ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big East has a way of humbling freshmen.
DePaul starting freshman forward Jamee Crockett discovered that Sunday.
Not only did Crockett receive his introduction course to the Big East on Sunday, but it was top-ranked Syracuse gaving the lesson. And the Orange didn’t fail to cover any areas in its 87-68 win over the Blue Demons at Allstate Arena.
Coming out of Crete-Monee High School in Chicago’s suburbs, Crockett was sold on DePaul because it was an opportunity to play in the Big East. To him, there was no better conference. The Big East had the biggest, strongest, quickest and most athletic players in the country.
Facing Syracuse confirmed that.
He experienced what it was like to be knocked around by Syracuse's 7-foot-1 center Fab Melo. He witnessed how athletic guards like Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche can close out on shooter in the blink of an eye. He saw how quickly a turnover can turn into a dunk.
“The Big East is no joke,” Crockett said. “I knew it, but it’s a reality now. I’m playing in it.”
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell tried to prepare Crockett and the team’s other freshmen for what they were gong to face on Sunday, but it can’t really be understood until it’s experienced.
“As we talked to them about, if you don’t do the things we work on, you don’t get a chance to do them a second time,” Purnell said. “If you miss the open guy, he’s going to be covered after that. If you are weak with the ball, they’re not only going to steal it, but they’re going to turn it into a basket. We talked about those things, and a lot of them occurred.”
Crockett’s Big East debut wasn’t a complete disaster. The opening few minutes of Sunday’s game were a dream start to his conference career.
On the game’s opening possession, Crockett stole the ball. A minute later, he was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and sank all three free throws to put DePaul ahead 5-2. The Blue Demons built their lead to 7-2, resulting in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim calling a timeout one minutes and 30 seconds into the game.
Crockett would later add an outside jumper and layup to finish with seven points. He also had two rebounds, one steal and three fouls in 17 minutes.
Crockett did find positives to take away from his game in the loss.
"I played hard,” he said. “I got stops on defense. I knocked shots down.”
He also knew he failed in some areas.
“Just down the stretch, I didn’t knock down some shots,” he said. “I needed to play more aggressive on defense.”
Overall, Crockett understood it was only his first Big East game, and it was against Syracuse. He was sure better things were to come for him and DePaul in the Big East.
“They’re good,” Crockett said of Syracuse. “We can take that away from this. It just happens sometimes. We weren’t just going to come out and beat the No. 1 team in the country. We weren’t going to come out like that. It’s a building process. We have to build up.”