Mikan met 28-year-old rookie DePaul basketball coach Ray Meyer, who saw potential in the bright and intelligent, but also clumsy and shy, freshman. Put into perspective, Meyer’s thoughts were revolutionary, because at the time it was believed that tall players were too awkward to ever play basketball well. In the following months, Meyer transformed Mikan into a confident, aggressive player who took pride in his height rather than being ashamed of it. Meyer and Mikan worked out intensively, and Mikan learned how to make hook shots accurately with either hand. This routine would become later known as the Mikan Drill. In addition, Meyer made Mikan punch a speed bag, take dancing lessons, and jump rope to make him a complete athlete.
Mikan dominated his peers from the start of his National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college games at DePaul. He intimidated opponents with his size and strength, was unstoppable on offense with his hook shot, and soon established a reputation as one of the hardest and grittiest players in the league, often playing through injuries and punishing opposing centers with hard fouls. In addition, Mikan also surprised the basketball world with his unique ability of goaltending, i.e. jumping so high that he swatted the ball away before it could pass the hoop. In today’s basketball, touching the ball after it reaches its apex is a violation, but in Mikan’s time, it was legal because people thought it was impossible anyone could reach that high. “We would set up a zone defense that had four men around the key and I guarded the basket”, Mikan later recalled his DePaul days. “When the other team took a shot, I’d just go up and tap it out.” As a consequence, the NCAA, and later the NBA, outlawed goaltending. Bob Kurland, a seven-footer from Oklahoma A&M, was one of the few opposing centers to have any success against Mikan.
Mikan was named the Helms NCAA College Player of the Year in 1944 and 1945 and was an All-American three times. In 1945, he led DePaul to the NIT title, which at that time was as prestigious as the NCAA title. Mikan led the nation in scoring with 23.9 points per game in 1944–45 and 23.1 in 1945–46. When DePaul won the 1945 NIT, Mikan was named Most Valuable Player for scoring 120 points in three games, including 53 points in a 97–53 win over Rhode Island; his 53-point total equaled the score of the entire Rhode Island team.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Ray Meyer coached at DePaul for 42 years from 1942 to 1984 and finished with an overall 724–354 record. He coached his team’s to 21 post-season appearances (13 NCAA, eight NIT). Meyer led his teams to two Final Four appearances in the 1943 NCAA Basketball Tournament and 1979 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament. Meyer’s 1943 Final Four appearance was his first season coaching DePaul. His teams were a No. 1 seed in its NCAA regional three years in a row in 1980, 1981, and 1982. Meyer led DePaul past Bowling Green to capture the 1945 National Invitation Tournament, the school’s only post-season title. In total, Meyer recorded 37 winning seasons and twelve 20-win seasons, including seven straight from 1978 to 1984.
Meyer coached George Mikan who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, made the 25th and 35th NBA Anniversary Teams of 1970 and 1980, and was elected one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players ever in 1996. Meyer also coached the 1980 Naismith College Player of the Year, Mark Aguirre.
During Ray Meyer’s tenure, the Blue Demons originally played in University Auditorium before moving to Alumni Hall in 1956. For the start of the 1980 season, DePaul men’s basketball moved to the Rosemont Horizon later renamed Allstate Arena.
College Sports Established
1973 – Present / NCAA Division 1
1923 – 1973 / University Division of the NCAA
2005 – Present / Big East Conference
1995 – 2005 / Conference USA
1991 – 1995 / Great Midwest Conference
1923 – 1991 / Independent
Blue Demons – The origin of the Blue Demons nickname dates back to 1907 when the university changed its name from St. Vincent’s College to its current form. At the time, the athletic teams had red uniforms with a large “D” on the front. After an announcer referred to the players as the “D-men,” the moniker stuck and eventually evolved into “Demons.” The “blue” was part of an attempt to distinguish the university’s players from those of its now-defunct high school, DePaul Academy. The former wore red with a blue “D,” while the latter adopted the reverse. The official athletic colors are scarlet and royal blue.
Men’s Basketball 0
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