Duo confident DePaul can make big leap

DePaul juniors Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young have had enough of being the Big East's punching bag the past two seasons.

They get why they've struggled their first two years. They were the team's best players as freshmen and sophomores. Not only were they young, but they were also surrounded by other youthful players. Plus, they were still learning DePaul coach Oliver Purnell's aggressive style and adding the right pieces to fit his system.

Now in Year 3 of DePaul's rebuilding process, the duo plans for the Blue Demons to make a massive leap this season. They're no longer underclassmen, they have talent around them, and they understand what Purnell is trying to achieve.

So what does it add up to?

"I believe we can make the NCAA tournament," Young said. "We're going to shock a lot of people. A lot of people don't think we can turn this program around and win more games. It's easier to do it than say it. We can show people.

"We came a long way from our freshman year. We're more focused. We're under coach Purnell's system more. We're ready to get this going, win more games."

The NCAA tournament would be a substantial step from where the Blue Demons have been the last two seasons. They went 4-32 in the Big East during that span.

If the Blue Demons achieve such heights, they'll need for Melvin and Young to continue having success.

Melvin, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 rebounds as a freshman. Last season, he improved in nearly every category and averaged a team-best 17.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.8 steals

"(I'm impressed) how aggressive he is," said Young, who said he expects to be a better shooter and leader this season. "He's not really a vocal leader. He shows it on the court and off the court. He can shoot it, he can rebound for you, he has size."

Young, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, has made similar strides in his game the past two seasons. He averaged 12.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 3.0 turnovers as a freshman. He improved in all those categories as a sophomore and averaged 14.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.4 turnovers.

"He knows how to find me," said Melvin, who said he worked on adding strength and improving his offensive game. "He's quicker with the ball. He has the best handles in the Big East and his shot is even better."

But aside from the two stars, DePaul needs others to step up this season (no one else scored in double figures last season), and the Blue Demons have to finish games (they lost six Big East games they either led or were tied in at halftime.)

"We need a lot more contributors," Melvin said. "I think as we continue to work hard and the freshmen understand the system, we're going to be better. ... We just need to know how to finish the games stronger, just playing the whole 40 minutes of the game as a team."

Like Young, Melvin believes if DePaul can improve in all those areas, the Blue Demons may just be the shocker of the Big East this season.

"A lot of teams are down on us," Melvin said. "I think we're ready for the season, get it started and stuff like that. We definitely want to surprise a lot of people because of the past two years."