Jahenns Manigat can vividly remember the night before he played his first basketball game for Creighton four years ago.
Almost every minute of it.
“I couldn't sleep the night before,” Manigat said.
Manigat had a case of the first-game jitters, that feeling of high anxiety that strikes every player before his first game. Well, almost every player.
“I've never really been nervous about playing basketball,” Creighton guard Grant Gibbs said. “I get really nervous about some stuff but not that.”
Before Creighton opens its season Friday night against Alcorn State, Gibbs plans to follow his customary routine of grabbing a pregame nap in the coach's room with Doug McDermott and Jeff Vanderloo, the Bluejays' director of basketball of operations.
Gibbs knows some of his teammates, especially the younger ones, probably won't be able to put their emotions on autopilot.
“Pregame jitters are real, especially if you haven't played in front of a lot of people,” Gibbs said. “I think that's the biggest adjustment, having a lot of people watching you. But it's still basketball, and it's something you have to deal with.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott figures the chances are good that this season's Bluejay team won't be battling first-game jitters as much as some that he's put on the floor. This is a veteran group, with four seniors and a number of key reserves who have played a lot of basketball over the past three seasons.
Another factor, McDermott said, is the personality of this season's team.
“We've got some laid-back guys,” he said.
That wasn't the case at one of his previous coaching stops.
|BLUEJAYS TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Bluejays Today Facebook page.|
“I once had a guy that would throw up before every game,” McDermott said.
McDermott said he usually remained fairly calm before the opening game of the season when he was a player at Northern Iowa. Creighton assistant coach Darian DeVries also played for the Panthers, and he can still recall being nervous before the first game of his senior season.
“You can't breathe,” he said.
When DeVries was playing, collegiate teams traditionally played two exhibitions before the opener. Even with a couple of dress rehearsals, DeVries said, it always took a couple of minutes to adjust.
“The speed of the game was different,” he said. “I still see it today. Guys are a little rubber-legged in that first three or four minutes. You have so much adrenaline and excitement, and guys look gassed when you get to that first media timeout.
“After that, they adjust and are fine.”
Manigat and Gibbs said the mood in the locker room before Friday's game will be relatively calm.
“There will be a little more excitement,” Manigat said. “There seems to be a need to prove something. You want to get off to a good start, you want to hit the ground running.
“Guys are just eager to get out there and play for something that will show up on the record. The exhibition is a good test but this for real.”
Gibbs said Jack Stark, the Bluejays' team psychologist, has worked with the players on how to approach games.
“The mood is probably a little different before the first game because there's that newness of being back out on the floor,” Gibbs said. “But it's different for each individual player.
“Different guys do different things. Some guys have the headphones on listening to music, some guys are goofing around. It's tailored to your personality, whatever gets you ready to play.”
Back when Len Gordy was playing for Arizona in the 1970s, he would get ready for a game by going back to his dorm and listening to music. His preferred artists?
“The Ohio Players or Earth, Wind and Fire,” said Gordy, a former Creighton assistant who now is the athletic department's diversity and inclusion officer. “Everyone has their pregame rituals, and mine was to play music. Loud. Really loud.”
Gibbs said that used to be former teammate Josh Jones' pregame M.O.
“He'd come in the locker room, put his iPod on and start blasting it really loud,” Gibbs said. “Everyone was like, 'Josh, c'mon.' Jack kind of corrected that one.”
Watch enough basketball and you'll likely see wacky things transpire, whether it's in the first game or not.
At a Creighton women's game a few seasons ago, an opposing player got ready to check into the game but had to return to the bench. It seems she had forgotten to put on her game shorts beneath her warm-up pants.
“We have enough managers to remind us to put our jerseys and shorts on,” said Manigat, laughing when told of that incident. “At least we won't have to worry about that.”