DePaul basketball hasn’t gotten many wins over major programs in recent years. The Blue Demons haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and have won just nine games in Big East competition the past three years.
But on Tuesday, the Chicago school beat out teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State to land a coveted commitment from four-star forward Romeo Weems.
It’s a big win for DePaul and head coach Dave Leitao, who swiped Weems from New Haven, Michigan — just a 20 minute drive from Michigan State and 90 minutes from the University of Michigan. He’s the first member of the team’s class of 2019, and now it will be on Leitao to keep him in the fold as the early signing period approaches.
Why is this important for DePaul?
By 247Sports’ count, Weems is the second-highest rated recruit to commit to the Blue Demons, trailing only 2007 five-star big man Mac Koshwal but ahead of NBA veteran (and fellow Michigan high school star) Wilson Chandler. Chandler averaged 12.9 points and 7.1 rebouds in two seasons at DePaul, and was a key part of the program’s only winning season in Big East play. Koshwal came the year after Chandler left and averaged 12.6 and 9.3 in three seasons in Chicago, but his teams won just 28 games in that span.
That doesn’t bode well for Weems, who will be counted on to reload a roster that will lose veteran starters Max Strus and Eli Cain after the 2018-19 season. The class of 2018 includes three young prospects who should be able to contribute, including a potential lottery ticket in Australian point guard Flynn Cameron, but no top-150 players on which Leitao can rely. The 2017 recruiting class, which produced even lower ratings than the ‘18 unit, combined for just five starts across three players last season.
That’ll put a lot of pressure on Weems to shoulder the load, but his commitment could be the first wave that shifts the recruiting tide in Leitao’s favor. DePaul doesn’t have much recent history to fall back on, but the university’s setting in Chicago and placement in the Big East are each selling points that could be used to build a new legacy with the Demons. History suggests, however, Weems may not get the support he needs to restore DePaul to glory — or even a winning conference record.