COLUMN: Max Strus makes NBA Finals, why it’s important for DePaul


Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics

Max Strus became the 12th Blue Demon in history to appear in the NBA Finals.

DePaul basketball has not been a significant presence in the national scene or a source of NBA talent in recent decades, but as of recent, the program has seen a resurgence of productivity at the next level with Max Strus and Paul Reed.

Strus has earned himself a starting role with the Miami Heat as he’s played a critical role in the team’s success that earned them a spot in the NBA Finals against the Denver Nuggets. The former Blue Demon has become the 12th player in school history to appear in the Finals.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has averaged 9.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists along with shooting 33% from beyond the arc in 19 games during Miami’s 2023 playoff run. 

His most efficient playoff performance came in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on May 17, when he scored 15 points and three rebounds, while shooting 60% from three.

Strus has earned himself a contract extension with Miami after working his way up as an undrafted free agent, but more importantly a reputation that perceives him as a long lasting player in the league.

Making the playoffs not only is a great accomplishment for Strus individually, but it will also bring attention to the DePaul program as a whole. For years, DePaul has been an afterthought around the NBA and college basketball landscape, but as of recently with his success, it could open a pathway for others to follow in his footsteps. 

Just because a prospect goes undrafted, it does not mean his story is over and Strus has proven his will, grit and grind to make it at the next level.

DePaul’s men’s basketball program has not had much impact on the NBA recently, as its most known player has been Wilson Chandler, who was drafted 23rd overall in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. 

The only other Blue Demon drafted in the NBA Draft has been Paul Reed, who was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft, which marks a 13-year draft drought.

Nick Ongenda is set to enter the 2023 NBA Draft and similar to Strus, could find his way into a favorable situation with a contender that can develop him and help reach his potential. Both Strus and Reed found themselves with arguably two of the most stable organizational structures in the league and their development shows.

While Strus’s story may inspire some aspiring players it is still unlikely to dramatically alter the perception of DePaul as a basketball program and consistently attract top recruits. Reviving the program’s presence in the national basketball landscape will require sustained success, consistent development of players and a track record of producing NBA-caliber talent.