Bluejay Men’s Basketball – Season Review, Part 3

 Post Season Review:  Creighton Bluejay Basketball

 

General Prognosis:  The 2014 -15 Men’s Basketball Campaign 

In concluding our review of the 2013-14 Men’s Basketball season, it is fitting to examine the team’s roster and to assess the potentials for next years team.  We visit the remaining roster players, the incoming recruits, and give our forward looking assessment for the 2014-15 Creighton Bluejays.   

There seems to be a rosy glow over Creightondom.  The afterglow of a very good season in which the Jays exceeded most folks expectations.  Folks are still giddy with glee, despite the early exit from the NCAA Tournament.  This season where one of our sons had a fabulous season and brought home all of the silver and gold of individual college level, national basketball awards.  Congratulations Doug McDermott.  This season where Creighton’s public profile received numerous boosts, both on the court and in the media.  Another great season of which we can be proud. 

However, my eyeglasses are Bluejay Blue and there is still work to be done.  The road ahead is one fraught with barriers, chuckholes, uneven pavement, and other obstacles.  Many in the media and in the general public perceive Creighton as an oddity, a flash in the pan, a 2-3 year wonder, due to our recent 3 time AA and our offensive style of play. Those who have followed or competed against Creighton Basketball for more than 2-3 years know better.  Moving forward it will be necessary for the team to gird itself with good equipment and to be ever vigilant in their journey – both in the Big East and on the national stage. 

As always, my eyes are on the prize(s) of future conference championships, successful NCAA runs, and on my Jays bringing home the National Championship trophy. 

Back in the day (last year and years past) as a midmajor, my dreams of Creighton glory were ridiculed by most, including Jays fandom, as a pipedream and/or of my imbibing far to much Blue Kool-aid.  With our ascent to the Big East Conference, we have already seen some improvement(s) in the treatment the Jays receive, both by the media in the quality and number of news pieces on our team, number of games televised, and by the NCAA Selection Committee in the Jays being seeded as a 3 seed in the 2014 tournament. 

Creighton, with continuous process improvement in the caliber of recruits, in the striving for greater achievement and perfection, in the quality of our opponents, and with the cache lent from our prestigious conference, is positioned to make my so-called kool-aid inspired dreams a reality.  It is not a given, as the road ahead is difficult – and the Bluejays must redouble their efforts to sustain and improve the teams level of play.  But for Creighton, as one of the better teams nationally, now playing in a major conference, it is not unreasonable – it is not a fantasy,  to think and to dream Big. 

As for next year…the 2014-15 Season.

Returnees
We lost a star player and 3 of his support cast.  Many have sited the amounts of points, 3 point production, rebounds, and assists lost to graduation.  The only significant loss is McDermott.  He chewed up the majority of minutes, shots, made shots, etc.  Like other teams before us (and WSU last season) we will need to redistribute DMDs touches, shots, rebounds.  It is also necessary for the returnees to show improvement over last season in order to negate the losses of 4 seniors. 

Fortunately, only McDermott’s output is significant, as the others were role players whose production was far less prolific.  Ethan was a 3 pt specialist.  Gibbs and Manigat were assist guys 1st, then steals, with scoring last.  Yes, those guys were important – everyone has their roles on good and great teams – it is just that they are easier to replace than DMD.  Next season’s team is addition by subtraction.  The Jays will be bigger-stronger-faster-far more athletic, and better defensively, now that the phalanx of senior citizens have graduated.

The most important returnees are senior Will Artino in the post (with 2 backups), and the 2 senior PGs – Austin Chatman and Devin Brooks.  If I had to choose another – Isaiah Zierden, as a primary shooter.  Other CU sites have noted that these (Post and PG) are the most important personnel when a team rebuilds.  The Jays are not rebuilding – merely reloading.  The rest of the returnees are role players and shooters.  They will do what they do.  I expect most of the returnees to be used in spot play, specific scenario play, coming in off the bench.  I expect to see starters and more play from the redshirts and frosh – as that is where the majority of the teams’ talent lies.   

Redshirts
SG Juco (Jr) James Milliken,  NC
SG/PG/SF Darian Harris,  Ark
PF Toby Hegner, WS

 
All 3 redshirted players are good shooters and rebounders.  All have been reported as showing improvement.
 

Recruits
Creighton is still battling for recruits, well into the Spring recruiting period.  The Jays have filled 2 of the 3 open billets for 2014.  The staff have continued to battle for a committment from the last few Top 150 kids, and have uncovered a couple of diamonds in-the-rough recruits who have emerged as potential División 1 players.  Additionally, coaching changes have re-opened the door for some recruits in 2014, as well as in 2015. 

Signed
PF/SF Leon Gilmore, Manvel TX   *top 150 player
SG/SF Ronnie Harrell, Denver CO *top 150 player
3rd signee
4th signee  

I anticípate both of these men to play tons of minutes and to be starters in the lineup.

Creighton Interest – 2014 recruits
PF Josh Cunningham, Chicago, IL *top 150 player
PF Jackson Davis, Lexington, KY
PG Devonte Graham, Prep/Brewster Academy/ from NC  *top 150 player
Ctr Bakary Konate, Prep/Sunrise Prep, KS/ from Mali (via Spain)
PG Maurice “Mo” Watson, Soph. Transfer:  Boston Univ./ from Philly, PA





It appears the staff is keen on Cunningham, Davis, and Graham.  Of the 3, it is Jackson Davis who may be the most signable.  He has had a tremendous high school senior season and should move up from 3* status into the top 150 árena. 
–  Bakary Konate, a 6-11 Ctr. (Sunrise Christian Prep – Kansas), has surfaced on the recruiting list within the last day or two.  Konate is reportedly a high skilled big from Mali, by way of Spain. 
–  Maurice “Mo” Watson, a 5-9 PG has also surfaced within the last week.  Mo is a new transfer candidate from Boston University.  He is a Philly PG and is visiting the Hilltop this weekend. 

It also appears the Jays may sign up to 3 of these guys.  Needless to say that change is afoot!

Other recruits
C/PF Ikenna Okwarabizie, Nigeria via Sioux City, IA
PG Deondre Otis, San Francisco, CA
PG Juco (Casper CC) Jay Wright, Savannah, GA

The staff have taken notice of these lesser known recruits and have looked in on them.  No offers.

2014-15 Outlook

The day after the National Championship game (Congrats to UConn.) and the media has launched several “Too early” preseason polls.  Needless to say – Creighton is not in any of them.  Lunardi has the Jays in the ‘next 4 out’ category in his “too early bracket”, and the same for Bleacher Report.  That’s a shame, for as noted above – the Bluejays will be a much better “team” next season.  Better athleticism, better defensively, and with a broader and balanced offensive attack. 

Many Creighton fans seem to think the Jays will move forward in their upperclassmen-led business as usual mode.  Some seem to find it unfathomable to think the Bluejays could start 2 or more freshman players.  I do not share that opinión.  I say:  Talent win out!  Play the best possible talent, regardless of class level or experience.

Our upperclassmen are all players who were recruited for MVC level play.  We have seen our team plateau over the last 3 years with the current and the recently departed players.  In my opinión, playing “those that got us here” an inordinately high amount of minutes, coupled with the continued use of Redshirting new talent, led to the program plateauing over the past few years and potentially stifled any chance to broaden the development of the existing support players.  They generally never left the bench.  Playing time is key to player development.  It is time to take the next step.

Creighton is recruiting a higher talent level, a higher athleticism level than in previous decades, while keeping high basketball IQ, as one of the requisite requirements for our recruits.  It is time to return to playing the best talent available, regardless of class standing.  With exception to our returning PGs, it is time to play youth and talent, rather than class level.  Our best players are the recruits and the redshirted players.  In the summer workouts and in the fall practices the competition for PT should be furious.  Let talent win out.  No more upperclassmen preferential treatment.  He who grades out best in the workouts and practices – plays more/starts.  The others, regardless of class level, play in spots coming off the bench. 

Many of our opponents and conference foes readily played frosh this past season.  Many of the Top 25 teams started freshmen last season, and a few started several frosh.  We saw a few of the recruits we missed in the last recruiting cycle playing their way towards frosh stardom and FOY awards (Marcus Foster, Kendall Harris, others).  Many of our conference brethren are bringing in Top 40 recruiting classes, with several of their new guys expected to play and start.  In order to compete and win, Creighton will need to (should) play its’ best players regardless of experience.  Anything less will automatically put us a step or two behind in the conference race and in consideration for postseason play.  We can ill afford to continue to redshirt talent, especially Top 150 talent, assuming that we can somehow miraculously compete in the BE and nationally.

I look for Frosh Gilmore, Harrell, and Juco RS Milliken to start along with Artino and Chatman.  If we pick up additional 2014 talent, this could change.  Regardless, the Jays will be a deep and definitely more athletic squad this coming year.  With the additional athleticism our defense should also receive a well needed boost.  These are exciting times, indeed.  I for one, expect our team to compete and win, in the coming season(s)…business as usual.  After all, at Creighton…winning is what we do!

Exciting times ahead*. 

gtmoBlue

 
*Numeric season predictions are due out in August/September 2014, as per normal.

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