The DePaul mens basketball program has had its share of false dawns in recent years, and a truly skeptical fan could easily chalk up Tuesday as another of those days. We’re here to tell you that reaction is selling Romeo Weems far too short.
Weems, a four-star recruit from New Haven (Mich.), officially committed to DePaul, shirking scholarship offers from a number of the nation’s top programs including both Michigan and Michigan State. Weems is considered the top basketball prospect in the state of Michigan, and according to the Detroit Free Press becomes just the second since 2005 to skip out on Michigan or Michigan State for another scholarship offer. Like the player who left in 2005 — NBA journeyman Wilson Chandler (originally a Knick, now a Nugget) — Weems chose DePaul.
“It was a tough decision,” Weems told the Free Press. “I felt the decision I made was the best decision for me and my family to carry on my career. I knew everybody is going to ask why DePaul? Why not DePaul? When I came to New Haven, it was why New Haven? I’ve always been different. DePaul is rebuilding. When I get there we are going to build and get better.
“I like the environment. It’s not too big. It’s not too little. It’s a basketball city. It’s a big city. I played AAU there. I had fun in Chicago. I like the campus. The area is new. We’re going to be successful.”
If they are success — and that’s a big if — Weems’ commitment could indeed be a gamechanger for the Blue Demons. Unlike football, where only a massive recruiting class can truly change the fortunes of a program, a single big-time prospect can lead a basketball program to the promised land. For two years in the mid-2000s, that player was the aforementioned Chandler, who took over contests while eventually leading the Blue Demons to the quarterfinals of the NIT. In 1999 and 2000, that player was Quentin Richardson.
Under Richardson’s reign, the rise up the rankings was easier; Conference USA was a a talent rich league for individual prospects, but not necessarily for a legion of top teams. When Chandler held court, the Blue Demons were already contending with the Big East, annually one of America’s toughest conferences.
Now, there’s every reason to believe that breakthrough star will be Weems, who comes to Chicago not to take advantage of an established foundation but to rebuild one himself while leading from the front. Given the perpetual one-and-done culture and immediate gratification endemic in college basketball today, DePaul fans will expect Weems to deliver from Day 1 in 2019.
Given his talent, Weems might just pull off the feat.