Fueled by local standout Javon Freeman-Liberty, DePaul heads into matchup with Loyola unbeaten


When DePaul faces Loyola Saturday for the first time in nine years, the Blue Demons know what’s on the line. 

“I feel like it really means a lot, really a game of boasting,” DePaul junior center Nick Ongenda said. “Whoever wins this has the city up in their hands. It helps with the fan base and more fans show up to your games.”

“It means a lot, especially since it’s named ‘Battle of Chicago’, ‘Battle of The Red Line’, something like that,” said DePaul senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty. I feel like it’s a cool title for the game.”

DePaul first year head coach Tony Stubblefield says he’s getting more and more of a sense every day of what these intra-city rivalries mean to the program.

“Obviously it’s big game for city and us,” Stubblefield said. “It’s important and I’m not going to shy away from that.”

DePaul is still trying to catch up to the Ramblers recent success and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. A 6-0 November record is a nice start, fueled by Freeman-Liberty and Ongenda, two holdovers who decided to stick with the Blue Demons despite the coaching change.

“Coach Stubbs recruited me really hard, he checked in a lot and I felt like he really wanted to change the culture the way he was speaking to me,” Ongenda said.

“I kept telling [Ongenda] we can be the ones to start it off, change this DePaul team around,” Freeman-Liberty said. “I feel like we both made right decision sticking it out.”

DePaul is certainly happy Freeman-Liberty did not leave Lincoln Park. He’s already a two-time Big East Player of the Week and leads the league in scoring while ranking top four in rebounding, assists and steals.

“I owe it to the work I did over the summer,” he said. “I had an injury in the summer [left wrist tear] that backed me up. Got done with it and right into the gym and made sure I was ready for the season.”

“He’s got a knack for scoring, he’s a basketball guy,” Stubblefield said of the senior guard. “He studies the game and watches film. He prepares for this and it’s paying off for him.”

The Chicago native and nephew of former University of Illinois and King College Prep star Marcus Liberty won a state title at Whitney Young and transferred from Valparaiso before last season to be closer to home.

‘’Having my family and friends watching me every night, you can’t beat that,” Freeman-Liberty said.

And if he can lead the Blue Demons back to prominence, he’ll only add to the family legacy.

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