From Coast to Coast: Meet DePaul’s New Coaching Staff

By: Ryan Taylor, Staff Writer for the DePaulia

Everything is new. The head coach, players, strength coach and athletic director, who celebrated one year at DePaul not long ago. 

Same for the coaching staff. Paris Parham, Bino Ranson and Steve Thomas are all new pieces to the DePaul basketball puzzle. 

Let’s start with the Chicago native, Coach Parham. A venerable coach from a plethora of teams, like Illinois State, Illinois and his latest gig at Milwaukee. 

Paris Parham (Photo by Ryan Taylor)

Parham is a recruiter at heart. According to 247Sports, Parham’s all-time recruits at Illinois include Jaylon Tate, D.J. Williams and Kendrick Nunn, a player for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Looking at just those three, it’s easy to pinpoint Parham’s bread and butter for recruiting geographics — Chicago. 

“Just being here for me is special,” Parham said. “Even today getting ready for the game gave me goosebumps. I went to high school seven blocks down the street and I was born and raised 12 blocks away. It’s a special feeling for me.”

Parham grew up in Chicago and went to Dunbar High School. Yet, according to Parham, people always mistake his alma mater for Simeon Career Academy because of his connection to Robert Thomas and his ability to recruit players from there. 

Getting highly touted recruits to come to your school is no easy job. But, Parham has a formula of care he expands on his recruits. 

“Building relationships and being honest with people and delivering on what you promise,” Parham said. “Helping young men grow from being young men to young adults.”

The personal connection Parham makes with his athletes helps make him an excellent coach and a credible recruiter. Buying into the school is one thing, but Parham’s recruits buy into him as a person. 

“We’re trying to develop future leaders,” Parham said. “The basketball piece is one thing, but it’s just the part of growing up and letting them know the importance of being a good guy. Letting them meet my family, meet my wife, showing them how you raise a family. Those things are good.”

Parham brings plenty of experience and wisdom to the table. Now, the extra motivation of being at DePaul — a position he said he “dreamed about” since he started coaching — will make him a special part of the coaching staff. 

Steve Thomas, a graduate assistant of head coach Tony Stubblefield’s in his early coaching days, joined the men’s basketball staff this past spring. 

Tony Stubblefield (left) and Steve Thomas (right) (Photo by Ryan Taylor)

Thomas’s role as a player development coach for guards/wings and as an offensive/defensive specialist is derived from great head coaches, in his words. 

Under Oregon’s Dana Altman, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Richmond’s Chris Mooney, Thomas’s coaching style incorporates techniques and practices from all three. 

Thomas also has a reputable understanding of the culture that Stubblefield wants to incorporate into the team. 

“Playing hard, playing smart, playing together and valuing your teammate,” Thomas said when asked to define the culture of DePaul basketball. 

There’s a different aura to DePaul basketball this year. The team is unified and determined to change the stigma of losing that has plagued the program in recent years. 

With the help of the new coaches, they certainly seem to be on the right track to reach those goals, even after only having practiced together since early May. 

“It’s a cliche in a lot of ways when teams say ‘family’ or ‘hard work,’ but that’s what it takes,” Thomas said. “That’s the culture we’re trying to build. It’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be a defensive mindset, and then it’s going to be being able to come back and execute on offense.”

One factor Thomas handles is the attentiveness to instilling a full-court, transition offense for the team. This is something junior center Nick Ongenda mentioned in the offseason too. 

The Blue Demons executed this part well versus Montevallo in their exhibition game last Thursday, surpassing the Falcons in fast-break points 21-8. 

“You have to be able to score the ball,” Thomas said. “We’re gonna dig in defensively and do those types of things. But, we need to be able to get the ball over half court and put the ball in the basket. Sharpening that up and getting those guys in sync takes time.”

Bino Ranson, a native of Baltimore and former 11-year assistant coach for Mark Turgeon’s Maryland staff, joined the Blue Demons this past spring too. 

Bino Ranson (Photo by Ryan Taylor)

Now the Blue Demons have the map covered from coast to coast. Stubblefield has the West Coast, Parham has Chicago and the Midwest and Thomas and Ranson have the East Coast. 

Ranson, like Parham, is an esteemed recruiter in the college basketball scene. Having recruited numerous big-name recruits, like Diamond Stone and Jalen Smith, to Maryland, he brings tons of value to Chicago. 

“He’s really kind of separated himself as a great recruiter, especially in the last few years,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Some of the best players we’ve signed, Bino’s been involved.”

Ranson is a set-up man in recruiting, as he described to DePaul athletics, meaning he brings in recruits for Coach Stubblefield to close on. 

He also works with the Blue Demons’ big men, like Ongenda and Yor Anei. 

“Every day I tell Nick to have a ‘next play’ mentality and just to be relentless on the offensive glass and defensive glass just believe in himself,” Ranson said. “Part of being a successful big is being confident and relentless.”

The philosophy seemed to work for Ongenda last Thursday.  He shot 5 of 8 from the field and 3 of 6 from the free-throw line to give him 13 points. The combination of Ongenda and Anei gave the Blue Demons 7 of their 10 total blocks.

The table is set and the new coaches are in place. If there’s one commonality amongst them, it’s their devotion to “change the culture” and reestablish a winning program at DePaul. 

“Our job as coaches is to bring that energy, that message, bring the culture every single day,” Thomas said. 

Sources

Steve Thomas, Bino Ranson, Paris Parham

Men’s basketball contact information 

773-325-7521 or mbb@depaul.edu

DePaul basketball seniors looking forward to last dance

BY RYAN TAYLOR 

The DePaul fight song filled the air of women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno’s spacious corner office in the Sullivan Athletic Center — his phone was ringing. It was a prospective student athlete waiting to hear the reasons she should come to DePaul. This season is about to be one of them.

If there’s any one person or group that is excited about the upcoming DePaul basketball season and the return of fans — it’s Bruno and his 2021-22 team. 

Coach Doug Bruno speaking at the open practice basketball event on Saturday (Photo by Ryan Taylor).

However, in the past three years, the women’s team has had plenty of obstacles. Last season, they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. The year before that? Covid-19. And the year before that? An upsetting first round tournament loss to Missouri State University.

After a gruesome run of tournament mishaps, pandemic woes and one of the most dominant women’s basketball programs re-entering the Big East Conference (the University of Connecticut), Dee Bekelja and Deja Church want another shot. The last dance. 

Dee Bekelja signing autographs before open practice (Photo by Ryan Taylor).

“With Covid and everything, our games got cut and we didn’t make the NCAA tournament,” fifth-year senior Deja Church said. “Not really going out on the best note, so I decided to come back and do it all over again.”

Church recorded 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season with the Blue Demons. 

“It was definitely tough on everybody,” fellow fifth-year senior Dee Bekelja said. “The situation last year was not ideal, it was not fun. Our parents couldn’t come to the games. But, I think that influenced a lot of people to stay for their fifth year because you want to end it on a good note.”

Bekelja and Church are back for their fifth years, while the team’s two leading scorers from last season — Lexi Held and Sonya Morris — are going into their senior seasons.

Deja Church during the team’s scrimmage (Photo by Ryan Taylor).

This is something Bruno emphasized is a vital part of his team, saying “you can’t replace experience in college coaching.” 

With the pieces in place for a successful season, the journey for the team is set to be a fun one. The schedule for the season includes six tournament teams from the previous year, with an asterisk on Arizona, the runner-up from last year’s NCAA tournament. 

This schedule, however, is nothing new for Bruno and his philosophy around competition. 

“If you’re gonna ask your players to be competitive, then you as a coach must be competitive,” Bruno said. “I’m so ‘anti-playing-soft-schedule.’ This year has a little bit tougher look to it. But, generally speaking, this is what we do every year.”

To prepare themselves for the season, the Blue Demons are working hard. They’re bringing “energy and enthusiasm” to practice on an everyday basis, according to Bruno. 

Bekelja and Church claim the team put an exclamation mark on defense and rebounding this offseason too, which on paper, looks like they could use it. 

The Blue Demons allowed 78.4 points per game last season. Their opponents shot 47.9 percent from the field. And, they allowed 41.7 rebounds per game. All of these marks ranked last in the conference. 

However, the stigma surrounding the “lack of care” the Blue Demons have on the defensive side of the ball is misleading, according to Bruno. 

“Because Coach Bruno loves to score the ball,” Bruno said. “It can often be misconstrued by observation that we don’t care about defense here.”  

“There are two ways to play the style we play,” Bruno said. “One way is to let them score. The second is to try to defend. But, if we defend in a traditional fashion, then what happens is the game can get slowed on our defensive side of the ball. If we play a risk-reward defense, which is a gambling defense, it forces the opponent to speed up.”

DePaul led the Big East in steals with 11.1 per game last season. They also converted the largest turnover margin (+7.0) of any team in the Big East. Held recorded 75 steals last season, the fifth most steals by any player in the nation. 

All these results are true outputs of a “risk-reward” defense that gave the Demons the fourth-best win percentage and the second best offense in the conference last season. 

The goals for the team this season are high, but the way in which they achieve them has to be done while having fun, according to Bekelja and Church. 

“I think the goal for the team is to have fun,” Church said. “We want to dominate our non-conference schedule. We want to finish at the top of the conference. And most importantly, win the Big East and make the [NCAA] tournament.”

“Emphasis on fun, because I think we play our best ball when we’re having fun,” Bekelja said.

WIntrust Arena (Photo by Ryan Taylor).

Now, fans are able to watch the team have fun in person. Not just because Covid-19 protocols permit fans at games, but because the team will be playing all their home games this season at Wintrust Arena for the first year ever. 

The Blue Demons played there multiple times before and have plenty of fond memories doing so — like Chante Stonewall hitting a go-ahead shot to beat Marquette in the 2019 Big East Championship.

But now, the team is excited to play all of their games at Wintrust Arena, where notably the Chicago Sky had recent success. The Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA Finals, 3-1, at Wintrust Arena this past Sunday.

Church connected with one of the Sky players, Lexie Brown, to encourage her to keep giving off “good energy” for the Blue Demons to use when their season starts. 

“We played our home games there last year because of Covid,” Bekelja said. “That kind of primes us for this year with all our games there. We like playing there, I like playing there. It’s a really nice facility. Obviously, it’s a lot better playing there when we have fans.”

Now, the table is set. The players are back, the schedule is out and the Blue Demons are hoping to get back to the NCAA tournament.

“I’m excited about the possibility of redemption,” Bruno said. “I want to have these players prove to themselves that the group here is the one that won 12 out of 14 last season.”

Sources: Dee Bekelja, Deja Church, Coach Bruno (773 325-7507), Director of Communications – Bob Sakamoto (rsakamot@depaul.edu)

Photography

A fan starting a car. (Photo by Ryan Taylor)
A fan paying to park at a meter across from the arena. (Photo by Ryan Taylor)
A fan walking towards the entrance of Wintrust Arena. (Photo by Ryan Taylor)
A fan looking inside of Wintrust Arena. (Photo by Ryan Taylor)
A fan opening the doors to Wintrust Arena. (Photo by Ryan Taylor)

This series of photos tells the story of a DePaul basketball fan traveling to see a game at the university’s home stadium — Wintrust Arena. It sequences with the fan starting the car, paying to park, walking to the stadium, looking inside the arena, and finally opening the door to the arena. The images are meant to add details of the moments leading up to the fan’s arrival at the stadium and ultimately display the final product of the fan meeting the arena.

DePaul Athletics Profits from Name, Image and Likeness Rules

By: Ryan Taylor

DePaul athletics is reaping the benefits of the newly founded NCAA rules surrounding athletes’ profitability from their name, image and likeness (NIL). 

Blue Demons Maddie Yergler and Valentina Martin both explored brand partnerships with small businesses this past summer. 

Yergler finalized sponsorship deals with MOBOT, the creator of an eco-friendly water bottle, and Liquid IV, an electrolyte drink mix. Martin inked deals with CROSSNET, a four-person volleyball game, and Casely, a phone case company. 

“CROSSNET, I found out through other athletes,” Martin said. “I’m really interested in sports in general, so I applied. I’m a huge family person and it looked fun to play with my family. They reached out and it worked out perfectly.”

Some compensation and product samples are included in sponsorship deals, but the tennis players look further into the companies they pursue for deals.

“When the rule changed I reached out to MOBOT and Liquid IV because I loved their message and their product,” Yergler said. “I really just try to find ones that I’m passionate about what they’re doing outside of their products.”

Valentina also mentioned that one of the companies she promotes, Casely, donates a percentage of profits to a different charity each month. 

The two athletes use social media to promote and market the brands they represent. According to DePaul Senior Associate Athletic Director for Revenue Generations, Taylor Stapleton, social media accounts for around 88 percent of student-athlete NIL activity. 

The companies Martin and Yergler represent require posting on their social media pages, but they are flexible with the number of posts and deadlines. It differs for every company, but the only rigidness comes from NCAA rules, like the inability to use unauthorized pictures. 

“With MOBOT, they wanted me to post twice on my Instagram,” Yergler said. “They also saw my TikTok and then they wanted me to post on there. I can put my spin on it and show how I use the products. They are more about the type of content you’re putting out to make sure it’s fun and engaging.”

In terms of having a support system in place for the athletes to efficiently be involved in NIL deals, DePaul athletics is ten steps ahead of the competition.

“We knew the regulations were going to modernize and we combined that with a pretty incredible academic center we have on campus to create the LEGACY program,” Stapleton said. “We entered into a venture with the Driehaus College of Business, the college of communication, and the Coleman entrepreneurship center, which are all great programs.”

LEGACY is an educational program centered around educating student-athletes on different aspects of NIL and giving them the resources they need to be successful. The four pillars the program educates student-athletes on are financial literacy, entrepreneurship, brand management and social media strategy.

“All these resources and tools that these Fortune 500 companies are using to market their brand, we’re trying to bring in as much as we can down to a personal level for our student-athletes to have access to and to make as big or as little an impact in the space as they want,” Stapleton said.

Now that the athletes have a support system surrounding their brands, what are they looking forward to?

“I’m starting to work with Foxtrot,” Yergler said. “They’re trying to work with DePaul students in general. I really like them because they’re a small start-up in Chicago. They do a thing called ‘Up & Comers’ where small businesses can apply to have their product placed in their store.”

As for Martin, her mind is focused on the ongoing season, which featured ITA Regionals this past weekend. It continues to April when the Big East Championships begin. 

Last season, Valentina notched a 3-1 singles record and an 0-1 doubles record. Yergler recorded an 8-7 singles record and a team-best 11-4 doubles record, highlighted by her match-winning point against Butler in the Big East Quarterfinals.

Journalism bound to adapt to climate of new age

Is the field of journalism dead? Yes? No? Maybe soon? The answers to this question vary and are unlimited. Let’s face it. Not many people from the younger generation are going to find their news from a print version, watching the morning news, or listening to the radio for that matter. 

The social media era is among us. The news is captured in a short period of time by people that pop up on your social media feed. The prerequisites to be credible are submerged to ‘does he/she have a blue checkmark?’ or ‘that’s fake news, he/she is just looking for clicks.’

The desperate, dying field of print journalism and its predecessors are desperate. The only way to function is through money. How do you obtain money in today’s societal norms? Through short content and clickbait. 

A study done in 2015 showed that the average time young people stay on the screen while reading articles online is 63 seconds, completing just 39.3 percent of the article. 

With an attention span that is short for reading and even watching videos online, journalism has a very tough crowd to work with in the future. 

It will require more entertaining mediums, media, content, and bells and whistles to keep the consumer on the screen. More screen time equals more dollars in the pockets of digital media producers. 

Just look at YouTube star David Dobrik, notorious for having nearly 20 million subscribers based on the fact that his videos are four minutes and twenty seconds, taken from hours of footage the online comedian makes with his friends to entertain for every single second. 

The bottom line is this. Journalists need to become more entertaining with the way they deliver and produce a story. Whether it’s changing the medium, the tone, the special effects, etc., something has to change.