New DePaul men’s basketball coach Tony Stubblefield understands the challenges associated with resuscitating a struggling program.
The task started when the former Oregon assistant replaced Dave Leitao in April, and is set to begin in earnest Wednesday as the Stubblefield era opens with a visit from Coppin State.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Stubblefield said, “and I’m just very happy and fortunate to have this opportunity to try to get this program back to the top.”
Seeking DePaul’s first NCAA tournament berth since the 2003-04 season, the Blue Demons play their first eight games at home, on a Wintrust Arena floor that still is buzzing with hoopla from the venue’s other tenant, the Chicago Sky, who captured the WNBA championship last month.
DePaul tuned up for the season opener with a 67-63 exhibition win against visiting Montevallo on Thursday. Javon Freeman-Liberty notched a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Tyon Grant-Foster nearly joined him in that distinction, contributing 15 points and nine boards.
Freeman-Liberty is the top returning scorer and rebounder from last season’s 5-14 team, averaging 14.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The roster is a blend of veterans and transfers, namely Grant-Foster, who appeared in 22 games for Kansas last season.
Guard Jalen Terry (Oregon) and forward Javon Johnson (Iowa State) also bring Power Five program experience as transfers.
Coppin State was slated to begin its campaign Tuesday elsewhere in the Windy City, visiting Loyola Chicago before taking on DePaul the following night.
The Eagles are coming off a 9-13 season, winning the MEAC regular-season crown before being upset in the first round of the conference tournament.
Nendah Tarke, the reigning conference Rookie of the Year, aims to build on a solid debut that saw him average 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a game while making 11 starts.
“We knocked on the door last year,” Eagles coach Juan Dixon said. “(We’re) confident we can build on last year.”
–Field Level Media