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."

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.

"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."

Will Barton, Memphis

Anything less than dominance was completely foreign to Barton. During the summer of 2008, Barton starred for Nike Baltimore Elite on the AAU circuit, earning Top 10 national rankings from Scout.com, ESPN.com, MaxPreps.com and PrepStars.com. Months later, Barton's storybook senior year at Lake Clifton ended with the Lakers capping a 32-0 season with the Class 3A state championship. Then came his prep year at Brewster (N.H.) Academy in which he averaged 20.8 points and was named the 2009-10 New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference Class A Player of the Year.

That track record of success — along with a steady stream of media hype — probably would have made any player overconfident to an extent. Barton was no different. But while the former five-star prospect couldn't possibly live up to the unreasonable predictions that some assigned to him, Barton went out and did the best he could.

"[Freshman year] was a little harder than I thought it would be," Barton said. "It didn't go exactly as I planned it to be. I still had a great freshman year, but not great with the expectations I had for myself. In my mind, as a freshman, [some people thought] I actually had a great year. To me, I played OK. An OK season. Good learning experience."

Barton's "OK season" amounted to averages of 12.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He played in all 35 games, starting 25, and was the second-leading freshman scorer in Conference USA. He was was selected to the All-Conference USA third team and the All-Freshman team.

"Let's keep in mind that he had a good year," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "He was our leading scorer, our second-leading rebounder, leading assist man. He had a real good freshman year. That's why he's a preseason Wooden Award [candidate]."

Barton is getting accustomed to being a nationally recognized player. CBSSports.com ranked him the No. 32 player in the country, and he's still considered a potential NBA prospect. But talk of jumping to the league as soon as possible has ceased. Barton's priorities, it seems, have been altered a bit.

"Towards the end of [last] season, that's when I started to say, 'For us to win basketball games and perform at a high level, I have to put all my thoughts into my team and my coaches.' If I'm not winning and producing at the college level, I'll never have to worry about the NBA. … I'm just focusing on what I have to do — dominating college basketball."

mbracken@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mattbracken

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