The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Anaya Peoples and Jorie Allen: Leadership duo for DePaul basketball building a culture of love

DePaul+forward+Jorie+Allen+%28No.+33%29+and+guard+Anaya+Peoples+%28No.+22%29+get+set+on+defense+in+a+match+against+Western+Michigan+November+6%2C+2023%2C+at+Wintrust+Arena.
Will Robson
DePaul forward Jorie Allen (No. 33) and guard Anaya Peoples (No. 22) get set on defense in a match against Western Michigan November 6, 2023, at Wintrust Arena.

Basketball is an unpredictable sport, but one thing remained consistent for DePaul women’s basketball this past season. When there was a game, Anaya Peoples and Jorie Allen would make plays and lead the team.

The two Blue Demons became the faces of the program after transfers and injuries occurred following the 2022-23 season. Allen, a 6-foot forward from Bedford, Indiana, leads by vocality, and Peoples, a 5-foot-11 guard from Danville, Illinois, leads by physical example. They both were a driving force for DePaul through their on-court chemistry and were the sole leaders in points, rebounding and blocks last season.

“Jorie is more vocal for sure. She is going to grab people and talk to people, where Anaya is more of a quiet leader,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “She’s going to lead more by what she does rather than what she says. I just think they are two different types of leaders, but they were our go-to players.”

Allen and Peoples, who both have photos of themselves displayed outside on the walls of the Sullivan Athletic Center, united to set the tone for this season quickly after the end of the prior season. 

“Last spring, a year ago, it was just me and Anaya in team workouts because we had a lot of girls transfer and then we had a lot of injuries on the team,” Allen said. “Our team practices in the springtime, it was just Anaya and I. … She and I would play two-on-two with GAs (graduate assistants) or anybody who could play. We kind of joked around that we were like (Nikola) Jokic and (Jamal) Murray.” 

What made the leadership roles easier for the duo was their team’s openness to being taught. 

“We had great teammates to lead. They were just willing to be led and they wanted to learn,” Peoples said. “The dynamic was awesome. You know, Jorie has had the most experience at DePaul. She kind of took me under her wing, since I only played there for two years. She knew the ropes.” 

Allen is a veteran of the Blue Demons and will be entering her sixth year of college basketball next season. She played her freshman year at Indiana before coming to DePaul her sophomore year in 2020. She gained an extra two years of eligibility due to the Covid-19 pandemic and missed her junior year from a season-ending ankle injury. 

The former 2019 Miss Indiana Basketball, an individual award voted by the state’s coaches and media, was 12th in the Big East for rebounding last season, averaging 6.5 rebounds and 11.1 points. 

After playing three seasons at Notre Dame, Peoples came to Chicago in 2022 and just completed her final year of college basketball. She led DePaul last season in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and minutes. She was seventh in the conference in scoring and fifth in rebounding, averaging 16.8 points and eight rebounds. 

The power duo combined for 877 points, 454 rebounds, 179 assists and 48 blocks together during the 2023-24 season. 

“It was honestly always so easy to work with Anaya because she’s always so bright and bubbly,” Allen said. “We knew of one another from playing against each other in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball growing up. … She stepped on campus the first day, we hugged and right away, I knew that she and I were going to be close and it was going to be good.” 

Peoples and Allen created a trust with one another personally outside of the gym, which led into the games and influenced their teammates. 

“I have to give Jorie her roses. She is an incredible teammate,” Peoples said. “It (their bond) has to be because of the behind the scenes of what we were doing off the court. We really wanted to emphasize being together this year, hanging out, going on a hot girl walks to Starbucks and stuff.” 

Bruno and the players persistently spoke on the entire team’s strong relationships with one another last season, even if it was after a tough loss. That was the true mission Peoples and Allen wanted to execute, and they did. 

“They were the two players that you were penciling in every starting lineup last year,” Bruno said. “They were the catalysts for last year’s group.” 

Despite a tough record, it was vital for the team to continue fighting. Several games came down to the final minute, which can be exhausting mentally and physically. Allen and Peoples challenged one another in the tiring moments on the court. 

“I know when Anaya is feeling confident,” Allen said. “There’ll be times when we’re running back on defense, because we just missed a shot, and I yell at her as we’re running side by side like, ‘You need to get a bucket.’”

With Peoples graduating and moving onto her next journey, Allen will return for her true final season, which wasn’t her plan until recently. 

“I initially told coach Bruno, ‘I’m not coming back after this year, this is my last year.’ I said that last spring,” Allen said. “I enjoy, so much, being around these girls, and I thought last season was not the season for me to go out on. I still tell myself that my best basketball is ahead of me. I really truly believe that. 

Allen also said she feels the healthiest she’s been and will be finishing her master’s degree in writing and publishing. Knowing this will be her sixth year playing Division I basketball, Allen is fulfilling the solo leadership role already. 

“Jorie is already expanding her leadership. She’s doing an excellent job of trying to get the young people to understand what it takes,” Bruno said. “Many people talk about a player on the team as a coach on the floor. They’re usually talking about a point guard. Jorie is not a point guard, but she’s still a coach on the floor.”

DePaul ended toward the bottom of the Big East standings last season, and Allen has already begun changing the mindset. 

“I have the most experience and I tell the girls what I see. I’m honest,” Allen said. “The margin between being second in the league and being second to last in the league is very, very small. That’s what I keep telling the girls.”

In People’s next adventure, her experience at DePaul will continue to have an everlasting effect. 

“Even in my next chapter, I’m taking what I’ve learned here from being coached under the greatest coach Bruno, and playing besides great players and great leaders,” Peoples said. “I’m still enjoying the game. Still trying to give back to the game and taking all I can from it while I can.” 

The two played their final home game together at Wintrust Arena Feb. 28, and they were emotional after the game when reflecting upon their story together quickly coming to an end.

“It was really emotional our last game together,” Allen said. “She’s special, and she makes me feel special. We’re gonna be friends for life.” 

Both Blue Demons said they are proud of the environment they created and building a true culture of love. 

“I’m still playing pickup with the girls,” Peoples said. “We’re still hanging out. … It’s incredible how the team has just stayed together, even though some of us are going our separate ways too.”

Although next season will look different after losing five seniors, the relationships Allen and Peoples built last season between the returners, in addition to adding some newcomers, will be carried on by Allen. 

“You just always have these connections in life where you just kind of know what people do,” Allen said about her and Peoples. “We all always had that trust with each other.”

 

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