baltimoresun.com

« Keith Booth added to Loyola women's staff | Main | Antoine Allen takes long road back to DI hoops »

October 18, 2011

Sweet 16: Cleveland Melvin, DePaul

cleveland-melvin-blue-demon.jpg There were more than a few college hoops observers that openly wondered whether Cleveland Melvin was good enough to play in the Big East.

Questions about the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward’s ability were widespread in the days after his commitment to Connecticut in the fall of 2009. And while many of those scouts, writers and fans abandoned their critiques after Melvin and the Huskies parted ways a few months later, the sting of skepticism in his ability stuck with the Lake Clifton grad.

Melvin’s freshman season at DePaul last year subsequently became a chance for him to “prove the doubters wrong.”

“A lot of people never thought I could play in the Big East, that I wouldn’t get as much minutes and playing time at UConn,” Melvin said. “So I definitely proved them wrong. I stayed focused and just worked hard to get where I’m at now.”

Where Melvin is at now is a place where hardly anyone – even his biggest supporters – could have predicted. The Blue Demons big man is coming off a freshman season in which he averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in conference play, earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.

Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell -- who counts Melvin as his first commitment at DePaul -- called it “a mild surprise” that the 2009 Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player was so successful as a freshman.

“He’s always been kind of a secondary guy on good teams – and maybe not even secondary. That might be generous,” Purnell said. “Maybe the third guy on really good teams. … [But] in Cleveland’s mind, he always thinks he’s going to be a really good player and get better. I think he’s been in situations where he’s always gotten better.”

Whether he was playing with Lake Clifton or for Cecil Kirk on the circuit, Melvin always produced. In his senior year, Melvin averaged 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in helping the Lakers to a 29-0 season, which culminated with the Class 3A state championship.

After graduation, Melvin and Lakers teammate Antonio Barton left Baltimore for Fitchburg, Mass., where they starred for Notre Dame Prep. Purnell was impressed with what he saw out of Melvin, who had already visited the Chicago campus when he got the job. Landing the Baltimore native was a top priority for the former Clemson coach, who kept his recruiting pitch to Melvin simple.

“He just [said that he wanted] me just to play hard and play my style, run the court and use my quickness to get past bigger guys that guarded me,” Melvin recalled. “He just told me to play hard every time I step on the court. That’s what I’ve done so far.”

Playing time was an important factor in Melvin's recruitment, and Purnell provided plenty of minutes for the former Lakers star. The early stages of Melvin’s freshman year, however, had some rocky moments.

“He wasn’t ready to play in the beginning, but I thought he could be really, really good,” Purnell said. “[I said], ‘I think he is the best-potential big guy, but he’s not ready right now.’ He didn’t start in the beginning. There were a few games he didn’t really play a lot. But he kept getting better and better. In the Big East, the light went off. The rest is history. He’s tremendous.”

The real breakout for Melvin came right after the New Year, when he averaged 26.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in games at Cincinnati and Georgetown. DePaul struggled through a 7-24 season (including a 1-17 mark in conference play), but Melvin was a consistently reliable scorer and rebounder for the Blue Demons.

“At first it was kind of hard playing for a struggling team, kind of rebuilding,” Melvin said. “But as the season went on … I stayed focused because I didn’t want to get down on myself, mess up the team chemistry. I helped my team stick together with it. It was hard, but I just kept playing.”

Purnell said Melvin’s freshman experience is “going to pay dividends for us starting this year, and the fact that he’s been part of winning and he doesn’t like to lose. … The thing that most benefited him is that he is a relentless competitor and learner. He likes being coached. He wants to be coached. There’s never any resistance from him in coaching and wanting to learn.”

Melvin spent the majority of his summer in Chicago, working out, taking classes, and bonding with his two Baltimore teammates Brandon Young and Montray Clemons. Purnell said he’s been impressed so far by Melvin’s strength, his outside shooting, and his leadership. If the Blue Demons are going to have success under Purnell, Melvin will be “critical” to that turnaround.

“He doesn’t like to lose. He’s not satisfied,” Purnell said. “[Leadership from him is] far more powerful [than it is from the coaching staff]. … I think he can be very good. He was an All-Big East type of player, [and] you know what that means. If you’re an All-Big East player, the sky’s the limit.”


The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the 16 best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.

Previous Sweet 16 selections:

Kevin Thompson, Morgan State
Antonio Barton, Memphis
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Brandon Young, DePaul
Sean Mosley, Maryland
Devon Saddler, Delaware
Devin Brown, Holy Cross
Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
Brendan Bald, Vermont
Jamar Briscoe, Charlotte
Dylon Cormier, Loyola

U.S. Presswire photo of Cleveland Melvin by Dennis Wierzbicki / Feb. 19, 2011

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: The Sweet 16 (2011)
        

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "b" in the field below:
About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

High school recruiting database
Area high school commitments -- 2009
Area high school commitments -- 2008
Maryland's 2012 football commitments
Maryland's 2011 football recruiting class
Maryland's 2010 football recruiting class
Maryland's 2009 football recruiting class
Maryland's 2008 football recruiting class
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Sign up for FREE local sports alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local sports text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Most Recent Comments

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Photo galleries
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com sports blogs  Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected