It probably wasn't among athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto's talking points as she successfully sold DePaul to new men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell. But if he wasn't aware of the issue before he arrived in Chicago, he almost certainly is now.
How can Purnell lure the elite players from the Chicago Public League and Catholic League when so many of them are eager to leave the city to avoid the street gangs and shootings that have turned some neighborhoods into war zones?
For example, why didn't DePaul recruit Marshall's Darius Smith, one of the leading players in the city in 2008-09? Instead, he chose Connecticut, another Big East school. There is no doubt that Purnell has a big selling job go do to keep elite Chicago players at home, as Ray Meyer did with Mark Aguirre in 1978.
"Most of the best players in the city don't go to DePaul, not because they didn't have a black coach or because they played at Allstate Arena, but because they want to get out of Chicago," said Von Steuben coach Vince Carter, president of the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association.
"They are tired of seeing their friends get shot, tired of dodging bullets. They want to get away. Derrick Rose and Sherron Collins got away. Wayne Blackshear already has committed to Louisville, Tracy Abrams to Illinois. Other top players are considering schools outside Chicago. This is a problem that Purnell has to deal with."
At one time, DePaul stopped actively recruiting in Chicago. But Ray Meyer, Joey Meyer and Pat Kennedy proved they could keep the best city players at home. At one time, DePaul had an on-campus facility that provided a fan-friendly atmosphere. But it is argued if the program was a winner, people would fill the seats at Allstate Arena, as they once did.
"What DePaul needs is another Aguirre, a pied piper, someone who has the charisma to attract other kids, as Bruce Weber is doing at Illinois," Carter said. "Aguirre helped to attract Teddy Grubbs and Terry Cummings and still allowed the Meyers to recruit nationally, to get a great player like Dallas Comegys from Philadelphia. Brandon Paul, Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard can do the same at Illinois."
Carter said the Public League coaches are very supportive of Purnell. But he concedes that recruiting in Chicago is a "crapshoot" because everybody from Duke to Kentucky to Kansas has been known to recruit here.
"We will be interested to see who his assistants will be," Carter said. "He needs people to identify with the top players who can compete in the Big East. It is up to the coach to figure out if they can play in his system. Some kids can play in the Big East and some can't.
"Many kids want to go away, get out of town. Kids who have both parents at home tend to be more grounded. Others dream of going away. Purnell's recruits have to sell DePaul. Historically and traditionally, we know what it is and what it can do. But kids today have to be sold on staying at home."