Adversity Can't Defeat This Fab Five
Feb. 27, 2011
CHICAGO – There is a dynamic imbedded deep within the soul of this basketball team that could take DePaul to a place where no women’s team from Lincoln Park has gone before.
These Blue Demons have totally bought into coach Doug Bruno’s system of hardcourt synergy while simultaneously developing an unquestioned trust in one another.
At its very core are five seniors who will be honored after No. 7/11 DePaul takes on No. 8/7 Notre Dame at 8 p.m. Monday in the BIG EAST Conference regular-season finale at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
Each has battled back from a season-ending injury, and Threatt has also overcome a family tragedy after her sophomore season.
“I was back home (Auburn Hills, Mich.) recovering from surgery when I heard my mom (Cynthia Threatt) crying upstairs,” China said. “Then, she rushed out of the house.”
The bed-ridden Threatt received a phone call from her cousin explaining that China’s older brother, 31-year-old Adrian Williams, had just been shot.
“When my mom came home, she told me my brother was gone.”
Threatt said she really appreciated the way her teammates tried to console her after learning of the tragedy.
She was also grateful for the way the Blue Demons welcomed her back after missing one full season and part of another.
“My teammates have my back---no matter what,” Threatt said. “No matter what’s going on in each other’s lives, someone is always here for you.
“You are never alone, and that’s why I love this team.”
Bruno loves the way all five of his seniors have never given up, and admires the way Quigley and Chester have taken charge.
“Sam and Felicia have provided some of the best leadership I have ever experienced in my 38 years of coaching,” Bruno said. “They have both been vital to our success the last five years.”
Chester’s shining moment came in the memorable 91-71 upset of then-No. 3/2 Stanford on Dec. 16 at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
“Coach Bruno challenged me to go out and challenge Stanford’s post players,” said Chester, who finished with a career-high 24 points. “And, that’s what I did.
“I was so proud of everyone after we beat the No. 2 team in the nation in our gym.”
Quigley’s moment began right after leading-scorer Naughton went down with a season-ending injury, and it lasted the entire 2009-10 campaign.
“One week after getting blown out by No. 2 Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., Sam led us to an upset of No. 6 Florida State at the Duel in the Desert in Las Vegas,” Bruno said.
“I watched Sam do whatever was needed to help the team overcome Deirdre’s absence, which included being named the MVP in Las Vegas and playing more than 38 minutes a game all year.
“And with everything else she does for our team, Sam is also president of the Captains’ Council and our BIG EAST representative.”
Naughton has seen it all in her five years at DePaul. She made the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshmen Team with Wake Forest in 2005-06 before transferring to Lincoln Park. After sitting out the 2006-07 season, she went on to be chosen Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press and All-BIG EAST Second Team in 2008-09.
Her 2009-10 season lasted all of five games before sustaining a knee injury.
“This season has been the most enjoyable year I’ve ever had,” Naughton said. “What an amazing experience. By far, it’s the closest group of players I’ve ever encountered---on and off the court.
“At the beginning of the season, a lot of people didn’t think we’d be this good---even with everyone coming back. We’ve proven lot of people wrong.”
Bruno knew what he had when this former Parade All-American from New Trier came back home.
“Deirdre has been a great player from the moment she arrived,” Bruno said. “She’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever coached.
“What sets her apart besides the scoring and work ethic is that Deirdre is a very stabilizing force on the court. She knows what to do, where and when to move the ball.”
During the injury-ravaged 2009-10 season, it was Juergens who came through in crunch time.
The Blue Demons had to win their final five games of the regular season to make the NCAA tournament, and somehow this team willed its way into the postseason.
“We don’t have any bickering or anyone butting heads,” Juergens said. “We don’t have a person who has to be a star.
“On any given night, anyone on our team can have a career game.”
For Juergens, that night came on Feb. 20, 2010 when she came off the bench in Milwaukee to score a career-high 16 points in a crucial 72-63 victory over Marquette.
“I hit a few shots, and this team has a knack for feeding the hot hand,” Juergens said.
Unfortunately, Juergens became the fifth senior to experience a season-ending injury on Dec. 3, 2010 during a 76-40 triumph over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Spurred on by this class of hard knocks, the Blue Demons are striving for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Quigley is fourth in the BIG EAST and 18th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage. The finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award and the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award is also seventh in the BIG EAST in assists.
She is third all-time at DePaul in career assists and is closing in on Molly Watson for the second spot. Quigley, Naughton and Chester are all members of DePaul’s 1,000-point scorer club.
This is a team that is willing to forgive your transgressions, whether it’s committing a turnover or something more profound.
Make an error in judgment---we’ve still got your back.
And these Blue Demons are tired of early exits from the postseason.
“All the seniors are sick of the way our season has ended in the years we’ve been here,” said Quigley, who made seven three-pointers in last month’s 67-48 victory at Cincinnati. “We are playing with a different attitude this time.
“We’ve had to battle during the regular season to secure an NCAA bid. Like last year, when we had to win out.
“This year, we know we’re going to be in the NCAA tournament. Now, we’re working on getting a higher seed. Then, we won’t have to play a top team right away.”
Maybe this is the year the Blue Demons make it to their first Final Four.
And if not?
“I will still always remember what coach Bruno tells us---to embrace adversity and turn it into a positive,” Threatt said.
“My favorite memory will be winning those five in a row,” Juergens said.
“I’ll never forget the way we beat Stanford,” Chester said.
“Beating ranked teams like Stanford, West Virginia, St. John’s when we weren’t ranked at the beginning of the season is what I’ll always remember,” Quigley said.
“This is just the perfect ending for me,” Naughton said. “I think this team has a good chance to go farther than ever before.
“But no matter what happens, I couldn’t think of a better way to end my college career.”