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Friday, September 9, 2011
Clearing the air: Simeon, DePaul to meet

By Scott Powers

Oliver Purnell
Oliver Purnell plans to sit down with Robert Smith to talk about re-establishing ties with Simeon.
Like nearly every college basketball program in the country, DePaul would love to create a pipeline to Simeon on Chicago's South Side.

In just the past six years, Simeon has won four state championships, including two with Derrick Rose, produced Division I players in the double digits and is expected to be a top-5 team in the country this upcoming season with nearly an entire starting lineup of high-major players, including the nation's top junior Jabari Parker.

Who wouldn't want to be connected to that program?

Right now, DePaul isn't, and Simeon coach Robert Smith has made that publicly known. But when the recruiting period reopens on Friday, Smith hopes he and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell can repair the relationship . The two coaches are scheduled to meet at Simeon.

Just as DePaul wants to partner with Simeon, Smith wants his program to partner with DePaul.

"I would like to have a better relationship, so I can say, ‘The school up the street is just as good as they are. You should look at this place,'" said Smith, who has a 197-36 career record at Simeon. "Not having that relationship, how can I?

"They made [Friday's meeting] a priority. They made it a priority. I'm the first people they want to talk to. They want to get it resolved. I want to, too. We shouldn't have situations like that at home."

Smith's original point of contention with DePaul was Purnell did not bring on a Chicago-born assistant coach when he was hired. While Smith was pleased Billy Garrett, an assistant who has Chicago ties and has a history of recruiting the area, was retained by Purnell, Smith would have also liked DePaul to have another coach with Chicago origins.

Smith understands Purnell is unlikely to make any staff changes now, but he does still want to have that discussion.

"I thought there truly should be someone born and raised from Chicago on that staff," Smith said. "When we sit down and talk, we'll be able to get through why they couldn't hire anyone. If you go look at St. John's coaching staff, they got people from New York on their staff. UCLA, they have people from there. Not to have it here is a slap in the face."

Smith said previous talks between him and Purnell have only been somewhat productive, but he was optimistic Friday's meeting would finally end their issues.

"We just need a discussion on what my view is of certain things, and they can let me know what their view is on certain things," Smith said. "Maybe we can get on the same page. We need to sit down as men and make it work. There's no way we should be in town together and not have any communication. Simeon is a big part of basketball in Illinois.

"They missed out on some kids this year in the 2012 class. Hopefully, we can get it in order and bury any differences what they may be. Maybe they can get in line for kids in '13 from Simeon."

DePaul strongly recruited Simeon Class of 2012 forward Steve Taylor, but he opted for Big East rival Marquette. Smith said he didn't play any part in Taylor's decision.

"None whatsoever," Smith said. "I didn't tell Steve to not go to DePaul or to go to DePaul. His decision came solely from him."

The Blue Demons are now recruiting Parker and junior guard Jaylon Tate, who recently transferred from De La Salle to Simeon. Tate received an offer from DePaul while on an unofficial visit earlier this week.

"I like DePaul, Illinois, Illinois State, Loyola; I want them to be successful," Smith said. "This is where I'm from. When I go to coaching camps, I want to be able to talk about our state like they do theirs."

Purnell did not return an interview request for this story.