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Playing time secondary with DePaul co-captain Edwind McGhee

DePaul guard Edwind McGhee (left) tries slow St. John’s guard D’Angelo HarrisAllstate Arena. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

DePaul guard Edwind McGhee (left) tries to slow St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison at Allstate Arena. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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DePaul senior guard Edwind McGhee is often seen springing from the bench to high-five teammates. It’s a norm for a team captain.

What isn’t the norm: McGhee is a walk-on.

‘‘I don’t think it’s ever happened before,’’ 25-year coaching veteran Oliver Purnell said of McGhee’s role. ‘‘That speaks to the respect our team has for him, and our coaching staff, as well as our whole athletic department.’’

McGhee not only is the Blue Demons’ co-captain with senior Brandon Young, he’s head of the captain’s council, ‘‘which means he’s head of all of our captains in our sports programs,’’ Purnell said.

McGhee has averaged only a few minutes the last three seasons and didn’t play in Wednesday night’s 78-58 blowout of Houston Baptist at Allstate Arena, which was paced by Cleveland Melvin’s game-high 28 points.

Purnell’s appointment was more about character than playing career.

‘‘It was a natural, and the players wholly accepted it. They have so much respect for him,’’ Purnell said.

‘‘I felt honored,’’ said McGhee, a double major in journalism and relational communication and a three-time Big East Academic All-American. ‘‘I try to lead by example a lot, and the coaches see it, and the guys see it as well. I just keep trying to work with Brandon to keep these guys together and motivated.’’

His non-star status helps him talk to his teammates.

‘‘I think since my freshman year, I’ve grown to communicate a lot more with guys as well as having my game get a lot better,’’ the Champaign native said. ‘‘I know what my role is and how I can help the older guys and the young guys find their roles. Maybe the younger guys get a little frustrated and they need someone to talk to.

‘‘I try to make sure everyone is on the same page and know our goal is to win games, and that whatever it takes, we have to make sure we’re on the same page.

‘‘I’m like the middle guy—I can talk to the older guys if something is wrong. I can talk to the younger guys as well. I try to make sure everyone knows I’m there for them.’’

But the role is more than morale-booster.

‘‘They’re a liaison between the players and me,’’ Purnell said, ‘‘but I also expect them to be a liaison from me to the players. They certainly need sometimes to give our guys a push when you don’t want to push and at the same time be a shoulder to cry on, so to speak, when things might not be going well for one of their teammates.’’

Purnell gave McGhee a scholarship for two quarters last season when one was available, and he felt appointing him as a co-captain was as important.

‘‘He’s such a great example with the way he lives his life, the way he goes about his academics,’’ Purnell said. ‘‘He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s a bright young man, he has outstanding character, and he has the respect of his teammates as well as the rest of the athletes on campus. He’s extraordinary in that way, so I don’t think there’s any question he deserves it.’’

Email: tginnetti@suntimes.com

Twitter: @toniginnetti



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