Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hello (Again) Cleveland!

The Huskies will see a (somewhat) familiar face on Saturday when they play at DePaul. Freshman Cleveland Melvin leads the Blue Demons in scoring at 13.5 ppg, including a 21-point effort in Wednesday night's loss to Seton Hall.

In what was called a "totallly amicable" situation by Ryan Hurd, Melvin's coach at Notre Dame Prep, Melvin de-committed from UConn last March after having verballed to them the prior November. First-year DePaul coach Oliver Purnell quickly swooped in to land the 6-foot-8 jumping jack.

“He was the first guy I went up to see at Notre Dame Prep,” said Purnell, whose previous stops have included Clemson and Dayton. “I saw for myself in an open gym, I knew he would fit us, athletically. He had a couple of other visits lined up, but fortunately for me, he had already seen DePaul and liked it I knew he would be a great fit in our style.”

For those of you (and I'm not sure if there are many) who are hand-wringing over Melvin as "one that got away," be careful. Certainly, the kid's been good for DePaul. Melvin averages 4.3 rebounds per game, and the Huskies could certainly use his size and athleticism up front.

“He’s a talented young man, he’s athletic, and he’s now starting to understand and gotten comfortable with what we’re doing, offensively,” said Purnell. “He’s doing a much better job at the point of our press. He’s just gaining some experience, and he’s been able to get an awful lot early, make adjustments to our style and system that has allowed a very fine athlete to play well.”

But averaging double figures on a terrible team, where he's a focal point of the Demons' offense, is different than doing so on a top-10 team led by perhaps the best player in the country.

Consider: Melvin leads the Blue Demons in field goal attempts (166), nearly twice as many as Roscoe Smith (91) or Jeremy Lamb (99) have hoisted up for UConn. Would he be tossing up that many shots and scoring 13.5 per game with Kemba Walker at the helm? In a word: No.

UConn's freshmen wing men (Smith, Lamb, Niels Giffey) have been asked to more or less fill roles, to compliment Walker. For the most part, they've done a pretty good job of that. Melvin may have done a good job of that, too, but there's almost no way to believe he'd be outscoring Alex Oriakhi and even Shabazz Napier on the Huskies' roster.

So don't necessarily look at Melvin as a star that got away. If Smith or Lamb were at DePaul right now, they might be putting up big numbers, too. But it would be for a team that's 6-10 overall and 0-4 in the Big East, not the 10th-ranked team in the nation.

***Oh, and did you notice that Jeremy Hazell was back for Seton Hall and scoring a game-high 23 points in the win over DePaul on Wednesday, just a few weeks after suffering a gunshot wound around Christmas? That was quick, and it's good to see him back (though Rick Pitino might have wanted to choose his words more carefully after referring to Hazell as a "lethal weapon" on Thursday's Big East coaches conference call).

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