Too many players, not enough minutes.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott is blessed with a situation that would delight many of his peers. His roster is loaded with talented players, but only five can play at the same time and there are only 40 minutes in a game.
While McDermott will never regard the depth he's assembled as a problem, he acknowledged it takes some managing to try to get minutes for players that deserve them.
“It's not easy,” McDermott said. “Generally, though, things have a way of sorting themselves out, and guys will get the opportunities in due time.”
Until that time comes, guard Avery Dingman said, it's important that every player does everything he can to maintain the proper physical and mental edge.
“We have so many players that can do so many things,” Dingman said. “That means you have to approach every game the same and prepare yourself like you're going to play 25 minutes.
“Then, if you play 5 to 10, so be it. It's important that you know your role and be happy with how much you're playing.”
Dingman played 11 minutes in last Friday's season-opening 71-51 victory over North Texas. He scored 10 points, including back-to-back 3-point shots that all but sealed the decision early in the second half.
Afterward, McDermott said he needed to find ways to get guys like Dingman and Josh Jones on the floor more.
“They're really good players, but it's hard justifying taking a guy like Grant (Gibbs) off the floor because he does so much,” McDermott said.
Gibbs, a senior, starts ahead of Dingman at the small forward-big guard spot. Against North Texas, Gibbs scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, handed out four assists, had two steals and blocked a shot while not committing a turnover in 31 minutes.
“Grant got his hands on a lot of balls defensively,” McDermott said. “He understands what we're doing probably better than anyone else. He points us in the right direction and he has a calming influence on our team.
“He's been there, he's done that and guys look to him when times get a little tough. He gets a lot out of what he has.”
Dingman, a sophomore from Branson, Mo., played an average of seven minutes a game as a true freshman last season. There were times, he said, when he struggled in transitioning from a guy that never left the court in high school to one that had to patiently wait for playing time.
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“There were times last year when I was really down about it,” Dingman said. “I had never been used to not playing. I talked to Coach about it a lot, and he did a good job of keeping me positive.
“It's difficult, but there's nothing you can really do about it. There were games where I might not be the best matchup out there. I've realized that's going to happen at times, and I feel like I have done a better job of preparing myself to play 20 minutes. If I don't, I realize why I didn't.”
Dingman is not the only Bluejay caught in a tough spot. Sophomore center Will Artino has earned praise for his improvement from a season ago, but he's battling fifth-year senior Gregory Echenique and fourth-year junior Ethan Wragge for time in the paint.
Jones, the senior from Omaha Central, might be a starter on other teams but finds himself playing behind junior Jahenns Manigat.
“The thing we all know is that we have so many guys that we can rotate in and out,” Dingman said. “We know we might be only playing three or four minutes at a time, and that's one of our strategies. While you're in, you have to go as hard as you can, run the floor and try to get the other team tired.
“We know that if we get in and make a scouting-report error, we're probably coming out because that's an indication you weren't preparing as you should. A lot of it's about who's the most well prepared.”
McDermott said he never goes into a game with any pre-conceived ideas of how many minutes each player is going to get. The flow of the game, defensive matchups and who's hot often determine how minutes are doled out.
McDermott said Creighton's depth is a luxury that should not create problems if the players handle it correctly.
“At the end of the day, you hope winning is the most important thing in everyone's mind,” he said. “And the way our bench played against North Texas showed they had prepared themselves. That's really important.”
NOTES: Creighton moved up in the national rankings, climbing from 15th to 13th in the USA Today coaches' poll and from 16th to 15th in the Associated Press ratings. ... The Missouri Valley named Doug McDermott its player of the week after he scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against North Texas. It's the sixth career player of the week award for McDermott. Only Bradley's Hersey Hawkins (14) and Creighton's Bob Harstad (8) and Kyle Korver (7) have earned the weekly award more times than McDermott. ... Greg McDermott said no decision has been reached about the possible playing status of freshman guard Isaiah Zierden. McDermott said there have been discussions about redshirting with Zierden and his parents. “They'll make the final decision,” the coach said. Zierden did not play against North Texas.
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