Turning on the switch
Stovall's change to swingman giving him chance to shine
Junior Mike Stovall arrived at DePaul this season believing he was recruited to be a point guard, so that was the way he played.
With his quickness, Stovall had an easy time flying past defenders and getting into the lane. Once there, Stovall felt obligated to distribute the ball to his teammates. That is what point guards are supposed to do, Stovall thought.
The problem was, his passes weren't hitting their intended targets.
"Every time I did create off the dribble and pass it, it would be end up being a turnover," said Stovall, who is 6-foot-5. "When I get all the way to the basket, and I don't lay the ball up and score, something bad happens out there."
DePaul interim coach Tracy Webster and his staff recognized that, as well. It's why Stovall was told to stop attempting to be a point guard and start playing like a swingman. His directive went from passing to shooting, and he's followed it closely.
Through Stovall's first 16 games, he put up an average of five shots. Over his past five games, beginning with Webster's head-coaching debut, Stovall has emerged as one of the team's main go-to players. He's taken 10 shots a game and averaged 14 points during the recent span.
"I think he's being more aggressive offensively," Webster said. "Offensively, he can get to the basket any time. When he gets there, he can finish."
In his first game as head coach, Webster promoted Stovall to a larger role. After playing sparingly in former DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright's last four games, Stovall was given 34 minutes against Providence, and he put them all to use. He shot 10-of-21 from the field, 8-of-10 at the free throw line, made 2-of-6 3-pointers, scored 30 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals.
Two games later against Marquette, Stovall stepped up again. He sank a shot with 0.7 seconds remaining to lift the Blue Demons to their first Big East win in 25 games.
"I think he lives for those type of moments," Webster said. "He's not afraid to take shots for us when he's good, bad or whatever. We tell him, 'Go play basketball.' That's what we want him to do. I think he can be better. I think he can be a good scoring guy. I think he can be a good rebounder. I think he can be a good assist guy. He can also be a terrific defender."
Stovall does have to room to develop, and he's ready to take those steps, as he's finally done bouncing around from school to school. Out of Marshall High School on the West Side, Stovall attended Oregon State as a freshman, but decided to transfer when Beavers coach Jay John was fired midway through Stovall's first season. Stovall ended up at Mineral Area Community College in Missouri last season, where he averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Plenty of schools were interested in Stovall when he was searching for another Division I program this season. Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri and UAB were among the schools he heard from. Chicago was calling him, though. He didn't even care about the state of DePaul's program.
"I didn't take time to look at how they were doing," Stovall said. "I jumped in about going there. This being home and the support here, my family can come to every game."
A lot has been made about DePaul's inability to secure Chicago's top high school players, but Stovall hopes he can help improve that. Recently, he went to see Morgan Park junior Wayne Blackshear play and pitched him on DePaul. Blackshear is currently verbally committed to Louisville.
"Some people in high school, they know me, and they know how I went to Marshall, and they ask me about DePaul," Stovall said. "I tell them not to go to a school because of a name or where the team is ranked. I talked to [Blackshear]. He's now leaning toward DePaul. He's got a lot of schools liking him. I think it's best for him to stay here. He has so many people supporting him at his games. They can watch him play here."
Webster hopes Stovall can be influential in persuading more Chicago recruits based on his success.
"Hopefully, they can see that, 'He's getting 30. He's doing this. He's getting a chance. One guy can do it from Chicago; let's keep it going,'" Webster said.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.