When Mark Aguirre passed up his final year of college basketball to become the NBA's No. 1 draft choice last spring, many thought De Paul's days in the national spotlight were over and that Coach Ray Meyer's dream of a national championship went with Aguirre.

Now, there are some in the Midwest who think De Paul, eliminated in its first NCAA tournament game the last two years, might be a better team come March than the last two seasons.

Knowing that Aguirre was going to turn pro, Joey Meyer -- the team's assistant coach, the coach's son and the coach's designated successor -- recruited forwards. His efforts brought to De Paul 6-foot-9 Walter Downing, a solid rebounder, quick and strong.

Meyer also signed 6-1 Kenny Patterson from Forest Hills, N.Y. Patterson and transfer Raymond McCoy (University of San Francisco) are sharing time at point guard. Last Saturday, in the Blue Demons 73-67 victory over a good Purdue team, Patterson was the catalyst off the bench and Downing also was a factor late.

With substitutes Patterson, Downing and Bernard Randolph, De Paul is deeper than it has ever been. The Demons will get an excellent test next Saturday when they play at UCLA.