It didn't take long for Creighton guard Carli Tritz to recognize the best part of incoming freshman Marissa Janning's game.
It's not Janning's shot-making or passing ability or defensive skills, although all are well above average. It's Janning's attitude.
“She wants to be great,” Tritz said.
Janning spent most of June in Omaha, taking first-session summer classes at Creighton and working out with her Bluejay teammates. The reigning Miss Minnesota Basketball quickly established a connection with Tritz, the 2010 winner of the Iowa Miss Basketball Award.
“I felt we clicked really well,” Janning said. “It's going to be fun to play with her because she's super athletic.”
The Bluejays return all but one player from a team coming off its first NCAA tournament berth in a decade. Tritz is Creighton's best returning player, Janning its prized recruit.
“I think that's great they connected, both for Carli and Marissa,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “It puts Carli in a position where she can help bring Marissa along.”
Flanery was unable to watch Janning play this summer — the NCAA did not pass a rule allowing coaches to have summer contact with their players like it did for the men. But Flanery heard enough from his players to leave him encouraged that Janning will fit in well.
Janning has spent most of the past month at home in Watertown, Minn., a town of about 4,000 located 30 miles west of Minneapolis. As a young girl, Janning sampled a variety of athletic endeavors, playing softball and volleyball and running track. She even tried wrestling and football.
But it was basketball where Janning made her mark at Watertown-Mayer High School. The 5-foot-8 Janning scored 3,587 points, fourth all time among Minnesota girls, and set a state record with 458 career 3-pointers. She also recorded 725 career assists and 601 steals. Those statistics were compiled over six varsity seasons — Minnesota allows seventh-graders to play in high school.
Janning signed with Creighton last November and is excited about making the next step in her basketball career.
“I'm glad I came down in June,” she said. “I think that's going to give me a head start in knowing what to expect, both academically and athletically.”
Janning scored a ton of points in high school, but it was her playmaking ability that has Creighton coaches excited. She'll bring the skills of a true point guard to a team that played without one last season.
“We're not going to change the team to accommodate Marissa,” Flanery said, “but there will be times against certain teams when her ability as a true point guard will be valuable.”
Where Flanery sees Janning making an impact is on defense.
“She's got great feet and great quickness,” Flanery said. “One of the areas we're not great against is defending that quick or ultra-bouncy perimeter player. I think Marissa can do that.”
Tritz, too, sees Janning helping the Bluejays.
“I think she can be an impact player right away,” Tritz said.
Tritz fit that mold when she joined the program two seasons ago. She became the Missouri Valley freshman of the year in her first season, then earned all-conference honors last season.
Flanery tried to temper the expectations on Tritz. He does the same with Janning, saying she'll encounter many of the same problems every freshman does. Then, he fuels the fire by calling her a player without a glaring weakness.
“I won't say her shot is pretty-pretty, but she can score it, she can handle it and she can pass it,” Flanery said. “At Creighton, we usually get a shooter or a driver. She's capable of doing both.”
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