State awaits DePaul decision
Recruits, coaches say new coach could sway choices of some top talent
Shaw's suitors include some of the bigger names in college basketball with the likes of Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Texas after him, but he is keeping the door open to DePaul.
"If they get a good coach, they'll get our attention," said Shaw, a 6-foot-8 forward who is ranked 39th in the country by ESPN Recruiting. "We'll check it out. We'll see what they have over there. DePaul is definitely an option because it's in Chicago. That's the biggest thing."
Brooks, a 6-3 shooting guard, expressed the same feelings. He's being recruited by a number of schools, including California, Fairfield, Illinois, Illinois State, Providence, Tennessee and Xavier, but he is also curious about DePaul. Wainwright and DePaul interim coach Tracy Webster have recruited him.
"It's the Big East," said Brooks, who was an ESPNChicago.com all-area selection along with Shaw. "That's the style of game I like to play -- up and down, aggressive. It would be a good spot. It's Chicago. It's close to home."
DePaul's next coach will want to get to know Irvin. The Fire are one of Chicago's premier club teams and possess much of the talent in the 2011 class, including Shaw, Thompson, Brooks and Wayne Blackshear.
Irvin knows his players are interested in DePaul and wouldn't mind seeing them stay close to home. He called the Blue Demons' program "a sleeping giant."
"They talk to me every day," Irvin said. "They ask me every day, 'Who's getting the DePaul job?' They're in the Big East Conference. DePaul has a tradition. They can convince the players that they can fill the shoes of Quentin Richardson, Imari Sawyer, Andre Brown and going back another generation to Mark Aguirre, Rod Strickland and those greats. Those kids definitely want to look at DePaul.
"Whatever coach comes in now, to be successful, they need to get Chicago back."
Blackshear, who is the 12th-ranked prospect by ESPN, is the most highly touted 2011 recruit in the state. He already is committed to Louisville, but Irvin didn't believe that is set in stone. DePaul still could make a run at him if the right coach came along.
"He can see what's out there," Irvin said. "Right now, the commitment means you're the front-runner. That's what a commitment is to me. I get this from my father. A commitment in our program is nothing but an early leader because you haven't signed any papers.
"If some of the schools feel they can offer a situation to come in and play, even if it's a Wayne Blackshear, they can. Wayne is not out of the picture at DePaul with a good hire."
Irvin said he has faith in DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto to make the right decision, but he also threw out Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery as a candidate. The Fire have sent players to SIU in the past, and Irvin's brother, Lance Irvin, is an assistant to Lowery.
"I look at Chris, and he would be a good pick," Irvin said. "I think Chris is definitely one of the top coaches out there. I think with the right talent he'd be one of the best coaches in the country."
Larry Butler, another one of Illinois' longtime AAU coaches, also has an opinion on the matter. He thinks coaches like Baylor's Scott Drew, Dayton's Brian Gregory and former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie would be great fits. And like Irvin, Butler believes the 2011 class is essential to DePaul.
"They need someone in there who will be able to relate to the suburban and city coaches, and be able to get the kids from the surrounding areas -- Indiana has a ton of talent, Milwaukee has some players," Butler said. "But I think the state right now is good enough to build within.
"I think if they got a Mike Shaw, a Macari Brooks, who is a Big East athlete, Mycheal Henry, who I think is the second-best player in the state to Blackshear, Newark's Kyle Anderson and land a juco kid, who would help with immediate experience, it would be good enough. It'll take them at least two years to get this swung around like it should."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.