Last season’s roster had three former JUCO players, which include Da’Sean Nelson, Philmon Gebrewhit and K.T. Raimey.

Young appeared in 25 games for the Trojans last season with 16 starts, averaging 10.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting 31% from beyond the arc. His best performance of the season was on Feb. 2 against Harry S. Truman College where he scored 25 points and made seven 3-pointers.

Young officially signed on Nov. 10 and chose DePaul over Texas A&M, Tulsa and Missouri.

“We’re really excited to add Keyondre [Young] next season,” Stubblefield said. “Our staff really values the experience junior college players can bring to our roster and Keyondre is no different.”

Dramane Camara is a four-star 6-foot-5, 205-pound shooting guard from NBA Academy Africa. He appeared in three games this past season, averaging 5.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, while shooting 21.7% from the field and 25% from three.

Camara verbally committed on March 13, 2023 and chose DePaul over Xavier, Chattanooga and San Jose State. Stubblefield was not available for comment as Camara’s commitment is still not official until he signs his letter of intent with the school.

According to the NCAA rules, the transfer portal gives players 60 days to enter after the conclusion of the regular season/conference tournaments. 

Even though DePaul has received verbal commitments from Wyoming three-star junior forward Jeremiah Oden and Minnesota three-star freshman guard Jaden Henley, the team cannot officially comment at this time until it becomes official. 

Jeremiah Oden, a Chicago native and measures at 6-foot-8 and 180-pounds, has an opportunity to fill in the role that Eral Penn played this past season. Oden is projected to be a power forward, but has the ability and length to play the three through five positions.

The Chicago native spent the last three years at Wyoming and this past season, he appeared in 30 games, starting 19 of them. He averaged 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 34.4% from beyond the arc.

Oden’s best performance of the season was on Feb. 27 against Nevada where he scored 28 points and made three 3-pointers, while shooting 9-of-13 from the field.

Jaden Henley stands at 6-foot-7, 190-pounds and has been described as a versatile wing defender that can guard the one through four positions. He averaged 5.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, while shooting 37.8% from beyond the arc for the Gophers this past season.

Henley’s best game came on Mar. 22 against Maryland where he saw 29 minutes of court action, recording a rebound and assist each, three steals and scored 14 points, all while connecting with two 3-pointers and shooting 71% from the field.

Henley received interest from multiple schools and chose to transfer to DePaul on March 18 over Boston College, Louisville, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, UNLV and Washington State.

The offseason is far from over, but the expectation for Stubblefield is high. As he heads into year three as head coach, the pressure is on for him to succeed and find a way to bring in recruits that can elevate the program and take them to the next level and out of the bottom of the Big East conference.

“It’s do or die for Stubbs,” the anonymous social media account owner said. “Injuries and COVID have been used as excuses in the past to justify poor performance in conference play, and those are warranted, except I didn’t see enough when the team actually was healthy that would convince me to keep Stubbs around another year if we’re bottom two in the Big East again.”