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Purnell, Demons looking up

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Oliver Purnell sees DePaul's situation as similar to Clemson's before he turned the Tigers' program around.

When Oliver Purnell was in New York City for Big East media day last week, DePaul's new basketball coach said he ''heard a little snickering. And I take offense to it for our team.''

Despite being picked to finish 16th in the Big East off an 8-23 season in 2009-10, there was optimism Tuesday at DePaul's Tip-Off Luncheon at McGrath Arena.

''It's up to us to play the right way, to share the basketball and find the open man,'' Purnell said. ''Our bottom line is to move from the bottom of the Big East to the upper echelon. We have a system that requires a different mind-set. The guys have done what we asked, and I haven't had teams like that at the start.''

After exhibitions against Northwood and Lewis, the Blue Demons open against Chicago State on Nov. 14. All three games will be on campus at McGrath Arena.

''We're taking in what he's trying to teach us,'' senior and former Marshall standout Mike Stovall said. ''Our job is to come out and play hard every night. I like his style. It's fast-paced, like what he did at Clemson.

''We have a lot more disciplined practices, and we are doing a lot more running and conditioning. We're getting tired of hearing [how bad some think the team will be].''

Eric Wallace will miss the season after fracturing his left tibia and fibula in a preseason workout. Wallace averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 24 games last season as a sophomore. He sat out 2008-09 after transferring from Ohio State.

A newcomer who will be expected to make an impact is 6-8 freshman Cleveland Melvin.

''We're going to have a good year,'' Melvin said. ''This is way more conditioning that I'm used to. We have more plays and there is a lot to remember, but it's fun. And we're all making each other better.''

Purnell said that despite early rumblings from high school and AAU coaches in the area who favored a local hire, ''the reception has really been good.''

''I really don't see a major difference between the Big East and the [Atlantic Coast Conference],'' he said. ''This is very similar to when I started at Clemson. They were at the bottom of the ACC.''

That turned around, and Purnell took the Tigers to the last three NCAA tournaments.

To make his point, Purnell recently stopped practice and reminded his players, ''You have no idea how hard you have to practice.''

It doesn't appear that 16th place in the Big East is an option.