Commentary

Five key players out at DePaul

With Keisha Hampton lost for the season, Blue Demons hobbled in Big East play

Originally Published: January 9, 2012
By Mechelle Voepel | ESPN.com

DePaul's Katherine Harry talks about dealing with injuries to several players as the Blue Demons make their way through Big East play.

In his 26 years as DePaul's head coach, Doug Bruno has seen just about everything. Multiple times, in fact. But the run of injuries his Blue Demons have encountered this season is a little overwhelming, even for such a veteran coach.

The latest bad news was released Sunday: Senior All-American candidate Keisha Hampton will miss the rest of this season because of a right knee injury. Hampton, who was one of ESPN.com's preseason top-five picks at small forward, averaged 16.6 points in the 12 games she played for the Blue Demons in 2011-12.

"I've been doing this a long time," Bruno said, "and I've never been in a situation where we were without five key players."

[+] EnlargeKeisha Hampton
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireKeisha Hampton opened 2011-12 as an All-American candidate, but a right knee injury has ended her college career after just 12 games this season.

At least three of those -- Hampton, forward Alexa Gallagher (knee) and guard Chanise Jenkins (ankle) -- are out for the season. In Hampton's case, unfortunately, her college career is over because she played in too many games to get a medical redshirt. Gallagher (no games) and Jenkins (two) are both freshmen who should be able to redshirt.

Taylor Pikes, the Big East's sixth player of year in 2010-11, hasn't played at all this season because of a knee injury. Fellow senior wing player Maureen Mulchrone, who was supposed to provide depth for the Blue Demons, has played in nine games but is also currently sidelined.

Even without all those players, No. 18 DePaul was able to upset Georgetown 59-50 on Tuesday in Washington. However, the Blue Demons gave back that road victory with a 60-52 loss Saturday at Providence.

"Like in the movie 'A Bronx Tale,' though, nobody cares," Bruno said about the Blue Demons' stretch of misfortune. "This group has been hunkering down since our Tennessee debacle at Madison Square Garden."

He was referring to DePaul's 84-61 loss Dec. 11 in the Maggie Dixon Classic. In the Blue Demons' next game, against Princeton, Hampton was injured. That game was her 113th consecutive, and sadly her last, start for DePaul.

Doug Bruno has pulled a few rabbits out of hats before during his long tenure at DePaul. Now he'll have to conjure a little coaching magic the rest of this season -- and hope no one else gets hurt.

She played 18 minutes off the bench against Northern Illinois on Dec. 31. That 65-46 victory was Bruno's 500th at DePaul. But after exploratory surgery on Jan. 5, it was determined that Hampton would not be able to compete again this season. She finishes with 1,574 points at DePaul.

Anna Martin, a junior guard, is DePaul's leading scorer at 18.4 ppg, followed by freshman guard Brittany Hrynko (10.7 ppg) and sophomore forward Jasmine Penny (10.1).

"I was envisioning Chanise Jenkins and Brittany Hyrnko playing side by side," Bruno said. "I wasn't thinking Brittany would have to take over in the third game of the year and play this many minutes. She's done a great, great job of stepping into that role.

"The whole season is turning out totally different than what was envisioned, so you just have to scramble. It's been a Band-Aid season since the start of the year."

There's a great deal now on the shoulders of Martin, Hrynko, Penny and junior forward Katherine Harry, who averages 8.5 points and a team-best 8.5 rebounds.

At least the Blue Demons (14-3 overall, 2-1 Big East) have a little time to try to adjust further to who they are instead of who they thought they were going to be. DePaul doesn't play again until Saturday, at home against Pittsburgh. The Blue Demons still have to face Connecticut, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Louisville (twice) in the Big East regular season. Bruno has pulled a few rabbits out of hats before during his long tenure at DePaul. Now he'll have to conjure a little coaching magic the rest of this season -- and hope no one else gets hurt.

"We've been banged up before," Bruno said. "I don't recall a team that had so many gone all in the same year. But you just have to go out and play."

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at mechellevoepelblog.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.

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