Freshman Fundamentals Shows the BIG EAST Cares
Sept. 21, 2017
CHICAGO - DePaul freshman Jaylen Butz was encouraged to find out that ex-Villanova star Randy Foye had overcome initial homesickness to become the 2006 BIG EAST Player of the Year and enjoy a 13-year career in the NBA.
Classmate Justin Roberts identified with Foye's difficult upbringing after losing a parent, saying: "I lost my mom when I was young."
Fellow first-year Blue Demon Paul Reed connected with former Creighton All-American and Oklahoma Thunder forward Doug McDermott's presentation.
"Doug McDermott was a three-sport athlete in high school and didn't get a lot of hype for basketball," Reed said. "He really had to hoop to show himself. A lot of people didn't know about me in high school, and I had to prove myself.
"He had to work really hard, and the biggest thing was he stayed in focus. That's the kind of path I am trying to take."
Each of the Blue Demons returned to Lincoln Park with a fresh, new perspective after participating in the third year of a ground-breaking program called the BIG EAST Freshmen Fundamentals, the only conference-wide collegiate program of its kind.
The brainchild of BIG EAST Senior Associate Commissioner Stu Jackson, it is modeled after an NBA program indoctrinating rookies. Jackson is a former NBA coach and executive.
Men's basketball players from all 10 schools gathered in New York last weekend and listened to presentations from Foye, McDermott, ex-Seton Hall standout Jerry Walker and former NBA player and coach Sam Mitchell.
They engaged in a media training session with Dan Broden, president of Broden Communications, were counseled in personal branding and etiquette by DeNita Turner, president and CEO of Image Builders, Inc. and listened intently to a speech on relationship management and safety from Kalimah Johnson, executive director of Sexual Assault Services for Holistic Healing and Awareness (SASHA).
"The BIG EAST's Freshman Fundamentals program is another example of how the conference is a leader in the college basketball landscape," said DePaul coach Dave Leitao. "Our players that have gone through this program have benefited each year.
"The experience that Justin, Paul and Jaylen had in New York last weekend will prepare them not only for the upcoming season and their time at DePaul, but also into the future beyond their college careers."
Roberts made a mental note to try and avoid a pitfall Foye encountered early in his career.
"You learned what to do and what not to do on and off the court as a collegiate athlete," Robert said. "Randy Foye told us how hard it was for him as a freshman and sophomore. He was so fixated on himself that he forgot about the team aspect.
"I could identify with each of the guest speakers. (BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year) Jerry Walker did everything for his Seton Hall team---all the stuff no one else wanted to do."
Roberts paused before adding: "Not that I want to be that way, but I could identify with his unselfish attitude."
Reed is ready to sharpen up his media and communication skills.
"You need to have impeccable body language and can't just say anything," Reed said. "Your tone of voice is important. All of that plays a big role in how people perceive you as a person."
The chance to play in one of the top conferences in the nation left an impact on the freshmen.
"The BIG EAST provides you with more national exposure, and it's a great opportunity to be in this league at such a high-profile school like DePaul," Butz said. "You get to play at the highest level. The BIG EAST has connections in basketball and outside of basketball that will benefit your future."
Roberts added: "The BIG EAST is such a well-known conference with so many great players and a proud history. It will prepare me to become better and improve every aspect of my game and skills. It's really a blessing to be here."
Reed made the most of his first bite out of the Big Apple.
"Hanging with my teammates was a lot of fun and makes everything better," he said. "This was my first time in New York, and it was cool being around so many different people and seeing so many new things. We saw a dance group doing a street performance. When we went shopping, I bought a really nice sweater.
"New York is beautiful at night, and the city is so alive. There were so many video screens in Times Square with all these restaurants, bars and so much traffic."
The freshmen visited the New York landmark known as "The Mecca of Basketball," site of the BIG EAST tournament.
"I really enjoyed seeing all the history behind Madison Square Garden," Butz said. "There were these photos and boxing posters of Muhammad Ali. I could imagine being on that court six months from now and being ready to rock."
They reflected on why a conference would go out of its way to organize Freshman Fundamentals. Butz appreciated the effort from the BIG EAST to their New York bus driver to DePaul Director of Basketball Operations Billy Garrett who accompanied them on the trip.
Roberts thought this one-of-a-kind experience will help attract top basketball players to the BIG EAST and make the league even more of powerhouse.
Reed had a simple reply when asked what all this meant.
"This shows that the BIG EAST cares."
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