Deep and Talented Blue Demons Ready for Season of Dreams
Oct. 10, 2012
They were marveling at the actual lines the Blue Demons formed during drills.
Fresh in their minds were memories of the 2011-12 season when a rash of injuries reduced DePaul to a seven-player rotation.
“It felt strange at first having more than seven or eight people at practice,” said Martin, an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American. “Just hearing Doug (coach Doug Bruno) say: ‘four in, four out,’ was something because I had not heard that in a long time.”
Penny nodded her head.
“Yes, last year with only seven people going through the drills, it felt like you ran them over and over,” Penny said. “This year, you can actually get a little rest now and then.”
Which means the rest of the women’s college basketball world will have to ramp up their games to keep up with a deep Blue Demon team that loves to run.
The group that Bruno nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven” battled their way into the second round of the NCAA tournament. All those players that stepped into the breach and learned the meaning of grace under fire are now joined by talented teammates returning from injury.
That could prove to be a potent mix.
“I believe if we can carry over the grit and determination this group displayed last year through all the adversity---that experience from last season puts us in a position to be better than the outside world realizes,” Bruno said.
“After five practices, it looks like we have 11 players who can all play. It’s been a very competitive five days. We have six of the Magnificent Seven back (Martin, 6-3 Katherine Harry, Penny, Brittany Hrynko, Megan Rogowski, Kelsey Reynolds) along with Chanise Jenkins and 6-4 Kelsey Smith who transferred in from Michigan State and will be eligible after our fourth game.
“In addition, all three of our incoming freshmen (6-2 Megan Podkowa, Brooke Schulte, 6-4 Brandi Harvey-Carr) are going to be good college players.”
Opponents designed their game plans around stopping WNBA first-round draft pick Keisha Hampton last season until the talented DePaul forward went down with a season-ending injury.
The role Hampton played fell to Martin.
“Anna Martin went from understudy to the lead role overnight when Keisha got hurt,” Bruno said. “Fortunately for us, Anna got accustomed to being the main player and thrived with the target on her back.”
Martin made the adjustment after just one game.
“I remember a time when Keisha talked to me about the two of us having to lead the team,” Martin said. “She helped me out a lot. When she went down, my first thought was I have to keep everyone positive and motivated.
“It had an effect at first. It was the Arizona State game and their game plan had been to take out Keisha. Now, it was like, I guess we’re going to take out No. 5.
“If I’m not scoring, then I wanted to make it easier for my teammates to score. After that game, I didn’t let the extra defense affect me as much.”
Martin had nine points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals in her debut as the lead player, a 73-55 win over ASU on Dec. 16 at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Brittany Hrynko had 25 points while Katherine Harry and Jasmine Penny each scored 14 points.
The 5-9 Martin came back with 20 points in a 73-54 victory Dec. 19 at Illinois State and scored 21 points in a 93-67 triumph Dec. 22 over Southern Illinois at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
On New Year’s Eve, Martin poured in 30 points at home during a 65-46 victory over Northern Illinois.
“All those injuries last season could turn out to be a blessing in disguise now,” Bruno said. “It was tough going through all that adversity, but after the fact, we look at all that experience our other players gained.
“Katherine Harry stepped up big and led the BIG EAST in rebounding. This season, I expect Kat to average 15 rebounds a game and to lead the nation in rebounding. Yes, that’s expecting a lot---but I think she can do it.
“Jasmine Penny came out of nowhere to become a really solid player. This year could be her breakout season when she becomes a player who makes an even larger impact.”
Speaking of impact, Bruno has the luxury of utilizing a pair of dynamic point guards in Hrynko and Jenkins.
“Brittany Hrynko was going to play some major minutes as a freshman last year heading into the season,” Bruno said. “But no one ever imagined she would have to run a BIG EAST and NCAA tournament team and become the lead guard for almost the entire season.
“Brittany has gotten better. She was brilliant in practice on Tuesday distributing the ball. With Chanise’s return, we now have two lead guards who are interchangeable and can play together.
“Chanise started her career last season making the all-tournament team at the Maggie Dixon Classic. After missing almost the entire season with an injury, she is back and ready to give us the versatility of a talented combo guard.”
When Rogowski, Reynolds and Smith enter a game, the Blue Demons hardly miss a beat.
“Megan Rogowski and Kelsey Reynolds both returned in superior physical condition,” Bruno said. “They both worked on their game in the offseason and are shooting the ball extremely well.
“Kelsey Smith gives us some strong inside depth. Her experience at Michigan State and playing in the Big Ten can only help us inside. Alexa Gallagher returns after missing last season with an injury.”
It takes some top-notch recruits to earn playing time on this team, and that’s exactly what Bruno and his coaching staff brought into Lincoln Park.
“Our recruiting class is so much better than what the recruiting gurus had us rated,” Bruno said. “Megan Podkowa is a really special all-around player who can play all five positions on the floor.
“Brooke Schulte is a tough, physical athlete who is totally ready for the BIG EAST and plays with unbelievable passion and intensity. She finds a way to score the ball.
“Brandi Harvey-Carr is going to be a big-time, Division I post player.”
Put this all together, and it allows Martin and Penny to dream big.
“In the offseason I worked on my ball-handling and tried to become more repetitious with my shooting,” Martin said. “My team goal is to make the NCAA Final Four.”
Penny quickly seconded Martin’s team goal.
“I played five-on-five with my brothers and their friends in the offseason, and it forced me to run the floor a lot more,” Penny said. “That helps because we have a running team at DePaul.
“My individual goal is to bring up my rebounding average. I feel I should’ve had more rebounds last season.”
What is Martin’s individual goal?
“I want to make All-American First Team,” she said.
If all goes well, this could be the season where big dreams come true.