Fullerton: Melvin Finding the Rhythm in His Game at DePaul
By Holly Pennebaker and Kerby Dort
The Red Line Project
Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012
At 6 feet, 8 inches, it’s hard to miss DePaul sophomore forward Cleveland Melvin on a basketball court. But it’s more than his size that’s caught the attention of fans, coaches and opponents in the Big East this season – his game has as well.
Blue Demons fans have become accustomed the past two seasons to seeing Melvin’s name among the game's leaders. He led the team with a .522 field goal percentage and 14.3 points per game as a freshman. This year, he averaged 18 points per game, third in the conference.
It’s no secret that the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2010-11 brings athleticism and explosive action to the court. But being the team’s leader, top scoring threat, and fan favorite who captures a lot of media attention is a lot for a college sophomore.
And it’s more than just the fans and media who have noticed.
“Guys like Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young are two very big key components to us doing well,” senior teammate Krys Faber said. “Just the energy they bring on offense and defense is very key.”
Said Melvin: “The biggest pressure is that a lot of teams have been scouting me even more. More teams have been focusing on me and just trying to take me out of my game, stop me from scoring.”
But Melvin’s strategy is to simply look at the present, rather than get too far ahead of himself.
“I just try to get my young players to understand how hard the Big East is and how physical it is,” he said.
His immediate goals include continuing to work hard every practice and consistently get better. He said he wants to stay focused on keeping his game and stats on the right track, showing steady improvement.
Considering past performances is one of the major ways Melvin improves from game to game. He also tracks his most memorable games, which helps him bring those solid plays back every time that continue to build the team.
“When we played Pittsburgh at home, it was an amazing game where we all came together, we all were fighting, we played hard together and we came out with a big win,” Melvin said. “And that’s what we need to get ready for the next game.”
Melvin also knows that he has to listen to Coach Oliver Purnell in order to grow his game. Purnell just completed his second season as Blue Demons coach.
“He tells us to keep fighting, pushing and always have a hard edge because in the Big East, a lot of teams lose games and win games,” Melvin said. “So, he tells us to always come out, play our best and get the win.”
According to Purnell, the team plays a better game when Melvin brings defense. He says he likes playing on the wing, scoring and picking up rebounds as a post player.
“He’s a bear when he runs the court, steps out a little bit, plays inside and gets to the offensive glass,” he said.
Melvin said he sees Purnell as a leader and motivator. Purnell said that in order for DePaul to win more games, the team must have Melvin’s A-game every time the Blue Demons play.
“I think Cleveland Melvin could consistently play better games and become more confident, “Purnell said, “especially when he steps up on the defensive end of the floor and it’s not just about his offense.”
Melvin graduated from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots per game his senior year. While there, the New England Recruiting Report ranked Melvin among the top 10 players in the state. His is first two years of high school were spent playing for Lake Clifton High in his hometown of Baltimore.
Melvin was the first signee for Purnell at DePaul, on May 18, 2010 by way of the recruiting of assistant Billy Garrett. Melvin always wanted to play as a small forward, so he turned down Connecticut because the Huskies wanted him to play as a power forward.
The biggest struggle that Melvin faces when he has the ball is being over anxious, which equals a lower shooting percentage, according to Purnell.
In the meantime, Melvin stays focused on the details. He said he likes to be aware of the specific areas, like rebounds, he needs to work on so that he gets better each time out.
“I need to work on rebounds more and get to the glass. That’s what is going to make me stronger,” Melvin said.
DePaul’s star player said he doesn’t make note of his favorite play after a game. Rather, he aims to score as much as possible, simply to boost his offense. He believes getting better means taking shooting drills from practice and putting them to action during each game.
As each game approaches for DePaul’s leading scorer, Melvin pushes to be unstoppable from start to finish.
“We have to bring the energy and competitiveness to the matchups,” he said. “We have to show the fans that we can play competitively in the Big East and win more games.”