Thursday's Senior Night Will Be Special for Young, Marcius, McGhee
March 4, 2014
CHICAGO - It wouldn’t be surprising if Brandon Young, Sandi Marcius and Edwind McGhee put on their DePaul uniform just a little bit more deliberately, or maybe run through their pregame ritual with a heightened sense of purpose.
When the three Blue Demon seniors lace them up for an 8 p.m. Thursday BIG EAST Conference tipoff against Butler, it will be with a sense of finality.
Besides being the final game of the regular season, it will also mark the last time Young, Marcius and McGhee will play at Allstate Arena.
They will be honored during a special pregame ceremony.
Each has made a contribution to the proud legacy and tradition of DePaul basketball and will enter the next stage of their lives enriched by the experiences they encountered as a Blue Demon.
Here are profiles of the three seniors as we bid them farewell and wish them all the success in the world.
The multi-talented, 6-foot, 4-inch combo guard from Baltimore has already etched his name in the DePaul record book as one of the most versatile performers of all-time.
With one game remaining in the regular season plus the postseason, the sparkling numbers Young has already compiled are only going to get better.
Young is fourth all-time in assists and steals and fifth in scoring and field goals. He is sixth all-time in free throws and eighth in 3-pointers. Young is the only player in DePaul history to record at least 1,200 points, 400 assists and 100 3-point baskets.
He has started every game but one in his four years and has 99 career games scoring in double figures. Young’s 1,840 points trails only Mark Aguirre, David Booth, Dave Corzine and George Mikan.
He is the first Blue Demon since Rod Strickland (1985-88) to record at least 100 assists for three-straight seasons and surpassed the century mark again this year.
Young hit the court running in his college basketball debut, scoring in double figures the first six games of his career. That had not happened for a freshman at DePaul since the opening of the 1998-99 season when a 6-9 center named Lance Williams put up those kinds of numbers.
“That’s great about the career points, assists and 3-pointers statistic,” said Young who leads the team this season in scoring, assists and steals . “There have been a lot of great players who have come through the DePaul program. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. All those assists are from my teammates converting passes into baskets. It’s an honor and a blessing to have my name up there with the all-time greats.
“It makes me realize that all the hard work I’ve put in these last four years has paid off. Everything I’ve accomplished was for the team and to help us win, and none of us are done yet. We have to be patient. Everything will come. I’m working as hard as I can, beating my body down and doing everything I can think of to help this team win.”
His biggest moment so far came on Jan. 5, 2012 , and the scene is still etched in the minds of DePaul fans everywhere---a celebration televised across the nation by ESPN.
Soon after Young’s three-point play with 1.3 seconds left had launched the Blue Demons towards an improbable 84-81 BIG EAST Conference victory over Pittsburgh, several hundred DePaul students stormed the Allstate Arena court.
“That was the biggest play of my career,” Young said. “It was a big, big win for us, and came right after losing to No. 1-ranked Syracuse. Nobody expected us to beat Pitt. We didn’t hang our heads after the Syracuse game and showed our fans how tough we could be.
“I was hot shooting the ball and feeling it. Coach Oliver Purnell told me to stay aggressive and attack the basket. The play was for me. It was a clear-out, and then see if I can beat my man one-on-one and get to the basket. I drove past him, scored, got fouled and made the `and-one.’”
In fact, Young scored the final seven points of the game for DePaul. That included a pair of free throws after intercepting a long Panther pass with less than one second to go and getting fouled.
Walking slowly up the court, all you needed to see was the happy smile on Young’s face matched only by the gleam in his eye. He appeared to be soaking up the moment in slow motion.
After he hit the two free throws to ice it, the sophomore point guard and his teammates were mobbed by delirious students.
"That's the first time our fans have stormed the court, and I loved every moment of it," said Young who ignited the spontaneous celebration with 26 points, six assists, five steals and four rebounds. “When the fans stormed the court, it was a great feeling. I used to sit at home and watch that on TV wondering if it could happen to me someday. When it finally happened, it was a blessing I could cherish, and I enjoyed every moment of it.”
The first BIG EAST home win in two years came about after the Blue Demons battled back from an 81-77 deficit with 17.2 seconds left.
It began with Young’s driving layup with nine seconds to go. One second later, Pittsburgh's Isaiah Epps missed two free throws shooting into a rowdy and disruptive Blue Crew student section. With Young being defended by Pitt's best player Ashton Gibbs on the right wing, all four of his Blue Demon teammates ran to the other side of the court.
"I was going to get a basket or get fouled," Young said. "Once I got past him, he had no choice but to foul. It was crazy. My teammates were smacking me on the back and cheering me on. I tried to stay calm and told myself that I still had a free throw to make. Sure, I wanted to celebrate with them. But I had to make the free throw first.
“After I intercepted the long in-bounds pass and got fouled, I took the walk up the court. I just kept telling myself these two free throws were going down. Once I made the second one, then I thought it was time to celebrate.
“I was so surprised to see all the students rushing the court. I had never seen them so happy before. I was jumping up and down with my teammates. This is what you dream about as a kid. I always wanted to be in a position like this, to win a big game at the end and then celebrate with my teammates and friends.”
Young shared another of his favorite DePaul memories.
“Another game I’ll always remember was the win at Rutgers my sophomore year when Jamee Crockett had a phenomenal game,” Young said about the 69-64 upset on Jan. 12, 2012. “He hit a lot of 3-pointers and had this nasty dunk on a Rutgers player that should’ve been on ESPN’s SportsCenter. That was such a big game to win on the road.”
Crockett scored 17 of his season-high 20 points in the second half. At one point in the second half, Crockett drained four consecutive 3-pointers and was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. Young had 11 points and seven assists.
Those basketball moments were just a part of the impact DePaul had on Young.
“I loved going different places with my teammates---all over the country, to the Virgin Islands, Cancun and France,” Young said. “It was fun bonding with all the guys on those road trips.
“DePaul has done an outstanding job enabling me to grow as a person. I used to be so emotional about the game of basketball, and sometimes it brought the nastier side out of me. Everybody knew about my absolute passion for the game. Being at DePaul, I’ve come to see another side of me that puts the focus on the team first.
“My first three years didn’t see us win a lot. But I stayed positive and kept on fighting. My family members were always there to support me.
“The difference now is that I know how to talk to my teammates. My first year, I just yelled at everybody. Now, I can see that certain people don’t respond to that. I know how to encourage people and how to instill confidence in others. That’s a valuable lesson I’ve learned over the last four years.”
Young took a peek into the near future and spoke about his aspirations.
“The goal is always to make it in the NBA,” Young said. “Maybe it means playing overseas for a while and working my way into the NBA. I want to continue playing basketball after I leave DePaul.
“It would be great if I ended up playing ball in Germany on (ex-Blue Demon) Jeremiah Kelly’s team. Putting us in the same backcourt again would cause problems for all the opposing teams over there. I’d work as hard as it took to become a great pro player. You never know what could happen in the future.
“If that doesn’t work out, I’d like to pursue a career as a TV analyst or commentator. Put me on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless.”
After playing three seasons at Purdue and starting in 13 games, the 6-10 center earned his undergraduate degree and began searching for a school to finish up his collegiate eligibility as a graduate student. Pittsburgh, Kansas State, Nevada-Reno and DePaul recruited him, and the big guy from Nedelisce, Croatia visited Nevada and DePaul.
“I was looking for a place where I could play right away after I graduated, and DePaul was the best overall deal for me,” Marcius said. “I liked the coaches, the program, the city of Chicago and the enthusiastic fan base. DePaul is also good academically with a strong basketball tradition.
“I really liked coach Purnell’s vision and belief in the program, and this was the best overall fit for me. It was a team in need of help inside, and this was a spot where I could come in and contribute. I came here to help the program get better and strive towards our goal of making it to the NCAA tournament.”
Marcius has started in 23 games and had career highs in points (19) and rebounds (12) in a victory over Florida Atlantic in December. The man in the middle contributed 15 points, six rebounds and two steals in a win over Oregon State while going 6-for-6 from the field.
He had 12 points and five rebounds in a victory over Northwestern and pulled down 11 boards at Illinois State. He had three-straight games of double-figure scoring with 10 points and seven rebounds against No. 6/6 Villanova, 15 points and six boards at Providence and 11 points and eight rebounds at Xavier. Two games later, he came away with 10 points and nine rebounds versus Seton Hall.
“I’ve focused on running the floor and being more active this season,” Marcius said. “Soon as I get a rebound, I make the outlet pass and look to run. I’m getting better in the post, but there’s still a lot of room to improve. I’m putting more emphasis on making a move and scoring.
“I’m the closest to Myke Henry and R.J. Curington on our team. I know how badly R.J. wants to play, and I tell him as a freshman, he just has to wait his turn. I was happy for him when he got a chance to play and scored 15 points at Seton Hall and 22 points against Providence.
“I don’t think R.J. went to sleep after the Seton Hall game. You could see later that night, he still had butterflies in his stomach. The next day at dinner, you could hear more life and spirit in his voice. The best part was seeing his eyes light up. He was happy about life. I can’t describe it---you had to see it. Everybody wants a chance like that. When it comes, you just have to go for it and then keep it up.”
Marcius certainly took a chance when he decided to accompany a close friend on a journey from Croatia to the USA. Marcius had been a striker in soccer and a track athlete (two-mile run, shot put, hammer throw, javelin throw) in grade school before discovering volleyball and basketball in the seventh and eighth grades.
He didn’t begin specializing in basketball until his senior year of high school. Marcius’ friend Filip Stanic was interested in coming to the USA and playing basketball at La Lumiere Academy in La Porte, Ind. for coach Delray Brooks, an Indiana high school great who played for Bobby Knight at Indiana and Rick Pitino at Providence.
“Filip asked me if I wanted to come with him,” Marcius said. “Without a lot of thought, I decided to go. I told my mom about the decision and she said she would support me.
“Filip and I played basketball together at La Lumiere, and it was good to have him there. Everything was new to me, and we both had to learn a new language. What made our transition easier was that La Lumiere is a diverse community with a lot of international students. The professors were very accepting and ready to help with the language barrier.
“I remember the long drive from O’Hare Airport to La Porte. I was already tired from the jet lag, and that drive felt like it was never going to end. It was about 1 hour, 45 minutes. Where I come from, driving that long would put you in another country.”
Life in another country exposed Marcius to a whole new culture.
“When I got to college, I was amazed at how many fast-food restaurants there are in such a small area like West Lafayette, Ind.,” Marcius said. “People eat out so much in America. In Croatia, people eat most of their meals at home.
“In the U.S., you can get prime steaks. Back home, we had beef, but nothing like the steaks you get over here. I like the French fries and pizza in America. And the all-you-can-eat buffets are something we didn’t have back home. I used to go to Golden Corral all the time with my teammates in high school.
“In Europe, there is no tipping and no doggie bags. The portion sizes are so big here. In Europe, there are no leftovers. Here, you get more food for your money. The concept of eating dinner is different. In America, you eat to get full and dinner is over. In Europe, dinner is a longer meal to enjoy with a lot of conversation and can sometimes last a couple of hours.”
Other parts of the American culture made quite an impression on Marcius.
“One good thing was the academic system over here,” Marcius said. “In Croatia, I had seven different classes per day. At Purdue, I only had four classes a day. That was a nice change for me.
“In American society, you see more structure and class differences. There is a big difference between the hotel doorman and the hotel manager sitting in his office. These differences are more visible. I guess it’s a matter of different values.
“In Croatia, it doesn’t matter what kind of shoes you have or what kind of clothes you wear. We don’t live life to the excess and worry as much about status and material possessions. People are treated more equally and don’t differentiate themselves by status. At the school where my mom worked was this kitchen lady. Her family raised animals, so my mom bought eggs and meat from her at a good price.
“I think it is tougher to be poor in America than in other countries. As long as my parents provided food, housing and education for us kids, life was good.”
Life was good the moment Marcius arrived in Lincoln Park last summer and joined his new teammates in summer workouts. Along with the weightlifting and conditioning, the transfer student enjoyed playing beach volleyball with his teammates and hanging out with them.
“In my time here, I’ve learned a lot about Chicago,” Marcius said. “At first, I was hesitant to use the El train and subway. Now, I know how to get around. I live in Centennial Hall with teammate Myke Henry and have all of my classes at the Downtown campus.
“Myke and I get along well. We’re both easygoing, laid-back and don’t talk too much. I enjoy meeting different people and making new friends wherever I go. In high school and at Purdue, I had good friends from China, India, South Korea, Canada, Malaysia, Germany, Egypt, Greece, Tunisia, the USA and of course, Croatia. I enjoy meeting people of different backgrounds and exploring their cultures. It’s an insight you can only get from someone who lives there.
“I love traveling, especially when you can stay with someone from a foreign country. I’m trying to improve as much as I can and maybe I can play professionally in Europe. If not, I have invitations from all my friends to come visit them, and I would like to do that someday.”
It has been quite a ride for the 6-3 guard from Downstate Champaign who started out as a walk-on, earned a scholarship for part of a season and wound up starting four times in his senior season.
“I got my first career start at Seton Hall,” McGhee said. “I found out that day during shootaround. Coach Purnell was having me run with the first team. With Billy Garrett Jr., Charles McKinney and Cleveland Melvin unable to play, we were pretty short-handed.
“I didn’t tell anybody except my parents that I was starting that game. It was definitely a great experience, but I tried to treat it as just another game. I did try to go out on the court with more focus. Don’t be too anxious. I told myself I’ve played in a BIG EAST game before. The only difference is that I’m getting on the court a little earlier.
“My assignment was to guard Brian Oliver, one of their best scorers. He’s a shooter so I had to stay on him the whole time. My first point scored as a starter was a free throw. I made a move to the hoop and got fouled. I missed the first free throw and made the second.”
This was a new perspective for McGhee, who as co-captain has been the Blue Demon in charge of morale and making sure the reserves stay focused on the game and vocally support those on the court. Only now, McGhee was among the five guys inside the lines.
“It was different being on the court from the beginning and coming to the bench during timeouts,” McGhee said. “Usually, I’m the one getting all the guys on the bench fired up and staying focused on the game. This time, it was Peter Ryckbosch and Cory Dolins that got it going.
“I’m usually the guy who encourages anyone who is a little frustrated on the floor. I got frustrated a couple times when I was starting and it was my teammates telling me I’ll be okay and picking my spirits up. It was a change in roles.
“The game is at a different pace when you’re starting. You know you’ll be in there for a while. When you’re on the bench, you never know if coach Purnell will call on you or if you’ll ever get into the game. You just have to be ready.
“I can always say that I was a starter on a BIG EAST team. I always prepared myself as if I was going to start. That way, I could be ready if I’m put in the game. When you start a game, you want to stay out there as long as you can. It’s up to the coach to figure out when you’re coming out.”
McGhee’s signature moment came in the 77-72 loss to Providence Feb. 1 at Allstate Arena. The Blue Demons trailed by eight in the second half when he took matters into his own hands scoring eight points in a row.
“I was 0-for-3 shooting in the first half,” McGhee said. “I’m not big on scoring. I try to concentrate on rebounds, playing defense, hustling on the floor and doing the little things.
“I made a move in the second half and got fouled. I made the two free throws. Then we got a defensive stop. On the next possession, Brandon Young was driving up the court and I ran straight to the corner. He hit me with a pass and I knocked down the 3-pointer.
“We got another stop and Brandon had the ball leading a fast break. I was trailing a little behind him and shouting ‘Brandon, Brandon.’ He turned around, saw me and passed it to me. I hit another 3-pointer and that tied the game up 62-62 with seven minutes left.
“When I was calling out to Brandon, I had confidence in my shot. He had the confidence to come back to me. We’ve been together four years and he knows what I can do and where I like the ball.”
McGhee finished with a career-high eight points along with three rebounds and one steal.
“I haven’t scored eight points in a row since high school” McGhee said. “It was a great feeling, but I wish we had won the game. It was a great game for R.J. Curington (career-high 22 points) and Forrest Robinson (nine points, two rebounds, two steals).
“I always tell R.J. and Forrest that they have to be ready no matter what. I’m always in R.J.’s ear. I tell him you never know when your chance will come. R.J. showed what he is capable of doing against Providence. So did Forrest. Now they both see what can happen if you’re ready.”
McGhee was ready to make the most of his opportunity the moment he became a Blue Demon four years ago.
“I give thanks to God for the opportunity to come to DePaul and play Division I basketball,” McGhee said. “I’ve been blessed to make the team as a walk-on, earn a scholarship for part of a season, become the team co-captain and then be promoted to the starting lineup.
“These last four years have been a wonderful time for me and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve been around a great group of guys and made some great friendships that I’ll have for a long time.
“I’ve tried to lead by example and also by being vocal. I try to set an example for my teammates by taking care of my academics and showing up for classes, always working hard and making sure the guys are motivated. I have enjoyed serving as president of the Captains’ Council my senior year.”
McGhee paused for a moment and reflected on some of the memorable characters he has come across these last four years.
“Worrell Clahar, Moses Morgan and I got close last year,” McGhee said. “Jamee Crockett is one of my guys. Ryan Ornstein, who was our team manager last year, is one of my best buddies. We always went out to eat, and he really knows a lot about food.
“Brandon is my guy. He is like one of my brothers. Whenever I see his mom, she comes up and gives me a big hug. My dad talks to Brandon like he is one of his sons. We’ve developed a brotherhood with each other and a friendship that’s going to last a long time.”
When asked about a role model or someone he would like to emulate, McGhee immediately mentioned his parents.
“I look up to both of my parents and I’m thankful for the work ethic they instilled within me,” McGhee said. “They always stressed academics with us kids. My brother Edward is in pre-med.
“One of my goals is to become a sports broadcaster. I’m thinking about graduate school after DePaul unless something else comes along like a chance to play professionally overseas.”
Whether it was on the court, in the class room or traveling the world with his teammates, McGhee certainly made the most of his four years at DePaul.
“My best memories are some of the great trips we took,” McGhee said. “There were the beaches, warm weather and the unlimited room service at our hotel in Cancun. Our trip to France was special and I loved visiting Nice. I’ll never forget going parasailing on the Mediterranean.
“I enjoyed just being with the guys and all the laughs we shared. It was really special being a part of something that’s bigger than you.
“DePaul helped me grow as a man as I learned to take responsibility. I discovered that if you work hard, anything is possible. I made the team as a walk-on, earned a scholarship for part of a season and traveled around the country and different parts of the world. I’ve had the chance to play in Madison Square Garden, the premier basketball arena in the country.
“DePaul has helped me figure out how I want to pursue life, and I wouldn’t change what I did here for the world. The best decision I’ve made in my life so far was coming to DePaul.”